It was a clear, though not uncomplicated victory.
3 things we noticed:
1. No rhythm changes without the dribblers
It was the big theme of the final stages of the last season as Bayern had to compete without Franck Ribéry and Arjen Robben over long distances due to injuries. Without individualists, without strong dribblers Bayern’s game mostly looks like as in the first half in Stuttgart. Ribéry was in the starting XI (and made a good game), but in a more central role that offered little space. In addition, a partner was missing on the other side, which demanded extra attention by the Stuttgart defensive line. Götze, Müller and Lewandowski are not nearly as strong in 1v1 situations as their offensive counterparts. Bayern needs the rhythm changes of their dribblers to put compact defenses under pressure and tear them apart.
Statistics counted 14 successful dribbles per game in this season for Bayern. No other Bundesliga club has more. Without Robben (injured), Costa, Thiago (both benched in the beginning) and Coman (injured) this Bayern strength was almost non-existent against Stuttgart. Up to the first (own) goal by Niedermeier in the 31st minute, no Bayern player had a successful dribbling. Then Ribéry shifted gears and broke through to the baseline. His cross created the first goal. It remained one of only six successful dribbles in this game. Two of them had Kimmich, but far from the opponent’s goal…
It fits the picture that Bayerns’s passing accuracy (over 90%) was even higher than their season average. Also 786 short passes were almost 60 more than their usual toll. Pass, pass, pass, pass. That was Bayern’s game against Stuttgart. It is incredibly difficult to create scoring opportunities this way, because the game becomes static and difficult to break open. After Müller’ substitution, his runs had a positive impact on Bayern’s game and the static issues, but he also lacked being a threat for Stuttgart’s goal. Bayern collected 13 shots. On average they have 20 shots per game in this season.
Guardiola has to find the right balance concerning this issue. In the big games of the Champions League, the coach will want to always start with at least two dribblers in the starting XI. At the same time he wants to allow breaks for Costa, Ribéry and Coman. Against Stuttgart it was enough, however, but the offensive punch should not be lost entirely in the Bundesliga because of that.
2. Martínez collects plus points for the game against Benfica
The back four with Lahm, Kimmich, Alaba and Bernat, which Guardiola frequently fielded in the last crucial games, has something provisional. The central defense lacks heading ability. The full-backs lack dynamics. Against Stuttgart Guardiola again trusted back three with Javi Martínez in the middle. It is his most natural position if he plays in the defensive line.
As a central defender the Spaniard, who performed so outstandingly in the triple season on the double-six, has never been able to completely convince. Martínez has difficulties in the long running duels and when he has to man mark he is deprived of one of his great strengths, anticipation. As a central defender of the back three he can use this strength to his advantage, since he operates without a clear opponent and can concentrate on the moment of stepping out of the backline. That’s exactly why Guardiola had planned him in this role before the season 2014/2015. Shortly before the start of the season he suffered a total damaging of his knee, and he is to this day still looking for a permanent role in this team.
Against Stuttgart Bayern’s defense was stable overall. If one leaves aside the unnecessary set pieces around the penalty area (8 shots after set pieces), Stuttgart was no threat to the Bayern goal (one shot on goal from open play). Bayern overall had control over the counter attack game of Stuttgart, which was based on Kostic, Werner and Didavi.
Martínez still doesn’t give the impression that he is physically back to his optimal level. But with his heading ability (he won six headers against Stuttgart = team’s high), his presence and his robustness he has earned a recommendation on Saturday for the second leg against Benfica and for further games.
3. Controlled with quality
Is Bayern currently in top form? Certainly not. Is it a quality to get narrow results home safely? Absolutely. Matthias Sammer said it before the game in the interview for Sky. The results of recent weeks give little reason to criticize. But he also said: “Maybe there was much controlling part of it (the games). That’s no reason to be overly critical. But we must be very alert.”
Sammer (again) hit the right tone. At Bayern nobody assumes that the competitor from Dortmund will drop points. Thus it is overly important that Bayern creates the right results, despite having a few dropping forms, injury problems and two games a week. Bayern also controlled much against Stuttgart. However, just after the 1:2 Bayern was able to control with a lot of quality.
Stuttgart was about to pull the momentum on their side, but Bayern was able to turn the Stuttgart’s offensive storm into a spring breeze in the end. For example with Guardiola’s substitution of the pressing resistant Thiago. Even Alonso’s value was evident in this final phase. The ball remained at the feet of a Bayern player. The opponent was forced to run after the ball in the final minutes until he gave up enervated.
It is a quality, how Bayern is able to bring home narrow wins against Stuttgart and previously against Cologne and Frankfurt (both 1:0), but Bayern should not overuse this particular quality. The raised finger of Sammer should remind them.
|VfB Stuttgart – FC Bayern|
|Stuttgart||Tytoń – Insúa, Niedermeier, Schwaab, Šunjić, Klein – Kostić, Didavi, Rupp (75. Tashchy), Werner – Kravets|
|Bench||Langerak, Baumgartl, Heise, Barba, Kliment|
|Bayern||Neuer – Alaba, Martínez, Kimmich (75. Costa) – Bernat, Alonso, Vidal (27. Müller), Rafinha – Ribéry, Lewandowski, Götze (69. Thiago)|
|Bench||Ulreich, Tasci, Rode, Lahm|
|Goals||0:1 Niedermeier (31., Own Goal), 0:2 Alaba (52.), 1:2 Didavi (63.), 1:3 Costa (89.)|
|Cards||Yellow: Didavi (45.) / Vidal (22.), Alonso (37.), Alaba (60.)|
|Referee||Bastian Dankert (Rostock)|
|Attendance||60.000 (sold out)|