In the end, it turned out to be a first half of complete domination, with Bayern demonstrating their strengths. A comfortable 3-1 brings the team to the next round and another step closer to the final in Berlin.
3 things we noticed:
1. A half close to perfection
The first 45 minutes might’ve been the most complete and best half this team has played under Pep Guardiola. Sure, over the last months they’ve broken records and produced superlatives – the 6-1 win over Porto in the Champions League, 8-0 against Hamburg, Lewandowski’s five goals a few weeks ago – but on Tuesday night, the team reached another peak, getting another step closer to perfection in the first 45 minutes. A breathtaking aggression and determination immediately forced the hosts to accept Bayern’s gameplan. No time was wasted with complicated ball movement, instead the players focused on finding and keeping that balance between a fast-paced game and safe (but not slowing) passing. It was a thing of beauty.
Some might’ve wondered if benching Vidal against a (theoretically) strong counter-attacking team is too much of a risk. In reality, Wolfsburg didn’t stand a chance either way. Because Coman, Costa and Lewandowski executed an incredible counter-pressing. Because Alaba again and again supported the central area and Boateng defended in an advanced position. Wolfsburg appeared to be surprised by the Bavarian counter-pressing force, seemingly retracting in insecurity.
In attack, Bayern were flexible and creative. Boateng’s long passes to Müller, constantly creeping along the offside line, were a threat. Thiago seemed more inspired than in recent weeks, always making right decisions, while Costa and Coman kept the pace high on the wings. Bayern’s attacking quality is often demonstrated by the different ways of creating chances. In the first half, practically every possible way was used. Long-range shots, crosses, through balls, dribbles, wing switches – it was both dominant and effective. By minute 15, Wolfsburg had surrendered and accepted their fate, focusing on damage control.
The only bad thing about this performance? It was the second round of the cup. The final is played in May 2016. It’s still a long road to Berlin.
2. Alaba shines in an almost forgotten role
It’s kinda incredible that David Alaba is still an underrated player on the European level. At 23 years old, Alaba has reached world class status at three positions. In recent weeks, he naturally invented or at least revolutionized the role of the attacking defender. Against Wolfsburg, he moved back to his traditional position as left-back in a back-four. It felt like, after weeks of defending duties, Alaba was unleashed. Relentlessly running up and down the left flank, he fueled Coman, defended in a high position and created lots of dangerous attacks around the box.
It was interesting to watch the Austrian perform as left-back because it showed just how much he has developed lately. Alaba is no longer just the energetic wing runner who breaks through with pace and force. He has turned into a complete player who keeps his head up and plays the right instead of the obvious pass. Alaba assisted two of the three goals and was a key figure. Coman in particular benefitted from his presence, as Alaba (unlike Bernat/Lahm/Rafinha) actively moved towards the goal line, pulling apart Wolfsburg’s wing defense. Träsch and later Vieirinha struggled to hold them in place, it was no coincidence that most attacks were played over this side.
David Alaba once again proved that he’s one of Bayern’s absolute key players. He should be mentioned more often in discussions about the best European player. Not only because of his performance against Wolfsburg.
3. Rotation pays off
At this stage of the season, Pep Guardiola rotates the lineups systematically and carefully. It’s one of the biggest advantages of the squad depth that, despite several injuries, the coach still is capable of pushing the team with changes and subs. Xabi Alonso and Thiago, who seemed overplayed recently, benefitted from the break they got against Köln. Guardiola keeps true to his promise that Alonso is supposed to play only once a week. As of now, the veteran shows no signs of being worn out. Against Wolfsburg, he was physical and quick-thinking. The amazing squad depth and balance is underlined by the subs, as Guardiola could boost both the offense (Robben) and the defense (Vidal) on the highest level.
In recent weeks, some said that the return of Arjen Robben and hopefully soon Franck Ribery could cause problems for Bayern. Too many players leads to a negative atmosphere – theoretically. In reality, it’s actually closer to the other way around. If Bayern want to keep this high level of play going throughout the season, they need many quality players and a coach who’s willing to use the squad depth. Right now, Bayern have both things – and benefit from it.
|VFL WOLFSBURG – FC BAYERN 1-3 (0-3)|
|VfL Wolfsburg||Benaglio – Träsch (26. Arnold), Naldo, Dante, Rodriguez – Luiz Gustavo, Guilavogui – Vieirinha (71. Jung), Draxler (63. Schürrle), Caligiuri – Dost|
|FC Bayern||Neuer – Lahm, Martinez, Boateng, Alaba – Alonso (71. Vidal) – Müller (79. Rafinha), Costa, Thiago, Coman (67. Robben) – Lewandowski|
|Subs||Ulreich, Benatia, Kirchhoff, Kimmich|
|Goals||0-1 Costa (15.), 0-2 Müller (20.), 0-3 Müller (34.), 1-3 Schürrle (90.)|
|Cards||Yellow: Naldo, Dante / Coman, Alonso|
|Referee||Knut Kircher (Rottenburg)|
|Attendance||30.000 (sold out)|