For Bayern, this was the first Oktoberfest home match of the year. Since promotion to the first division in 1965, there have been 83 of those – Bayern won 54 while drawing 21 and losing only 8, with a goal difference of 218-90. It’s a traditionally dominant and remarkable time of the Bayern season and this match proved to be arguably the most remarkable of them all.
1. Boom, boom, boom, boom, boom…
Over the last three or four years, Bayern have set some exceptional records. Hardly any of them come close to what happened on Tuesday evening between 9 – 9:15pm. Robert Lewandowski delivered one of the most dominant individual performances in Bundesliga history. Practically by himself, he turned around what had looked like a serious setback at halftime. The fastest hat-trick in Bundesliga history, the fastest quadruple in Bundesliga history, the fastest quintuple in Bundesliga history. The first quintuple scored by a sub. The Polish international needed only nine minutes to score five goals. Simply amazing.
It would be wrong to say that you could see such an explosion coming in the first five minutes oft he second half but Guardiola’s two changes gave the team an immediate boost. The Costa-Götze switch in particular was very effective, Wolfsburg needed some time to adjust to that. Bringing on Javi Martinez helped as well, as he won six aerial duels in 45 minutes, the highest number of the entire match.
The equalizer in minute 51 was the biggest collective action. Götze was given lots of space on the right flank and Bayern finally managed to enter the box with several players and decent pace. Vidal offered a valuable vertical run and played a back-heel pass to Müller whose blocked shot ended up right at Lewandowski’s feet.
What happened after that was nothing short of an explosion that demonstrated Lewandowski’s versatility: a long-range shot, a poke, a volley, a scissor kick from the edge of the box. Supported by Müller, Götze and Costa, he showed off his entire repertoire. It was a moment of glory – his moment of glory.
2. A forgettable first half
Amidst all the celebrating an unreal second half, we should not forget about Bayern’s struggle in the first half. Guardiola will have to learn his lessons from those 45 minutes. It was alarming just how well Wolfsburg’s simple tactical ideas managed to eliminate Bayern’s strengths from minute 15 on. Their game plan was based on two things: eliminating Bayern’s main buildup man in Xabi Alonso by having Max Kruse man-mark him, and blocking Douglas Costa’s path to the box with two or three defenders. Furthermore, the deep-lying defensive midfielders Luiz Gustavo and Josuha Guilavogui disturbed the spaces around the Bavarian central midfield. Not exactly the most creative or innovative ideas. So it was only more shocking to see how effective they were.
Unlike most recent opponents, Wolfsburg didn’t try to press Xabi Alonso but instead tried to cut him off before he could receive the ball. That made Alonso’s backwards movement more complicated, disturbing the rhythm of the game even more than usual. Normally, it would be up to Vidal and Thiago to take over and control the match. However, Thiago in particular played an erratic first half, failing to organize the game. It was the correct decision to sub him off at halftime.
Guardiola’s decision to rely on a back-four against this opponent must be questioned. It showed how much he respects Wolfsburg now, after the recent bad performances against Dieter Hecking’s team. At an early stage of the buildup, Bayern already had a very round movement, falling into the feared U-shaped pattern and lacking verticality. It might’ve made more sense to dissolve the back-four to add another player to the struggling midfield. That being said, this surely wasn’t the only reason for Bayern’s struggles, as the second half proved, where Bayern still managed to dictate the pace with a back-four.
Not for the first time this season, Douglas Costa showed that he’s got serious problems against a defense that focuses on him and takes away the opportunity to dribble into one-on-ones. Aside from a single long-range shot, he played a completely ineffective first half and only improved once Lewandowski had exploded. In the end, he registered yet another assist, but it has become obvious that the Brazilian has to develop further if he wants to help his team in different situations – just like Robben and Ribery did.
Guardiola has to analyze this first half thoroughly. For the third time in six Bundesliga matches, Bayern had to come back after being down a goal. Of course this speaks for the team’s mentality but it’s hardly a sustainable trend.
3. Götze takes another step forward
For the second match in a row, Mario Götze was a part of the Bayern starting lineup. The 23-year-old, rightfully criticized in the recent past, took a step forward against Wolfsburg with a noticeably positive performance. Positioned on the left wing, he was given the option to move inside to occupy the central midfield area. In the first half, this didn’t work out perfectly but Götze was the best attacking player on a struggling Bayern team.
As usual, Götze’s best moments were when he entered the combination play and could play passes through opposing lines. He was unlucky not to receive the ball when Douglas Costa failed to spot an unmarked Götze at one point in the first half.
After the break, Götze moved to the right flank and played a key role in Lewandowski’s one-man show. He initiated the first goal and directly assisted the third and fifth. With three key passes, 16 successful tackles, four successful dribbles and almost 100 runs, Götze recorded the highest numbers on the pitch in four statistics. It was a complete performance with few ups and downs.
If it is a realistic expectation that Götze influences the Bayern game positively, then he satisfied expectations against Wolfsburg. And that’s what counts for him these days.
|FC BAYERN – VFL WOLFSBURG 5-1 (0-1)|
|FC Bayern||Neuer – Lahm, Boateng, Alaba, Bernat (46. Martínez) – Alonso (78. Kimmich) – Thiago (46. Lewandowski), Vidal – Müller, Götze, Costa|
|Subs||Ulreich, Rafinha, Rode, Coman|
|VfL Wolfsburg||Benaglio – Träsch, Naldo, Dante, Rodriguez – Guilavogui, Luiz Gustavo (59. Arnold) – Caligiuri, Kruse (78. Schürrle), Draxler – Dost (78. Bendtner)|
|Goals||0-1 Caligiuri (26.), 1-1 Lewandowski (51.), 2-1 Lewandowski (52.), 3-1 Lewandowski (55.), 4-1 Lewandowski (57.), 5-1 Lewandowski (59.)|
|Cards||Yellow: Vidal / Caligiuri|
|Referee||Tobias Stieler (Hamburg)|