Bayern spent the winter break in Qatar once again and played a short tournament in Düsseldorf last weekend, winning it with two victories against Düsseldorf and Mainz.
The only bit of bad news after the return from winter break: Thiago suffered a muscle injury during training camp and will be out for the foreseeable future.
3 things we noticed:
1. Müller is no Thiago
Against Leipzig, Thiago topped off his fantastic first half of the season with a great game. He was the best player of the season to date because he managed to consistently play at a very high level – which makes the loss now even harsher. In Thomas Müller, he was replaced in the game against Freiburg by a player operating on the other end of the success scale at the moment. His season so far has been disappointing. All this made the direct comparison of Thiago to Müller all the more interesting. Müller’s style is obviously different: he had only 31 touches in the first 45 minutes, even though Bayern had 76% possession. His interpretation of the role behind the striker is completely different from Thiago’s: while the Spaniard tries to proactively shape the space on the field with his passing and positional play, Müller is more focused on interpreting that space. His style is a lot more passive, because he tries to make his team-mates look good with his runs.
Because Freiburg started off with aggressive pressing and then became more and more passive as the game went on, this didn’t really work out tonight. When Freiburg began to draw back more towards the end of the first half, almost everything was played via the left side. Müller supported only very little and the first 45 minutes left him virtually untouched.
After half-time, Müller was integrated better at first, playing deeper and trying to get into the striker position more determinedly, making him a good alternative in Freiburg’s penalty area at times. His reach of action grew noticeably, and it lead to two good scenes close to goal. After these good chances, Bayern’s game gradually collapsed in on itself, and Müller failed to shine. He couldn’t win the infamous 50-50 tackles.
It will take more than the 10-15 good minutes that Thomas Müller showed today if he wants to become a vital part of Bayern’s team again, he simply didn’t have enough time on the ball. Müller himself admitted as much in an interview with Sky after the game.
It wasn’t the first “comeback” of the 2016/17 season. Late victories against Hamburg, Darmstadt, and Schalke have symptomised this season. Bayern’s individual class, rather than tactical finesse, is often enough to win games. Bayern have a strikingly hard time of dominating games as they used to when playing away from home, which is all the more worth noting as three out of the next four games will be played on foreign turf.
All in all, the quality of Bayern’s players has been what has saved the team more than once this season: Lewandowski against Schalke and Freiburg, Thiago against Hamburg, Costa against Darmstadt. All these games required world-class moves to get to three points. This is where Carlo Ancelotti will have to start working over the next weeks; FC Bayern can’t and shouldn’t rely solely on their players’ extraordinary qualities to get through all their away games.
3. Robert Lewandowski
Miasanrot’s player of the year 2016 has started where he left off before the winter break. Two good scenes were enough for the striker to turn the game around for his team. Discussions about whether or not Lewandowski could have done more for the game are in vain – as long as he keeps deciding games in Bayern’s favour like he did tonight, four shots on goal are enough.
With 14 goals in 17 games, Lewandowski seems set to attack the “magical” 30 goal mark yet again. Bayern seem to need their number 9 more than ever in games like the one against Freiburg. A couple of years ago, Robben and Ribéry were the literal game-changers, this role now seems to wander more and more towards Lewandowski. Goals like his 2-1 in the 91st minute only underline this and prove how important it was that Bayern signed a new contract with the striker recently.
|SC Freiburg – FC Bayern 1-2 (1-1)|
|SC Freiburg||Schwolow – Stenzel (83. Kübler), Gulde, Torrejón, Günter – Philipp, Höfler, Frantz, Grifo – Haberer (80. Bulut), Niederlechner (70. Petersen)|
|Bench||Gikiewicz – Abrashi, Schuster, Hufnagel|
|FC Bayern Munich||Neuer – Lahm, Martínez, Hummels, Alaba (71. Bernat) – Alonso, Vidal (55. Kimmich) – Robben, Müller, Costa (71. Ribéry) – Lewandowski|
|Bench||Starke – Rafinha, Sanches, Coman|
|Tore||1:0 Haberer (4.), 1:1 Lewandowski (36.), 1:2 Lewandowski (90.+1)|
|Cards||Haberer, Schwolow / Alonso, Costa|
|Referee||Manuel Gräfe (Berlin)|