In the previous season, FC Bayern had clinched the club’s 27th championship with a 6-0 win in Wolfsburg. Despite a waning competition this year, it was not yet a matter for the Munich team to secure the title and it was far less clear.
The most important personnel issue for the Munich team had already been resolved on Thursday: Jupp Heynckes, who had recently been plagued by influenza, was back on the pitch. After the head coach had overslept the first half hour of the match against Schalke last Saturday, he was again sitting on his usual spot next to Peter Hermann.
In the squad in Wolfsburg, James Rodriguez and Kingsley Coman, who had recently been strong in form, could not be found due to a cold or, in the case of James, due to rest. Thiago was back in the starting line-up. This was the first time since the end of November that the midfielder was on duty again.
Heynckes was also rotating with the rest of the team. He benched his entire four-man backline and Lewandowski for the first leg against Besiktas on Tuesday. For the first time under Jupp, Javi Martínez was started again in central defence.
3 Things We Noticed
1. No form, difficult game
Regarding the not to be underestimated first leg in the Champions League Round of 16 against Besiktas Istanbul, Jupp Heynckes had launched the rotation. Eight new players were in the red-and-white starting line-up compared to the home win against Schalke.
The head coach left the most recently strong players out of the game. While James, Coman and Müller together or separately had a large share in the victories at the beginning of the second half of the season, they did not find themselves in the starting eleven against Wolfsburg. Vidal, who recently regained strength and played remarkably, collected his fifth yellow card against Schalke and therefore also not participating.
Bayern’s squad certainly has quality, even further down the bench. But for various reasons, these players are currently collectively in a small performance dip.
Since the departure of Ancelotti and the ensuing reduction of his minutes, Rudy’s has been experiencing a meanwhile tangible form crisis. While the former Hoffenheim player still shone in autumn with his view and passing accuracy, at the moment these aspects are problematic in his game.
At almost every match Rudy makes a horrendous bad pass or turnover, just like today. Overall, Rudy achieved a passing accuracy of more than 90%, but these passes were rarely vertical and often lateral – without gaining space or being creative.
It will be a big task for Heynckes to get the players in the back of the squad into form. It was precisely this ability that characterised the triple team from 2013, for example.
In order to achieve this, recurring appearances in the supposedly already decided Bundesliga will be necessary. The game today shows how difficult this process can be.
2. Bernat and Ribery are not Alaba and Coman
The fact that Juan Bernat allowed Wolfsburg’s Didavi too much space before the Wolves’ 1-0 lead should not be part of the analysis here. Rather, the interaction on the left wing is to be discussed.
In the last few weeks, Alaba in particular had shown a clear increase in form. Together with Coman, the Austrians created havoc on opposing sides week after week. The two boys on the left had found each other, the processes seemed to be right.
Over and over again, Alaba was able to overlap Coman on the outside and throw in a sharp cross, because the Frenchman had bound one or two opponents, or the Austrian underlapped the left winger to either move into the penalty area or allow a pass into the backfield
In today’s game, there was very little of this dynamic on the left.
Throughout the first half of the match, Ribery had big problems getting into a one-on-one duel. On the one hand, he was challenged early on by Steffen and Jung together, which meant that he was unable to enter the defence line at all. On the other hand, Ribery now lacks a quick start on the first two to three meters to free himself from this kind of man-to-man coverage.
Bernat was also rarely able to support Ribery. If Ribery was already facing the two Wolfsburg players with the ball, the Spaniard was mostly too static, so that a pass to him stopped the attack of Bayern. Vertical runs into the spaces behind this duo did not take place at all.
Additional support from the left eight could be helpful here. In a triangle, such an aggressive cover could be by-passed up in the future.
3. Thiago wants it, but still needs time.
Thiago had been out for almost three months. Nevertheless, Heynckes let his midfield director participate in the team training for two weeks before throwing him back into a game.
It was immediately noticeable that the Spaniard did not want to spend another day sitting on the bench or on the couch at home. In many actions the joy of playing of last year’s best Bayern player was noticeable.
Winning the ball on the outside, the fast turns and even vertical passes could be seen in the beginning. After 60 minutes he had 81 ball actions, a key pass and 92% passing accuracy. Thiago proved his defensive abilities, was the most successful duelist on the side of the Reds with five duels and also intercepted a pass.
Nevertheless, it was obvious in every action that this Thiago is still a long way from last season’s Thiago. Each action was a little slower and less precise. Especially in the second half, the Spaniard was rarely seen and seemed slow.
Here, the Spanish international and FC Bayern will have to deal with the fact that their opponent is not one of the big names among the last sixteen of Europe. Thiago thus has a few weeks to get back into shape. The will is already there.
|VfL Wolfsburg – FC Bayern 1-2 (1-0)|
|VfL Wolfsburg||Casteels – S. Jung (78. Wolliam), Knoche, Bruma, G. Itter – Arnold – Guilavogui, Didavi – Steffen (84. Osimhen), Malli – Origi|
|Bench||Grün, Mehmedi, Rexhbecaj, Bazoer, Dimata|
|FC Bayern||Ulreich – Rafinha, Javi Martinez, Süle, Juan Bernat – Rudy – Tolisso, Thiago (62. Müller) – Robben, Ribery (66. Alaba) – Wagner (80. Lewandowski)|
|Bench||Starke, Kimmich, Hummels, Boateng|
|Goals||1-0 Didavi (8.); 1-1 Wagner (64.); 1-2 Lewandowski (90. + 2)|
|Cards||Yellow: Jung, Arnold, Steffen, Itter / Thiago, Ribery|
|Referee||Sascha Stegemann (Köln)|
|Attendance||30,000 (sold out)|