PSG’s thrashing exposes Bayern Munich’s problems

The reigning Bundesliga champions were utterly thrashed by the big-spending PSG at the Parc des Princes. Bayern failed to cope with the Parisians’ pace on the break and paid for it dearly as Dani Alves, Cavani and Neymar all got on the scoresheet to demolish the Bavarians 3-0.

It was a fairly surprising – given Bayern has a number of talented players in their ranks – and telling result.

The game sent a message of intent from PSG and their quest to conquer Europe- even if it costed them almost €500 million. But the game also exposed Bayern’s flaws and Ancelotti’s, sometimes, questionable personnel selection.

Bayern showed that without Neuer in goal their defensive mistakes must be kept to a minimum because their second string goalkeeper, Ulreich is nowhere near the class of his countryman, which he has displayed on numerous occasions. At the weekend he cost his team two points with a huge blunder against Wolfsburg and against PSG he wasn’t much more convincing. He probably could have and should have done better on the first two PSG goals, although his defence did little to help him on the first.

Ulreich isn’t alone to blame though. The men tasked with protecting him failed to do their jobs against the Parisians and were often run ragged. They were sluggish and frankly unsure how to deal with the pace of PSG’s front three. The full backs had especially a torrid time trying to contain Neymar, Mbappé and the overlapping defenders, Alves and Kurzawa.

Alaba was especially made to look incredibly foolish by Mbappé, who easily dribbled past the Austrian and from a tight angle took a shot on goal, which Ulreich managed to save but Martínez wasn’t quick enough to get the ball away and Neymar was perfectly positioned to poke the ball home for the Parisians’ third of the night.

While the score was a tad bit surprising, the most shocking thing on the night was Ancelotti’s decision not to start the trio Hummels, Robben and Ribéry but rather opted to pair up the very slow Martínez with the young and inexperienced Süle, while choosing to start James- who had a very quiet game- alongside Lewandowksi and Müller.

Hummels is Bayern’s and Germany’s best defender and he has experience at this level. He would have been a better partner for Martínez in front of Ulreich. On the other hand, Robben and Ribéry are great and experienced players, though ageing. However, they would have been a better selection than James and Tolisso to start in Paris. Not to take anything away from both players but James struggled to get into Real Madrid’s starting 11, which is why he ended up on loan at Bayern and while Tolisso is talented this is new for him- his move to Bayern is a massive jump in quality and expectations from that of Lyon.

Ancelotti’s decision to substitute both James and Tolisso at the start of the second half was a good idea, as both players were quiet in the first half but his choice to send in Rudy and Coman, while his team was chasing the game, was equally as risky as his decision to start with James and Tolisso instead of Ribéry and Robben.

Ancelotti isn’t all to blame though, because he has limited options in his squad and the club’s back office did little to reinforce the squad to be more competitive for this season. The team has started to age and they have lost quality players like Lahm and Xabi Alonso to retirement and didn’t replace both adequately. They’ve also sent the brilliant Douglas Costa on loan to Juventus and new signing Gnabry on loan to Hoffenheim; both players are thriving in their new environment.

Lewandowksi himself has seen the problem with the club’s transfer policy and has publicly lambasted them for it; quite understandable from an ambitious player. Club officials (Rummenigge and Hoeneß) have since rebuked Lewa’s complaints and continue to say they will not participate in paying the current market’s egregious prices and as such are only seeking to pay what they believe is a fair price; but they should ask Arsène Wenger how that is working out for him and Arsenal.

By rejecting the current market’s inflated prices, the club is then left with the option of continually plundering and weakening their Bundesliga opponents, which has in part contributed to their dominance in the league- they’re now gunning for their sixth straight league title- and it isn’t at all surprising that they’ve been unable to compete on the continental stage since Jupp Heynckes’ treble winning season.

The market is absolute garbage and we can all agree on that but that’s where we are right now and in order to be competitive they have to consider spending more. No one is suggesting the pay €200 million for a player but surely €41.5 million- the club’s record transfer fee paid- can’t be their absolute ceiling. Even Wenger is starting to recognise that there is no way around the market and rumour has it he is considering a €98 million bid for Monaco’s Lemar in the next window.

Bayern is certainly struggling and has failed to achieve any semblance of consistency under Ancelotti this season but he isn’t solely to blame and players and club officials alike should equally shoulder the criticism.

