Stuttgart – with Holger Badstuber leading the defense – are having a bit of an unlucky season. Coach Hannes Wolf was hoping for a change of fortune against league-leading Bayern.
Three Things We Noticed
1. Structural issues
It felt like a game of nine against eleven, with the Swabians’ midfield pressing Bayern hard. Over a long period of time, the Bayern players did not know how to develop a creative antidote against the pressing. The trio of Martinez, Vidal and Tolisso formed triangles far too rarely and too often forgot to switch sides. Stuttgart shifted radically and opened up a lot of space on the far side. However, this was seldomly taken advantage of. A passing rate of only 82% in the first half is an indicator of these problems.
In some cases, the performance was reminiscent of Bayern under Heynckes in 2012 and 2013, respectively, when it was often difficult to defeat high-pressing opponents. One cause can be seen in the personnel situation. Thiago’s absence is to be mentioned first and foremost, but also Rudy’s lack of form, who is unable to reach the form he had a few months ago. This results in a vacuum which Heynckes has not yet been able to fill.
2. James is a positive for the team.
The transfer of James Rodriguez was evaluated with a raised eyebrow by many observers. By now, no one is likely to flinch. James is an enrichment for Bayern.
In a tough game, the Colombian was the main man. With an outstanding passing accuracy, considering the pressing of the Swabians, James created the team’s few chances. It was extremely helpful that he fell back to solve the midfield problem productively. Here he showed his great understanding of the game. His simple but clever movement opened many pass routes.
With a passing rate of almost 97% and three key passes at halftime, James led the Bavarian offensive. In the second half, his figures went down slightly. The back and forth of the last 15 minutes prevented any clean buildup. Had he scored the decisive 2-0 just before the penalty kick, Bayern wouldn’t have had to worry until the very end.
3. Tricky season
A turbulent and mixed first half of the season ends with the match against Stuttgart. In this time, Bayern have been coached by three different people. There was a lot of unrest on the pitch, right next to the pitch and in the stands. The fact that the standings situation is nevertheless a good one is more due to the weakness of the other teams or the Bundesliga in general than to their own strength. Compared to the last season under Ancelotti, Bayern have collected one point less, and five points compared to 2015/16. Apart from the numerical yield, there was also a lack of playing highlights. Really convincing victories were rarely achieved.
For Jupp Heynckes, it will now be all about making the team more variable during the short winter break. Creative deficits and a lack of variability have been exposed by many opponents.