Bayern Munich 4-1 Schalke

The first half formations.

Bayern Munich swept aside a naive and not particularly bothered Schalke side to all but guarantee their place in next season’s Champions League – aided greatly by the fact that their goal difference is now 30 goals superior to that of their nearest challengers, Hannover.

To many, this game had something of a dead rubber feel pre-match. Despite it still being mathematically possible for Schalke to go down, such an occurrence would be nigh-on impossible. As for the hosts, with Hannover losing to Gladbach earlier on in the afternoon, Bayern knew that a win here would lift them into the third and final Champions League spot – surely a position they wouldn’t relinquish with two games left to play after this one. Thus, they therefore knew that if they failed against Schalke, the likelihood of spending the 2011/12 season in the Europa League would be strong. That competition is one Schalke are destined for, so long as they win the German cup final against Duisburg on May 21. This season’s Champions League final takes place seven days after that, but Schalke won’t be there – a humiliating 2-0 home defeat to Manchester United in the first leg of one of the competition’s semi-finals in the week saw last season’s Bundesliga runners-up totally outclassed, and the upcoming second leg at Old Trafford four days after this tie against last season’s Bundesliga champions rendered somewhat meaningless. Continue reading

Bayern Munich 1-0 Borussia Mönchengladbach

The first half formations.

Bayern Munich moved back into the Champions League spots after a narrow and unconvincing win against plucky Borussia Mönchengladbach.

At the start of the current campaign, it’s unlikely that the bigwigs at Bayern and Gladbach would have expected to see their sides struggling to reach the Champions League and avoid the drop respectively. If some people were putting Bayern’s topsy-turvy season down to tiredness, the recent batch of EURO 2012 qualifiers and friendlies could not have come at a worse time – 12 players were called up to represent their nation, compared to Gladbach’s eight (four of whom played for the Germany U19 side, and thus aren’t near Lucien Favre’s first team at club level).

There were few injury problems affecting either side at least, so this tussle between two teams with very different goals would ultimately be decided by events on the pitch only. For the visitors, Mo Idrissou was finally dropped from the starting XI and Logan Bailly kept his place after a howler in round 27. There were no surprises in the home side’s line-up, however.  Continue reading

Freiburg 1-2 Bayern Munich

The first half formations.

A poor showing from Bayern Munich ultimately didn’t matter as they won their second consecutive game in the Bundesliga to keep the pressure on the sides above them in the Champions League places.

Looking at the history of this fixture, the odds looked pretty stacked in Bayern’s favour – no defeats in the last 17 Bundesliga clashes between the sides, and a 4-2 win at the Allianz Arena in October. But with ‘lame duck’ manager Louis van Gaal overseeing a disastrous exit at home to Inter in the Champions League on Tuesday, one which confirmed that Bayern would end the season without a trophy, Freiburg had a great chance to rub salt in the dethroned champions’ wounds. However, Robin Dutt’s side have been tailing off after a great start to the season (four defeats from the last five games), but luckily for the health of their supporters, they’ve established enough of a cushion to dismiss any notion of going down. Fans of goalscorers were more than adequately catered for here – the clash pitted two of the league’s finest against one another, Mario Gómez and Papiss Cissé. Continue reading

Hannover 3-1 Bayern Munich

The first-half formations.

High-flying Hannover stunned an again off-colour Bayern Munich side and moved into second place in the Bundesliga table.

Both sides came into this game in nigh-on full strength condition. There were three key absentees, however – Bastian Schweinsteiger, who’d accumulated five yellow cards (although given his sketchy recent performances, some might argue he and the team needed a brief break from one another), Luis Gustavo, who had the sniffles, and for the hosts, top scorer Didier Ya Konan, sidelined with a knee injury.