Rumour has it Hoffenheim’s Nagelsmann will be the club’s next coach but the question is, will Ancelotti finish out the season at Bayern?


Bayern Munich off to a flyer

As is tradition in the Bundesliga, the reigning champions Bayern Munich opened the season at home to a fairly new look Bayer Leverkusen.

The champions— who had a surprisingly underwhelming pre-season and really won the German Super Cup as a result of terrible finishing and defending from Dortmund— looked dominant and could’ve [and probably should’ve] run rampant over Leverkusen, coming away with only a 3-1 win. An incredible display considering the Bavarians had three new signings in their team, lost two amazing players in Xabi Alonso and Philipp Lahm to retirement, and were also missing other valuable starters through injury—  Neuer, Boateng and Thiago. Also missing from the team through injury was superstar James, who is on loan from Real Madrid.

Leverkusen’s new coach chose a fairly offensive line-up, which didn’t pay off as expected and the Bavarians were dominant in midfield having been allowed far too much space to run amok.

New signings, Corentin Tolisso, Niklas Süle and Sebastian Rudy, were in the starting line-up for Bayern and both Tolisso and Süle were able to notch a debut goal, while Rudy bagged an assist— Süle scored in the 9th minute, getting on the end of a Rudy free-kick and Tolisso finished off a corner in the 18th minute after a poor clearance from the goalkeeper sent the ball into the path of Vidal, who then found Tolisso with a neat chip to the back post.

Süle partnered Hummels in the centre of defence in wake of Boateng’s absence and looked impregnable alongside his countryman, while Rudy, Tolisso and Vidal made up the three-man midfield. Tolisso was lively throughout the game and linked up well with his new team-mates, managing to create a number of chances including one moments after scoring, which hit the inside of the post.

Sven Bender made his debut for Leverkusen alongside Jonathan Tah in defense but was utterly out-played by Bayern, and his new team was unable to get anything going in the first half, with the exception of a couple of chances from Mehmedi and Volland. After finally making it to the starting 11, Leon Bailey was a ghost for die Werkself and was swiftly substituted at the start of the second half for Julian Brandt, who brought some life to their attack. Leverkusen’s livelier second half efforts were rewarded in the 65th minute through Mehmedi’s belter after a lay off in the box from Brandt.

Also making it’s debut in the Bundesliga was the video assistant referee (VAR), which was called upon by the referee Tobias Stieler in the 51st minute to identify a foul on Lewandowski by Aránguiz in the penalty box.

Bayern looked thrilling and played scintillating football, all without key players. They look set to once again dominate the Bundesliga and make it six titles in a row. Their squad also has depth, which will come in handy in the Champions League.

Dortmund off to a great start, while Gladbach stutters

image_1Two games into the new Bundesliga season and things seem to be going good for some teams; for others, as expected and for another group it has been nothing short of disastrous and although it’s still early days there has to be some worry for certain teams, while others can be rightly overjoyed that they have hit the ground running.

Dortmund, in the first leg of their UEFA Europa league group stage qualifiers had a slight scare against ODD Bk. However, with the quintessence of champions they battled back from three [early] goals down to defeat the Norwegians 4-3 in Norway. Today, in the return leg against the same opponents, Dortmund overturned an early one-goal lead to trounce ODD 7-2. Not only have they been extremely convincing in their four continental games, they’ve also won every other official league and domestic cup game comfortably and utterly convincing.

Tuchel has managed to so far help Dortmund reignite the radiant style of football started by Jürgen Klopp with silky passing and cogent team defending. They’ve conceded a mere five goals from seven games and scored a whopping 27(!).

Initially, I was apprehensive that they would be a genuine threat to Bayern this season but based on their recent performances and Bayern’s semi-poor display at Hoffenheim at the weekend, there is some renewed hope that the Schwarzgelben can really put some pressure on the record league winners and based on their schedule they have a chance to really set the pace before they meet Bayern. The Bavarians have two challenging games ahead of them before they meet Dortmund on match day eight, including this weekend’s match up against Bayer Leverkusen, a team that appears to be hitting a new high after reversing a one-goal deficit against Lazio in the return leg of the Champions League play-off round. Munich is also expected to be without key defensive players for that game- Boateng was sent off last weekend and Benatia exited the pitch injured. The other potential danger game for the Munich team is against Wolfsburg on match day six. Dortmund’s schedule has them at home against Berlin this weekend, away to Hannover, at home to Leverkusen, away to Hoffenheim and then home to newly promoted Darmstadt before travelling to Munich. Based on their current form and their league timetable for the next five games before meeting the defending champs, Bayer Leverkusen is the only team that poses them any real threat.

