Bayern had started the new year with two laborious 2-1 victories and could be happy with the points earned, at least; on the pitch, Carlo Ancelotti’s team still displays various weaknesses. The absence of Thiago, who had been in brilliant form before his injury, was painfully obvious.
Three things we noticed:
1. Holey moly, that central midfield
It’s not often that Bayern displays holes in their central midfield as big as in this game against Schalke. There’s several reasons for that: For one, Vidal and Müller played much too high up the field; Müller often playing almost as a second striker, while Vidal got drawn into too many 1-v-1 situations. By doing that, both of them tore huge holes into the midfield, an effect that was only increased by the defense’s deep positioning. In the end, Alonso often was the only Bayern player in midfield, surrounded by 30 square metres of teammate-free space.
Schalke was able to take advantage of that via Bentaleb and mostly Goretzka. They moved the ball forward from their own half-right side, diagonally across the field. Rafinha didn’t have much support from Robben and wasn’t positioned well, either. This enabled Schalke to move from midfield to attack fluently, creating a number of chances in the first half.
They couldn’t quite keep this up in the second half, after a too exhausting first 60 minutes of play. Even so, they managed to keep control of the midfield throughout almost the entire game.
2. No alternatives?
The double substitution of Alaba and Lahm for Bernat and Rafinha in the 75th minute was emblematic for the entire game. Ancelotti didn’t really have much of a choice; he had already brought on Coman five minutes before to support the offense. He clearly didn’t want to change the very statically interpreted 4-2-3-1 formation, which meant that all the issues from point 1) were consistent throughout the game.
In a 4-2-3-1 formation, playing the wings can only work when, amongst other things, the wingers manage to get through on their side and create chances by hitting crosses or flat passes into the middle. Ancelotti has built his game to look like that over the last couple of weeks, however it doesn’t seem to be too beneficial; the number of shots on goal, at least, decreased significantly. The games against Feiburg and Bremen had resulted in 13 attempts each, in this game, there were only 12 – including five in the frantic final minutes of the game, where Bayern came out all guns blazing in the hope of scoring a late winner. Bayern’s opponents have long since modified their own tactics to work around Ancelotti’s adaptations from last autumn. Bayern’s wingers get isolated and always have two watchdogs at their side.
Ancelotti could have reacted much more aggressively during half-time or after 60 minutes at the latest, by, for example, strengthening the struggling midfield. Bringing on Sanches, or even Lahm, for Müller might have helped gain more control. However, it seems that the Italian doesn’t want to look for alternatives.
Costa won one duel, Robben and Coman only one each; at the same time, Robben and Costa both lost four easy balls. Too much – and that, too, is part of the truth. None of the offensive players are in prime form at the moment, merely Robert Lewandowski is still slotting in goals like a machine. In addition to all that comes the team’s covered distance of only 110.44km. Much too little – especially compared to possession and Schalke’s performance that was 7 kilometres more.
3. Javi Martínez
Javi Martínez is one of the few winners under Carlo Ancelotti. The Spaniard plays a very solid part in defense, with an admirably cool air about him. Four won tackles, three interceptions, and five clearances, the report read at the end of the game. He always found a solution, even in tight situations when Schalke tried to press. He constantly delivers good performances, even – or even particularly – when his teammates ahead of him leave him alone the way they did in the first half today. We can forgive him for missing Bayern’s biggest chance in the second half – he is a defender, after all, not a striker. Even so, he was one of few highlights in an otherwise quite drab Bundesliga afternoon.
|FC Bayern – FC Schalke 04 1-1 (1-1)|
|FC Bayern||Neuer – Rafinha (77. Lahm), Martínez, Hummels, Bernat (77. Alaba) – Xabi Alonso, Vidal – Robben (72. Coman), Müller, Douglas Costa – Lewandowski|
|Bench||Ulreich – Thiago, Sanches, Benko|
|FC Schalke 04||Fährmann – Höwedes, Naldo, Badstuber (59. Nastasic) – Stambouli – Schöpf, Goretzka (86. Kehrer), Bentaleb, Kolasinac – D. Caligiuri, Burgstaller (73. Choupo-Moting)|
|Goals||1-0 Lewandowski (9.), 1-1 Naldo (13.)|
|Cards||– / Bentaleb|
|Referee||Marco Fritz (Korb)|
|Attendance||75.000 (sold out)|