Dare To Be Boring
The thing I am loving most about this team is that they have so many identities within their style of play. It is such a contrast to last seasons single-gear mentality. Tuesday’s match was a little bit of a history lesson about the team over the last few seasons. Earlier chapters of a couple years ago were still there: starting off a little wobbly against top teams, then slowly working up into a position of dominance in the match is a page from the 09-10 book, actually. But time, health, experience and a trainer who understands his players’ individual and collective strengths have layered on something more. I love shuffling the deck (with purpose) with the “strikerless” formation, and a collective effort that dares to be boring when it has a two goal lead. Not that the last 20 minutes of the match were boring exactly, but they were..shall we say, unremarkable.
Roberto Mancini looks like he’s going to be busy with the broom and dustpan cleaning up the mess in his dressing room for a bit, but let’s not forget that Manchester City was afforded a great opportunity here. They drew the chance to play out a dry run on the pitch where the final will be played in only their second CL match. Setting all of the mental/off-field aspects aside, the result showed they have plenty of work to do on the field. September is an excellent time to learn this rather than say, March. The vision of a very talented team looking lethargic and individualistic in early group stage matches, but then regrouping and growing together to go all the way to the final should be a familiar one to Bayern fans; it may yet be the path of Manchester City.
*If you played along in the Bayern-City Oktoberfest Drinking Game, you consumed (by my calculations) 6.42 liters of beer yesterday, greatly helped by the fact that Jupp was wearing glasses the whole time AND is better at protecting leads than his predecessor. Welcome to Detox Wednesday.
*There was an attack Schweinsteiger initiated around the hour mark, where I fully expected he would do a full cartwheel after the ball left his touch. It’s usually Ribery that enjoys these moments of technical joy, but here was one for Bastian.
*This past summer, when Bayern made the move for Rafinha, I had positive, but mixed emotions. On the one hand, I thought it had been the right move not to splurge on Fabio Coentrao, or overspend on a lesser player at LB. Once Heynckes was in the picture, I didn’t believe Bayern would actually sign a LB for a second. On the other hand, signing Rafinha was a signal to me that Bayern was taking its ambitions down a peg. His strengths were well-established in a Bundesliga setting, but I had my doubts about how much he’d be able to handle on midweek evenings this season. Then there was Tuesday, when he played the role of vacuum cleaner on Nasri.
*Anyone think Bayern underpaid for Luiz Gustavo? He cleaned up a lot of trash, so van Buyten wouldn’t have to. And that’s part of how you get around a match-up that looked like it was in City’s favor.
*I can’t decide if City was lazy, foolish or arrogant in their approach to Franck Ribery, but his play demands more of a reaction than Toure & Toure cards when the match is already out of reach. Maybe Richards’ early success bottling him up lulled them into a false sense of security, but he never had enough help. Sometimes, it seemed Silva just wasn’t interested in dropping back, and other times it seemed like for all the world, they thought it didn’t really matter how much space Ribery had to run in, he wouldn’t be able to beat them. I couldn’t believe they actually lost Ribery entirely on a corner shortly before the first goal. Which sort of leads into my next point..
*Silly or not, I always view set piece defending as a sort of barometer to team cohesion. Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of strong teams who lack the physical talent and abilities to make the best of those situations, but individual brilliance won’t save you when you there. I’m not sure City defended any of Bayern’s set pieces chances particularly well. The dressing room issues really manifested there.
*It is an excellent achievement to be on 6 points from two matches in this group. But I always believe great teams are the ones that win all the matches they should win. Bayern should beat Hoffenheim this weekend, and I don’t think it’s foolish to consider that an important test in its own way.
Finally, I want to let all our readers know that Breno’s wife, Renata Borges, contacted me on Monday and shared some thoughts. I can relate to you on her behalf, that the family is very grateful for your expressions of support.