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In the end nothing but disappointment was left for Bayern. A hardly deserved 0-1 loss in the St.-Jakobs-Park in Basel created a grave crisis for the German record champions from Bavaria who started with great ambitions into the second leg of the season. They wanted to defend their first position in the championship and beat Basel easily to reach the Champions League final in the own stadium. Four weeks after the start of those missions in Gladbach, Bayern’s ideal world has turned into a apocalyptic mood. Mainly the fans and board are afraid that the team couldn’t reach its main goal, the win of the championship anymore.
There are many reasons for that crisis that, in my opinion, has been evocative of way too early by the media and fans. All of them could be observed in yesterday’s game against Basel. I’ll try to write those problems down and refer to the game so that you have a review and analyses in the same time. Or something like that, you know what I mean.
Major problem number 1: The creativity in the offense:
This problem wasn’t that obvious in the beginning of the second leg because Bastian Schweinsteiger came back and as we all know, he’s Bayern’s heart. But meanwhile we can’t use that excuse anymore. Schweinsteiger is already injured for the second time in this season and the manager and his players must have found a solution by now. It seems like David Alaba would be a good one of which more later. But his forward line composed of Franck Ribéry, Toni Kroos and Arjen Robben was neither good nor willing enough to break through the Swiss defense.
They were mainly playing square or backward passes and only tried a few times to play forward what often failed. They had no energy or motivation to dribble, it seemed like they were afraid of making mistakes. Especially the actual playmaker was rather acting as ghost than as what he’s being paid for. Arjen Robben wasn’t much better. He always started to dribble but then he slowed down, passed square or even backwards. Only Ribery did try a few times to revive Bayern’s offensive power from the first leg of the season but he was on his own most of the time.
Mario Gomez is another reason for the poor offensive plays of his team. While he was still working a lot for the team in the first leg of the season, it seems like he had become a bit lazy due to the persistent marking of his opponents. He is still running a lot but it doesn’t help his team mates a lot, it seems like he had forgotten how to create space for his team mates. He only played 16 passes… As his heat map shows, he’s mainly active in the center but he should back on the wings what would create space for the wingers and especially Kroos.
Even though they had a possession of ball of 61%, Bayern only played around the box of Basel. They couldn’t profit from a pretty good second half either. Altogether they played 575 passes, almost half of them in the attacking third (265) but it didn’t help. Only 4 of their 23 crosses could be converted somehow and so were 2 of their 5 corners. They did shoot 7 times on target but most of those attempts happened in the first minutes of the game, thanks to Ribery who could break through the Swiss defense a few times in the first quarter.
Major problem number 2: The defense:
I know, I’m saying it all the time, during every match but I really can’t say it enough because there are still people thinking our defense was good enough. Actually they are but only as individualists. Their coordination isn’t the best for sure and it seems like no-one could really organize the defense. Badstuber and especially Boateng had great stats yesterday, both have completed most of their passes (Badstuber 87%, Boateng 93%) but there were actually too many scenes revealed their bad team play between them and the rest of the defense.
In the 16th minute Steinhöfer, Basel’s right full-back and former Bayern youth player, crossed what could be converted by Dragovic, the Swiss’ huge full-back, due to an error by Boateng. It wasn’t only his mistake though, the whole defense was standing too far away from each other. Badstuber wasn’t involved into that scene though, he was the one to clear the ball from the line what was actually one of his best scenes in the game of which he had many though.
Only 3 minutes later Basel, Alexander Frei was the one to hit the woodwork of Neuer’s goal. Again there was too much space between the defenders. This time it was Badstuber’s mistake though who rather focussed on the ball than on the opponent striker. The whole team was defending awfully in that 19th minute of the first half, actually Lahm is as guilty as Badstuber.
There were many more scenes where especially the central backs looked helpless and perhaps also a bit overcharged because they were all suddenly standing alone, their opponent had moved apart becauset they concentrated too much on the ball instead of thinking spatially. Their team play was never really perfect, they didn’t move together. If one of the central backs moved out on the wing, the other one just kept his position instead of moving parallel to his partner so that there wouldn’t be too much space. This didn’t happen though…
Finally, in the 86th minute, when Stocker scored the winner for the Swiss, the defense was acting awfully again. No-one wanted to attack the ball carrier and so the ball did arrive to Stocker who had no problem to convert the pass since the defense hadn’t been moving much, they were only watching what was going to happen and acting horribly passively.