Although Hannover started the game one place ahead of Bayern, you could argue the psychological advantage was with the Bavarians going on the last four results between the two sides: 5-1, 3-0, 7-0, and most recently, in October 2010, 3-0. The victories – 18-1 on aggregate – were all in Bayern’s favour. And, ominously, the 5-1 win that came in the March of 2009 was on the back of a midweek cup elimination for FC Hollywood – something Louis van Gaal’s side experienced on Wednesday when humiliated by Schalke at the Allianz Arena. Continue reading

Bayern Munich 4-1 Eintracht Frankfurt

The formations.

A quickfire second half double saw Bayern Munich leapfrog Frankfurt in the table and move to within five points of the Champions League spots.

From the off, Bayern deployed their usual pass n’ patience tactics in the face of a 4-5-1 – part and parcel of being the visiting side at the Allianz Arena. Louis van Gaal had two playmakers on the pitch in Bastian Schweinsteiger and Toni Kroos, and two direct attackers in Franck Ribéry and Thomas Müller. With so many options in the Frankfurt half, Michael Skibbe kept his banks set, rather than pressing Bayern vigorously and leaving gaps for them to exploit.

Nevertheless, Theofanis Gekas’s game is based on running, so he was left to hurry the centre-backs and Anatoliy Tymoschuk. Not only is the Greek international highly effective at doing this, it also helps him score goals. In the first half, Gekas forced several errors from Daniel van Buyten and Breno, and at one point found himself one-on-one with Hans-Jörg Butt. However, the former Portsmouth striker fluffed his lines, and Sonny Kittel did little better with the follow-up.

The 17-year-old Kittel was making just his fourth appearance for Frankfurt, and was a thorn in the side of Bayern down the left. Quick to join in or make counter-attacks (something Frankfurt did decisively – no second thoughts, no holding and waiting for Bayern to flood back), Kittel also sent in a series of testing set pieces for Marco Russ, Halil Altintop, Aleksandar Vasoski & co. to hurl themselves at.

On the subject of big guys and headers, Skibbe’s primary tactic at restarts involved long punts to the centre circle for the 1.96m-tall Alexander Meier to flick on for the deliberately semi-circular midfield three and Gekas hovering behind him in amongst Bayern’s defenders. Yet when they got the ball down in Bayern’s half, the lack of space available saw Frankfurt panic, and either squander possession, or pass back to Ola Nikolov. Continue reading

Bayern Munich 3-0 Nuremberg

The first half formations.

Louis van Gaal tactically outwitted Dieter Hecking and set Bayern Munich on their way to a comfortable victory in the Bavarian derby.

Having converted Bastian Schweinsteiger into a defensive midfielder-cum-quarterback last season, Bayern’s Dutch manager elected to use the one-time winger in a more advanced position for the visit of Nuremberg.

Often exponents of the 4-2-3-1 system so popular in the world game today, Bayern started in a formation that resembled a 4-5-1 at its most languid, and a Christmas tree at its most attacking.

With both defences looking to stand high, and the visitors content to let Bayern have time on the ball, 20 outfield players were competing for space in a vicinity of the pitch encompassing around a quarter of its overall dimensions.

Bayern felt their way in using the calm manner Bundesliga fans have become accustomed to, and had both Tymoschuk and Schweinsteiger shuttling back to collect the ball off the hogging centre-backs.

However, Hecking had instructed Julian Schieber – joint top of the assists chart with Lewis Holtby – and the nearest midfielder nearest to vigorously press the piano-carrier. Continue reading

Bundesliga round three preview

Tobias Weis - an inspiration and whirlwind from RCM this season.

Hoffenheim vs Schalke

The league leaders host a side whose bid for the title is already looking splintered. Hoffenheim‘s 4-1-4-1, complete with rampaging right back Andreas Beck, blends defensive muscle, imagination, clever movement, and powerful dribblers. Decisive then narrow wins against Werder Bremen and St. Pauli respectively mark Hoffe as a team capable of clinching three points regardless of circumstance and adversary.

