The day after the Badstuber shock Bayern traveled to Augsburg, to a team that has caused the Reds many problems in the past. Twice in the past three years did Augsburg manage to win against Bayern.
The Bayern staff entered the pitch in t-shirts with Badstuber’s shirt number 28 and the slogan “We are with you. You can do it again ” on it. Guardiola even wore the shirt throughout the game under the jacket. A remarkable gesture of the entire team.
3 things we noticed:
1. Müller in man-marking
Weinzierl already foreshadowed before the game that he would think of something special for Thomas Müller. Shortly after the opening whistle it became visible what the FCA coach had in mind. Gouweleeuw moved out of his central midfield position during Bayerns’s possension to mark Müller in Augsburg’s half. This also explained why Augsburg’s back-four widened repeatedly to a back-five. Gouweleeuw also followed Müller when the German pushed forward.
The Bayern striker took on the task and dragged the Dutchman over the entire width of the field. It was only when Müller moved all the way to the sidelines that Gouweleeuw handed him over to the left-back Max and rather stayed to cover the central space.
Precisely this pattern caused/created the unchallenged cross by Müller leading to the first goal. Augsburg lost the ball, causing a moment of disorder, Gouweleeuw had to leave Müller to take on Robben in the center. Muller had a few meters of space. Max didn’t take over fast enough, and Müller had just enough space to precisely fit the ball from the right into the box.
Müller had to work more than usual and showed remarkable runs throughout the game. He ran over 12km (the most), recorded 30 sprints (the most) and 77 intensive runs (only Robben had more with 88). Otherwise, the measure was only partially successful. Müller played more passes, had more shot assists and generally had the ball more often against Augsburg than on average this season. Plus he scored the third goal against an Augsburg defense that was indisposed at that moment. In this respect: Nice idea but not enough to disable Müller.
2. Phenomenal Lewandowski
“Robert Lewandowski will be even more valuable when he learns to score the simple goals” – this was one out of our 16 theses before the 2015/2016 season. It can be said that this has now been confirmed. No, the first goal against Augsburg was not easy. On the contrary: His body and ball movement against three defenders in that small amount of space was world class. The finishing was cool and precise. Just like the second goal.
Even before the Augsburg game, it was striking how much calmer and more precise Lewandowski has become in his finishing. Against Bochum during the week, he put the ball inside the far post very skillfully to make it 1-0. It has become a recurring pattern.
It is this calmness in his finishing which he still lacked in the previous year and it ultimately cost him the scoring title. Last season, he needed nearly nine shots on goal inside the penalty are to score a goal. This season, that number has dropped to four. That’s still not in the spheres of Mario Gomez who needed only 3 in the 2010/2011 season but Lewandowski is on his way there.
The Pole has scored seven of the nine Bayern goals in 2016. He has reached the peak of his powers. Currently, he is probably at least the third-best central attacker in world football. His contract runs until 2019. It is not excluded – perhaps even likely – that Lewandowski will not fulfill his contract. Real Madrid and a number of English clubs could lure him with more prestige and above all considerably more money. Lewandowski is not to blame if a change of shirts will be on his mind at some time. That being said, if he stays as focused as in the past few weeks, he is – however long that may be – an absolute key player for the record champions.
3. Return of the struggling guys
With Vidal, Bernat and to a lesser extent also Arjen Robben three players were in the starting XI whose current form at least elicits a few question marks. All three made a step in the right direction with the game in Augsburg.
Bernat was back in the FCB starting lineup for the first time in 120 days. After a messed up first half of the season with injuries and a form crisis, he suddenly moves back into focus due to the serious injury of Holger Badstuber. Alaba is needed as the only left-footed option in central defense. Until now, Bernat was far away from the starting XI, with or without his injuries. Against Augsburg, the 22-year-old played solidly, avoiding risks and thus had a remarkable passing accuracy (98.3%). Defensively he played solidly as well alongside the newly formed backline, although it has to be said that it was visible in a few scenes how there could be issues without a trained central defender. Augsburg wasn’t that much of a test in that regard. Bernat must continue to stabilize his performances in the upcoming weeks and he should especially become more effective in the offensive game.
Vidal too appeared to be in good form for a change. It was interesting to see how much more comfortable he felt without Alonso. Vidal had a significantly wider range of activity than in the last games and looked snappy and gripping again in his duels, rather than overly motivated and desperate. The understanding with the very strong Thiago was positive. For him, therefore, a step in the right direction.
Arjen Robben looks a bit like an old steam train that needs his time to get into full throttle again in the second half of the season. Before the Bochum game, there were a few initial question marks about his performance at 32, but the Augsburg game confirmed a steady upward trend. Robben was close to his first goals of the year. He took six shots, more than any other Bayern player. Hitz prevented a goal by the Dutchman three times. The last question mark remaining is related to his still not-so-explosive dribblings. According to WhoScored, Robben didn’t manage to have a single successful dribbling. A negative trend that has been striking all season long. Even last year, the 32-year-old was one of the best dribblers in the Bundesliga. At the moment he doesn’t even appear in the top 20. In his fight against Coman for a starting-place against Juventus, he continues to have a head start, but the young Frenchman is not far behind.
|FC Augsburg – FC Bayern 1:3 (0:1)|
|FC Augsburg||Hitz – Verhaegh, Hong (71. Janker), Klavan, Max – Gouweleeuw – Koo (54. Esswein), Kohr, Trochowski (54. Moravek), Caiuby – Bobadilla|
|Subs||Gelios, Altintop, Feulner, Finnbogason|
|FC Bayern||Neuer – Lahm (83. Rode), Kimmich, Alaba, Bernat – Vidal (57. Rafinha), Thiago – Robben, Müller, Costa (83. Coman) – Lewandowski|
|Subs||Starke, Tasci, Ribéry|
|Goals||0:1 Lewandowski (15.), 0:2 Lewandowski (62.), Müller (78.)|
|Cards||Yellow: – / Müller|
|Referee||Florian Meyer (Burgdorf)|
|Attendance||30.660 (sold out)|