borussia-dortmundWhile der BVB has been frighteningly wonderful, Borussia Mönchengladbach has been shockingly appalling. They were trounced 4-0 by Dortmund in the season opener and despite being an all around great performance for The Black and Yellows, die Fohlen were dreadful in defence and lacking creativity at the other end. At the weekend, against Mainz, they displayed the same apathy in defence and deficiency going forward. They’ve been sadly disappointing, losing their opening league games conceding six goals and scoring one. They need to turn things around soon and their schedule allows for just that. Their next five games are against: Bremen (A), Hamburg (H), Köln (A), Augsburg (H) and Stuttgart (A). Apart from Köln and Augsburg, the other teams all struggled last season and haven’t really started this season well.

Gladbach was today drawn alongside Juventus (last season’s finalist), Manchester City and Sevilla (last season’s Europa Cup winners) in group D of the Champions League. However, if this slump in form continues, I have qualms about them posing any danger to the other teams and it is already a tough group even for the form they displayed last season, which won them a third place finish in the league.

578341_heroaGladbach’s problem lies with them being a feeder club for other teams, both in the Bundesliga and around the continent. Added to that, they tend to build their core team around “borrowed” players. Kramer, for example, was key to their shape in midfield. He was the player that cut out opponents’ attacks, sprung counters and helped to control the game’s tempo. However, he returned to Leverkusen. Max Kruse, a crucial part of their attack, was sold to title challengers, Wolfsburg. His case represents an instance of a player who gets sold after a few impressive seasons. Such occurrences make it hard for die Fohlen to return to their former glory years of the 70’s and it will certainly take a toll on them in European competition.

Both Dortmund and Gladbach are for the moment at two different sides of the continuum- one sitting atop the table, while the other is rooted to the bottom. One team has to focus on keeping their form with the other having to focus on improving. It is, of course, very early in the season and BVB is capable of going all the way just as Favre is competent to lead his Gladbach team out of this slump.

Bundesliga 2015/2016: Opening Day

FCB_HSV_03_GET_140815.variant846x476It is tradition in the Bundesliga for the champions to kick-start the new campaign and on Friday, defending champs FC Bayern Munich kicked off the new season with aplomb, trouncing Hamburg SV 5-0. It was an impressive showing from the Münchner and yet another dismal performance for Hamburg following their DFB Pokal loss to 4th league team FC Carl Zeiss Jena. Bayern and fans alike should be extremely pleased about the team’s business so far this transfer window and the performances of their new and returning players, particularly that of Douglas Costa. His presence in the team has been refreshing and means that Ribery’s prolonged injury problems and Robben’s propensity to pick up knocks means the Bavarians have a more than capable winger to cover any such absences. If his form continues, one can even assume the Brazilian will in fact nab the starting role from either man. He was very lively in his first Bundesliga outing, scoring the final goal in his team’s rout, providing the assist on one of Müller’s goals and had a hand in the many chances Bayern created.

On Saturday, we got to see the two newcomers, FC Ingolstadt 04 and SV Darmstadt 98. Both teams played impressively well, holding their own against Bundesliga veterans FSV Mainz 05 and Hannover 96. Ingolstadt came away with the biggest upset on the day defeating the Mainzer 1-0 with Hinterseer scoring the club’s historic first Bundesliga goal in the 66th minute, a beautifully curved shot into the right corner of the goal from just inside the box. Darmstadt, providing the most exciting game on the day, had the pacey winger/striker Heller to thank for their point in the season opener, after he ran the length of the field on a counter, turning a defender out and then curling one into the top corner to give his team the lead. However, Hannover equalised in the second half through Benschop but that lead wouldn’t last long as Heller sneaked in to steal the ball from Albornoz just outside the box, rounded the keeper and slotted the ball home to hand his side a temporary lead, which was cancelled out minutes later by a Sulu own goal. The game ended in a 2-2 draw. A good start for the newly promoted team from Darmstadt and surely Marco Sailer’s beard has continued to bring The Lilies luck.

