When commitment is not quite enough: three takeaways from Borussia Dortmund v FC Bayern

After weeks of insipidity, FC Bayern finally started to look like champions. Unfortunately, they were unable to make it count against a youthful Dortmund side.

In what was a thrilling encounter at the Signal Iduna Park, the Bavarians were on top for long spells, but were undone by two sucker punches in the second-half.

BVB v FCB

1. Increased commitment

In the ongoing debate about Bayern’s regression in recent weeks, some commentators – including myself – have cast their eyes on some of the players. For all of the growing media hysteria, there has been a corresponding lack of commitment on the pitch.

Despite the final result, this evening’s performance in Dortmund appears to have reset the benchmark. There was a real uptick in the team’s passion and desire, and for the first hour it really looked as though Die Roten were going to claim all three points.

It was not quite enough in the end, but everybody was willing to put their hands to the pump. The most infuriating thing is that if this Bayern team had showed the same level of commitment in less high-profile matches, we would not be in this position right now.

This comes with one obvious caveat. Despite my continued support for Niko Kovač, he was clearly outfoxed by his counterpart Lucien Favre as the contest started to heat up. Mats Hummels was allowed to remain on the pitch for far too long, and there is no obvious reason why James Rodríguez was left warming the bench.

2. Defensive frailty

Bayern’s defensive frailty has been an issue for a long while now, and Dortmund would take full toll tonight in a frenzied second half. This is something that will always be difficult for any coach to fix. If a player cannot keep up, they cannot keep up.

Yes, there was plenty of commitment. But it is also clear that a number of the Bavarian back line are no longer up to the task, especially against a team blessed with pace and movement like Dortmund.

Hummels was continually found wanting, and was an increasing liability as the match went on. Even when he was on the ball, one sensed that a mistake was around the corner. It is not what one expects of a world-class centre-back. Hummels was subbed out after 65 minutes, but by that time the momentum was already with the home side.

Dortmund’s winning goal was symptomatic of Bayern’s weakness at the back. When Axel Witsel found Paco Alcácer in acres of space, Jérôme Boateng was nowhere to be seen and Javi Martínez had nothing left in the tank.

3. Revitalised Ribéry

I will be honest here. In recent weeks, Franck Ribéry has been beyond awful. Some of his displays have left plenty to be desired. But today, with Bavarian backs against the wall, he came to the party.

The Frenchman was all over the pitch today. He initiated attacks and created opportunities, and had one excellent effort that forced Dortmund ‘keeper Marwin Hitz into making an excellent save.

Even more notable was his defensive shift, where he went beyond the call of duty. When the team started to wilt late in the second half, Ribéry maintained his high work rate. Even right at the end, he was there at the back to take the ball away from Alcácer when Manuel Neuer was stuck in the opposition half.

The downside of this story was that the 35-year-old showed up a number of his younger colleagues. Overall, there was a lot more commitment from the team. But not quite enough to make up for the defensive frailty and an inspired opponent.

If Ribéry continues to throw himself into the fray in this fashion, there is no reason why he cannot keep going. On this showing, he still has plenty to offer. If he wants to.

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Comments
  1. Pete

    1: Totally agree…I was totally baffled, watching here in Canada, the Fox broadcast where all the ex pros/experts were so confused that BvB were starting a weaker side for this match…Favre is much more tactically astute than Kovac….it seemed dreadfully obvious to me that Favre wanted to lure Bayern in in the first half, then unleash the likes of Alcácer and Delaney in the latter part of the match when Bayern have been shown to to start to fall asleep…low, and behold!
    By the f–k’n way…where was James in this match?!!! Kovac is a B with an itch… he was not on James level as a player, or is he a coach of this level of player….major ego mistake!!!
    2: Defensive “frailties” keep being attributed to individual players lack of “commitment” or “skill” or “speed”…
    so terribly sorry all my Bayern friends but this has NOTHING to do with any of the above….
    It has everything to do with the stupid, possession based, suicide high defensive line tactics that has been employed by Bayern since the LVG years, was fixed by Jupp temporarily to win a treble, and was reinstated by Pep stupidiola.
    (sorry Pep, Bayern did not have a human torture, oil conglomerate kingdom forking over billions to create your personal
    dream team )
    3: I have not seen that the “Robbery” dream team have been a problem, I have only seen them misused…
    Either have them for the initial punch, or bring them on as deciders later in the match. I still see both as having reasonable speed, very quick feet but not being able to bring it for an entire match…they may have too much influence at the decision making table or the coach/management don’t have the balls or the brains to bring them into line for the good of the club.
    Might have been nice to have someone like Favre as coach at Bayern….
    Balance, balance, …balance….

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