3 Things We Noticed: Werder Bremen – FC Bayern 1-2 (0-2)

It feels like the second half of the season kicked off a week ago, but officially, the game against Bremen was the first one in the Bundesliga return leg. Like in the previous week, the game was exciting and gripping until the end, and yet again Bayern managed to leave the pitch victorious. Author: Felix • Translator: Bettina

SV Werder Bremen vs Bayern Munich, starting formationsSV Werder Bremen vs FC Bayern, 28/01/2017, starting formations.

Three things we noticed

1. Robben still makes the difference

Arjen Robben has always been the man for important games, as everyone in Munich has known since his first season in 2010. His biggest development since joining Bayern might just be that, by now, he can make the difference even in the less exciting games – like against Werder Bremen.

While Bayern’s left side with Ribéry, and most of the rest of the team, needed some time to get used to the pitch in Bremen’s Weserstadion, Robben’s drive and perseverance were a breath of fresh air. Robben seems to be the only Bayern player at the moment who can cause danger, all on his own and without support by the rest of the team. With Müller’s lack of cohesive offensive interaction, this has turned into a life- and point-saving quality for average games like this one.

Robben’s quality, compared to his counterpart Franck Ribéry, is that he exudes danger for a full 90 minutes. All the more surprising, therefore, that Carlo Ancelotti decided to sub off the Dutchman first, in a phase when Bremen’s offensive game got stronger and rooms were opening up on the wings. His substitution showed that without Robben in the team, there is a lack of decisive footballing and mental elements in Bayern’s game play.

“No Champions League title without a strong Robben”, that much has been true since Guardiola’s era. It looks like, under Ancelotti, this is now also true for “No Bundesliga title without a strong Robben”.

2. Kimmich and Alonso work well together

Last week, Carlo Ancelotti got criticised for playing an injured Vidal against Freiburg, rather than Kimmich, who was fit for playing. In the game against Bremen, the 21-year-old now got his chance in the starting eleven for the first time since early December – and he made the most of it.

Kimmich played his role next to Alonso excellently. Eight successful interceptions and five won balls show that he managed to bring back Thiago’s ability of effectively stopping counter-attacks, and to give Alonso the space he needs for his build-up play. Kimmich played 22 passes in the offensive third of the field, some of them beautiful vertical ones, and worked well in this area, too, with the more defensively oriented Alonso.

In a way, the difference in playing style is bigger between Kimmich and Alonso, than between Vidal and the Spaniard. This helps the team because the different styles lead to a noticeably increased amount of flexibility. Kimmich gave plenty of arguments to support his claim to playing time, ahead of Arturo Vidal – the big question will be whether or not Ancelotti sees it the same way.

3. Surprising substitutions

Bayern’s coach is a man of his word, that much is for sure. Ancelotti had announced ahead of the game that Kingsley Coman would get to play for the first time after his long injury, and so he did. The question remains, however, whether the Italian did his protegee a favour with that substitution.

The young Frenchman looked completely overwhelmed during the 25 minutes he was on the field, and could add nothing to the game. The substitution for Robben, until then best Bayern player by far, caused confusion more than the desired effect of giving a reconvalescent player some playing time.

The same can be said for Douglas Costa, who got subbed in surprisingly late in the second half for the disappointing Ribéry. The Brazilian hasn’t proven himself to be a fantastic “joker”, who delivers well after joining the game late – and he didn’t prove it on Saturday, either. An earlier substitution, maybe during Bremen’s strongest phase around minute 55, when lots of space was available on the left side, would probably have made more sense.

SV Werder Bremen – FC Bayern 1-2 (0-2)
SV Werder BremenWiedwald – Veljkovic, Sané, Moisander – Delaney – Bauer (71. Bartels), Gnabry, Junuzovic, Garcia (81. Kainz) – Pizarro (19. Eggestein), Kruse
FC Bayern MunichNeuer – Lahm, Martínez, Hummels, Alaba – Alonso, Kimmich – Robben (66. Coman), Müller (62. Sanches), Ribéry (79. Costa) – Lewandowski
BenchUlreich – Rafinha, Bernat, Friedl
Goals0-1 Robben (30′), 0-2 Alaba (45’+1), 1-2 Kruse (53′)
CardsYellow: Bauer, Garcia, Junuzovic, Veljkovic / Coman
RefereeSascha Stegemann (Niederkassel)
Attendance42,100 (sold out)

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