Bayern must beware a hollow victory




The tactical curiosities  of Pep Guardiola have been one of the interesting side notes of his first season as Bayern Munich' s coach. This season, FCB has seen a regular use of the false nine, the conversion of Philipp Lahm to defensive midfielder and the switching of full backs to midfield and back again during the course of the game.

Prior to clinching the Bundesliga championship at Hertha BSC the variations employed by the former Barcelona coach were part of the armoury that allowed Bayern to win the title before the clocks changed. Since that win in Berlin, however, the Munich club have failed to pick up three points in the Bundesliga. They dropped points to Hoffenheim and lost for the first time ever to Augsburg. Then last Saturday they suffered a nasty 3-0 home defeat to Borussia Dortmund.

Understandably, Guardiola has been prioritising the Champions League. For the 3-3 draw against Hoffenheim and the defeat to Augsburg, Guardiola made significant changes. He  rested Manuel Neuer, Arjen Robben, Lahm, David Alaba, Mario Mandžuki?, Dante and Jerome Boateng. The latter two being the usual centre back pairing that were both rotated for the Augsburg defeat.

You could say that sacrifices was worth it because Bayern overcame a resolute, if limited Manchester United team and are now in the final four in Europe. However, there was something about the Bavarian's performance, particularly in the second leg against the English champions that failed to convince.  

Moving Lahm and Alaba away from their full back duties to support the midfield left Robben and Franck Ribéry slightly exposed and it is uncertain as to what baring this had on the result. Also, Bayern appeared ponderous and it was only after going a goal down that they uncomplicated themselves and to use a cricket analogy, decided to bowl quick and straight at the stumps.  Bringing on Rafinha arguably restored the balance and Bayern improved

Success in Europe mitigated their domestic disappointments. But the defeat to Borussia Dortmund has altered the narrative somewhat. Guardiola picked his best team and despite their opponent's fantastic performance against Real Madrid, Jürgen Klopp's injury hit side were there for the taking.

Instead, they were pretty much taken apart, largely by a rejuvenated Henrikh Mkhitaryan. Once again, the full backs were very narrow. Bayern's midfield appeared congested and towards the end, they side lost their discipline. For a short while they allowed themselves to implode and looked anything but Champions.

As Bayern blogger Susie Schaaf wrote "winning breeds winning." It would not be unreasonable to argue that in view of previous results, the Dortmund defeat was on the cards. In mitigation, we should not  underestimate the importance of Thiago Alcântara's contribution to the team this season. The Spanish midfielder injured his knee against Hoffenheim and his absence is a genuine blow.

In any event, the seemingly unbeatable Bayern Munich now seem anything but and the odds of their adding further silverware to the Bundesliga salad bowl have probably lengthened. The danger is that a late season collapse may take the gloss off their achievements.

When the Bayern Munich fans reassemble at the Allianz Arena this coming Wednesday for their DFB Pokal semi-final against Kaiserslautern there may be a degree of tension that, had things been done differently could have been avoided.

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