Bayern travelled to Zagreb having already secured first place in the group. It was a game without real value for Zagreb as well, since they had lost their last match 0-3 to Arsenal and with that the minimal chance of reaching the Europa League.
Because of this constellation, the defeat against Gladbach was still in the centre of attention. Nevertheless, Guardiola decided for a small squad and left several first team players, like Neuer, at home. He had a chance to win his 50th game as a coach in the Champions League.
3 things we noticed:
1. Maximal rotation – maximal chances
Playing time is rare in Munich. The squad depth has been increased extremely during the last two seasons – especially this year with Vidal, Costa and Coman. Youth players like Gaudino, Kurt and Green were the main guys to suffer by having their minutes shortened significantly.
That’s why games like yesterday count so much. Do players like Rode, Kimmich and the youth players take their chances and prove themselves? They’ve done this less and less in the recent past. Most notably at the end of last season, when the second string of players couldn’t use their increased playing time to impress.
The same could be observed in Zagreb. Of course they can’t have the same automatisms yet – especially if you don’t even participate in the team training, like Green. But the expectations at Bayern are higher than that. Green only had 21 ball actions, despite the team’s 74% possession. To compare, Ribery had 46 in the same time.
And in those few actions he seemed uninspired and wasn’t a real part of the Bayern game – he didn’t have a single successful dribbling. The young American didn’t take the chance, as the Green experiment was ended after 60 minutes.
2. Rode as the cleaner in midfield
Rode used his chance better and played himself more into the coach’s focus. After he had suffered a long injury, there have been several rumours about him joining another club, with Bayer Leverkusen being the apparent frontrunners.
Yesterday he showed why he’s sought after. He won 67% of his tackles and had several good pressing moments near Zagreb’s box. On top of this was his beautiful assist for the second Lewandowski goal. He also registered 5 key passes and six interceptions – both the highest numbers on the Bayern team.
Rode showed his worth for Bayern. Maybe not as player number 12-15 on the depth chart. For that he lacks to much in setup. But he is vital for the spots number 16-18. He is definitely an option and an important alternative for Guardiola against teams who mainly define themselves over fighting instead of actually playing (for example Darmstadt). Keeping in mind the often disappointing performances by backups, this is a rare and valuable trait.
3. Benatia’s muscle
As a Bayern fan, you are used to long-term injuries – not just since the era of Robben and Ribery. Before that, there were the Scholls and the Deislers. Benatia belongs in the same list.
His performances are consistent – sometimes even consistently good. But, because of his injuries, he has never really been able to become a reliable contributor. In the game against Zagreb, he showed his talent once again – 97% passing accuracy, completing 2 of 2 long balls and recording 4 interceptions, the second-highest number after rode.
Yet his injury worries remain. More so because Martinez and Badstuber have both just recovered from their own long-term injuries. And here lies the difference. If Scholl was able to play – it was a bonus. The Bayern game was not dependent on him. A Ribery, Robben and in the light of alternatives even Benatia are not really replaceable – despite Bayern’s deep squad.
The hope remains that they will be able to fix his muscle problems in the winter break.
|DINAMO ZAGREB – FC BAYERN 0-2 (0-0)|
|Dinamo Zagreb||Eduardo – Ivo Pinto, Sigali, Taravel, Pivaric – Rog (81. Pavicic), Goncalo, Antolic – Coric (61. Pjaca) – Soudani, Fernandes (74. Machado)|
|FC Bayern||Ulreich – Martinez, Benatia (46. Boateng), Rafinha – Alonso – Lahm, Kimmich, Rode – Green (62. Vidal), Lewandowski, Ribéry (46. Müller)|
|Subs||Starke, Kirchhoff, Coman, Benko|
|Goals||0-1 Lewandowski (61.), 0-2 Lewandowski (64.)|
|Cards||Yellow: Goncalo, Pivaric, Eduardo / –|
|Referee||Martin Strömbergsson (Sweden)|