A Friday evening kick-off benefits Schalke as they begin their Champions League campaign against Lyon the following Tuesday. Nevertheless, recent form suggests they needn’t bother turning up to either game. The purchase of Klaas-Jan Huntelaar – he and Raul making a Real Madrid benchwarming Old Boys Club – won’t solve the creative paucity in midfield, or deficiencies in defence. Continue reading

Late August looks at Bundesliga and Serie A

Kaiserslautern 2-0 Bayern Munich, 27/08/2010

As per usual action in Germany’s top-flight commenced on the Friday, and for the second week in succession Bayern Munich got things under way. Unfortunately for Louis van Gaal, they didn’t quite gets things all their own way.

Much to the delight of a rapturous home-crowd in Kaiserslautern, the 2009/10 2. Bundesliga champions defeated the illustrious treble-winners by a comfortable two-goal margin.

There was nothing particularly brilliant or revolutionary about how Marco Kurz and his team achieved the feat – the three points were a testimony to hard-work and lethargic Bavarian visitors.

Bayern dominated possession, but met a side willing to sit back and press with gusto in their own-half. Therefore, Kaiserslautern old-boy Miroslav Klose & co. found openings difficult to come by.

Adam Nemec was cleverly stationed in Bastian Schweinsteiger’s shadow, stifling the quarterback’s space. Mark van Bommel sought territory further upfield, though this rendered Bayern susceptible to the counter-attack. Continue reading

Bundesliga round one tactical analysis

1899 Hoffenheim 4-1 Werder Bremen, 21/08/10 (Frings 3', Demba Ba 20', Peniel Mlapa 37', Ibišević 40', Sejad Salihović 43')


Germany’s top-flight didn’t provide any real jaw-dropping scorelines this weekend, but then such is the competitive nature of the Bundesliga and its competitors, rarely do its matches genuinely shock.

What the division does do though is continually excite, and it’s a joy to have it back on the box in Britain. The season started on Friday evening at the Allianz Arena, with 2009/10 champions Bayern Munich hosting 2008/09 champions, Wolfsburg.

Blogs including this one spent hours writing on and pondering over the system McClaren would commence life in the Bundesliga with, so it was a relief to finally see what the former England national team coach had up his sleeve.

Continue reading

Who does Löw call on to replace Ballack?

Michael Ballack's injury

Michael Ballack's injury

News broke a fortnight ago that Michael Ballack will miss the World Cup. Rather than just being shorn of a key individual, one who possesses crucial experience and talent, Ballack’s absence is also a blow to the coaching staff’s 4-2-3-1 system.

Bastian Schweinsteiger would have been flanked by the Chelsea man in that ‘2’; the pair supporting a creative and nippy trio of Lukas Podolski, Piotr Trochowski, and Mesut Özil. Now, however, the 33-year-old’s absence leaves Germany shorn of a partner for the aforementioned Schweinsteiger in the wavebreaking/spraying/covering berths.

Ballack thrived in an insurance role during Chelsea’s recent FA Cup final win against Portsmouth. Shielding the centre-backs or slotting in at left-back when Ashley Cole surged, Ballack did his job with all the assurance and class you’d expect from a world class veteran.

Germany play equally surge-minded full-backs in Jerome Boateng and Phillipp Lahm, and Ballack would have provided ample cover for either of those two whenever they bombed upfield.

In the squad Löw and Bierhoff undoubtedly thought long and hard over, the former Fenerbahçe manager has included just two outright defensive midfield and centre midfield options – Sami Khedira and Christian Träsch, both of whom play for Stuttgart. Although creative, classy and highly competent, the 23-year-olds boast a mere two caps apiece.

But it now appears that Khedira is likely to get the shout if a 4-2-3-1 system is used because potential Schweinsteiger-partnering candidates in the preliminary list continue to suffer. With Simon Rolfes already ruled out due to ongoing injury woes, Träsch has now been sidelined for a short period of time: a nasty collision with an advertising hoard during a friendly game leaves him on his backside for at least a fortnight. Continue reading