Major problem number 3: The full-backs:
I know that full-backs are defenders and that I could have included this point into number 2 of my problems. And no, I don’t create this point 3 either to have more problems. I have decided to accord this whole problem to our full-backs because what they have been playing recently isn’t pretty anymore. Both, Philipp Lahm and Rafinha are out of form and even though they are trying their best, they are still a threat for the team.
Especially Rafinha was weak yesterday and elected “flop of the game” from quite a lot of journalists. His defending was actually very bad because he was too offensively-minded. He was rarely on his actual position and many counter-attacks came over his side; he was the major weakness of Bayern. Some might think he would have at least played well in the offense. But he actually didn’t. His paths were uncoordinated and didn’t give Robben any possibility to pass him without losing the ball immediately. Rafinha was undoubtedly one of the worst on the pitch.
Major problem number 4: The morale:
I’ve already mentioned it before: the team is afraid of making mistakes. They don’t want to take any risks and prefer to pass square or backwards. This could be observed very well – as already said – in the passing of the forward line. As you can see on the picture added, they mainly played around the box but very rarely into the box. A clear sign of fear.
Another problem is the team spirit. It seemed like no-one wanted to fight for or help each other. They forgot about Jupp Heynckes’ tactics and were playing like in the darkest hours under Louis van Gaal: without any ideas and only square. It seemed like they wouldn’t have much interest in the the game and perhaps they were only a bit arrogant and underestimating their opponent.
Only very few players such as Holger Badstuber showed passion. The young German defender was screaming at his team mates because of their horrible mistakes that he often had to smooth out. It is reported that one of Bayern’s best players in this season was screaming in the dressing room after the final whistle and calling his team mates “girls”. And this is what Bayern needs! Players who stand up for their club and not for themselves! I’m sure that any player would have done this if the morale wouldn’t be that low.
Of course there haven’t only been bad things yesterday. But there were more negative aspects than positive ones. A positive aspect were for example the first minutes of the game where Bayern was clearly dominating. Basel did struggle in the first 15 minutes because especially Ribery was playing very well. Bayern did want to force Basel to adapt to their game but when they saw it wouldn’t work that well, they just gave up and both sides had their opportunities. Bayern did have some chances to break the tie but Basel’s goalkeeper was outstanding. The Bavarian defense wasn’t arranged in a properly staggered manner and so Basel did have their shots on target as well such as the crucial one in the 86th minute.
Another thing I really want to point out, is David Alaba’s performance. The young Austrian allround man did play a very good game in the defensive midfield and could use his speed very well even as defensive midfielder. He was pushing forward in the right moments, surprising the Swiss defenders and creating chances. Altogether he created 2 chances but his stats in the attacking third are truly outstanding. Beside those 2 created chances, he passed 26 times of which he completed 96% (25)! Altogether he completed 93% of his passes (55/59). Furthermore he received the ball 53 times and was clearly the heart of the Bayern game! Most important though; half of his passes (28) were played forward and 93% (26) of those passes did reach his team mates. Furthermore he shot four times. Once on target, once off target and the other two shots were blocked but that doesn’t matter! At least he tried and accepted responsibility. In my opinion David Alaba should be the one replacing Bastian Schweinsteiger until the German international is fit again. He does have balls and isn’t afraid of making mistakes but just plays.
The facility shown by Alaba is exactly what Bayern needs. Perhaps they shouldn’t have talked about their truly ambitious goals in public and maintained a low profile because it seems as if they couldn’t bear the pressure on their shoulders anymore, for which they are partially responsible themselves for talking big and playing badly…
Last but not least I want to have a look at Xherdan Shaqiri’s performance. To be honest, Bayern’s first signing for the next season was rather average than outstanding. He didn’t try much and shot on target only once, a second shot was blocked. Of his 26 passes, 85% (22) could be completed but he played only 8 passes in the attacking third. He could complete 88% (7) of those which is quite good after all. He created one chance and 3 of his 4 crosses reached his forwards what is pretty good as well. But as already said, he wasn’t a real threat for Bayern and couldn’t profit of Bayern’s weakness alias Rafinha but tried to come through the centre what did work a few times and what gave him the opportunity to shoot on target once. To sum up, the young Swiss winger could have played better but I’m really looking forward to seeing him in the Bayern jersey!
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