FC Schalke 04, previously on a winless streak in their last five season openers, managed to put a hurting on SV Werder Bremen in the Weserstadion. The most beautiful goal (and the opener) came from Gabriel Selassie, albeit an own goal. Choupo-Moting and Huntelaar scored the other goals. Many doubted the competence of the new coach, André Breitenreiter, who coached the relegated SC Paderborn 07 last season. It’s still early days but he has, however, proved that he just might know what he is doing as the Königsblauen have now scored eight goals in their first two official games. The setup of Geis, Draxler, Goretzka and Choupo-Moting is proving to be a dazzling and strong midfield for The Royal Blues and an astute decision from Breitenreiter as it provides the team from Gelsenkirchen with a wonderful balance in midfield when going forward and defending. Goretzka playing as a box-to-box midfielder, whose fantastic eye for goal, finishing and passing capabilities provides them with plenty in offence, while in defence, he can pull out a tackle that can stop the opposition in their tracks. Meanwhile, his partner Geis brings a powerful long-range strike, free-kick proficiency and defensive class. The pairing has so far been lucrative, as Schalke has yet to concede a goal in competitive play and has exploded offensively.

Bayer 04 Leverkusen, another team with talented young players, got their season off to a winning start by defeating a new-look, Firmino-less TSG 1899 Hoffenheim, 2-1. Newcomer and former Hamburg wunderkind Jonathan Tah got his first start for Bayer 04 alongside former Schalke man Papadopoulos in the middle of defence; both playing very well. Hoffenheim managed to open the scoring in the fifth minute of play through the Swiss, Zuber; Wendel played him onside after a clever pass through the middle from Polanski. However, Kießling would equalise for the home side tucking away the rebound after a save from Baumann on Wendel’s shot from outside the box. It was a save that Baumann should have done better with but instead palmed the ball straight down the middle into the feet of Kießling; an elementary goalkeeping error. Up and coming star Julian Brandt scored the all-important winning goal in the 71st minute. The team from Leverkusen played well and had some great chances throughout the game; and while Hoffenheim didn’t play too badly, they did enough that if the game had ended in a draw, they would’ve still deserved the point.

In the other early game on Saturday, Hertha Berlin SC scraped a 1-0 win over Augsburg thanks to Kalou’s effort from the spot after being clumsily tackled by Klavan. It was a game in which a player from either side was sent off: Augsburg’s Bobadilla on the stroke of half-time, picking up a silly second yellow for recklessly diving into a challenge and Berlin’s Roy Beerens picking up his second yellow in the 66th minute for a silly foul on Feulner.

In Saturday’s final game and the top-game of the week, BVB Dortmund obliterated Borussia Mönchengladbach, scoring three goals in the first 32 minutes: Kagawa’s pass found Reus in the box and after a little trickery to beat his marker he fired a shot beating the goalkeeper at his near post. Seven minutes later, Aubamenyang would head in Schmelzer’s accurate cross and ten minutes after, Kagawa sprang a counter attack threading the ball through for Aubamenyang, whose fine pace beat the defender before he unselfishly squared the ball past the onrushing keeper for Mkhitaryan, who blasted the ball into an empty net. Dortmund started the second half the same way they did the first scoring their fourth in the 51st minute again on the counter; Kagawa laying the ball off for Reus, who speeds down the right flank before cutting the ball back to Mkhitaryan, who once more hit the ball into an empty net. The movement of the attacking players caused Gladbach all sorts of trouble and the likes of Reus, Mkyhitaryan, Aubameyang and Kagawa were incredibly difficult to contain. Apart from the aforementioned players, another standout for the Schwarzengelb was youngster and new signing Julian Weigl. The 19-year-old had an outstanding game in midfield, helping to control the game alongside Gündogan and stifling any attack Gladbach threw at his team. Coming from playing in the second league with 1860 Munich, he handled himself with the equanimity of a seasoned Bundesliga player and the Dortmund fans should be justly excited about him and his future in their team. Additionally, Bürki looks like a good replacement for Weidenfeller despite an early hesitation that could have led to a goal for Gladbach in the opening minutes of the game. For a team playing in the Champions League next season, it was a very disappointing start to the season for Gladbach; they looked lackadaisical in defence and clueless going forward and if they intend to play like this in Europe, the fans should be worried. As for Dortmund? They seemed to have found their footing again under Tuchel and though it’s early days, they look an exciting team once more.

There are two more games left to play in match day one and will take place on Sunday. VFL Wolfsburg will take on Eintracht Frankfurt at home and 1. FC Köln travels to VFB Stuttgart.