Leipzig’s win over Hertha on Saturday gave Bayern additional pressure to win this match, with the top match coming up on Wednesday. Against Darmstadt, it was all about securing the league lead and that’s exactly what the Bavarians did – in highly disappointing fashion.
3 things we noticed
1. That was…awful
After three weeks of improvement and growing hope, this match in Darmstadt was a big step in the wrong direction. The first half might have been the worst Bayern half since losing in Cottbus back in 2008.
It lacked everything. Positioning, pace, courage, toughness, explosiveness. Everything. Thiago was the only player who took some risks and tried to be creative. Darmstadt won 60% of the tackles in the first half, recorded almost 100 sprints more than Bayern and even had the better scoring chances. In addition to all that came a lack of ball control and inaccurate backwards passing. Horrible.
Ancelotti did try to sustain the slightly adjusted system of recent weeks. Both Müller (from the right wing) and Thiago (from midfield) kept occupying the central attacking space, just without any connection to the rest of the team. Rafinha was busy defending against Heller and thus couldn’t occupy the deserted right flank. Müller’s cutting inside had no positive effects. The spacing between Alonso, Vidal and Thiago was all wrong. Vidal in particular often was far too deep, causing an odd imbalance.
On the other wing there was Douglas Costa, the only Bayern player with a theoretical explosiveness. Throughout this match, he had the third-fewest touches and attempted four dribbles. It’s kinda fitting for this confusing afternoon that it was his long-range screamer that decided the match. In 90 minutes, the entire Bayern team managed to play five successful passes into the box. That’s nothing.
It took Ancelotti a long time to react, instead he was witnissing the spectacle in phlegmatic fashion. The result was a lucky one and shouldn’t make anyone forget the poor performance. In order to succeed against Leipzig, a most extreme improvement in performance is needed.
2. Worrisome Alonso
It’s difficult to name an individual player when the entire team was bad. That being said, it’s time to talk about Xabi Alonso.
It’s not the first time this season that Alonso looks like an old veteran at a Sunday league match, like a guy who used to play football at a higher level and manages to hide his physical struggles by acting intelligently and calmly. However, when intelligence turns into bad positioning and calmness turns into misplaced passes, all you have is an old veteran.
That’s what you saw against Darmstadt.
Alonso failed to give his team a much-needed structure and pace in the build-up. After several misplaced passes in the opening minutes, he was intimidated enough to focus on simple and horizontal passing. That of course led to fewer turnovers but there was no pressure being exerted on the hosts whatsoever. Xabi Alonso still managed to misplace 13 passes – the most of any player.
As Vidal, his supporting act in midfield, too happened to play one of his worst matches in recent history, Alonso often reminded of the aging Mark van Bommel shortly before being sold to Milan. If he plays like this, he’s not helping the team in any way.
Carlo Ancelotti isn’t exactly making his life easy, however. Forcing his most experienced player to fight his way through such a tough affair as a December away match in Darmstadt is, that’s not really doing him any favors. In Kimmich and Sanches, there were two young and capable replacements waiting on the bench.
3. At least they won
During a phase where it’s more about results than progressing and developing as a team, with a strong rival in Leipzig fighting for the league crown, it’s a success to win this match despite such a performance. This game against Darmstadt was one of those results that you think of if you win the league and try to figure out why.
This cold-bloodedness is something that Bayern have and opponents don’t. That alone is never enough to win a title but it can be a decisive factor. Just a week ago, Leipzig lost against bottom-placed Ingolstadt. Bayern on the other hand now managed to beat bottom-placed Darmstadt. That is the only positive aspect of the afternoon: the result.
|SV Darmstadt 98 – FC Bayern 0-1 (0-0)|
|SV Darmstadt 98||Esser – Fedetskyy, Niemeyer (78. Colak), Sulu, Holland – Gondorf, Vrancic – Sirigu, Heller – Rosenthal (65. Jungwirth) – Schipplock (90. Obinna)|
|Bench||Berezovskyi, Guwara, Kleinheisler, Bezjak|
|FC Bayern||Neuer – Lahm, Hummels, Martínez, Alaba – Alonso, Thiago, Vidal (69. Ribéry) – Müller (80. Kimmich), Lewandowski, Costa (90. Sanches)|
|Bench||Ulreich, Badstuber, Bernat|
|Goals||0-1 Douglas Costa (72.)|
|Cards||Yellow: Rosenthal / Alonso, Hummels|
|Referee||Bastian Dankert (Rostock)|
|Attendance||17,468 (sold out)|