The game took place in Charlotte, North Carolina, well-received with 53,629 spectators, and despite the hot weather – 30°C at the 5pm kick-off – Bayern showed a good game.
In case you missed it:
Compared to the game against AC Milan, Ancelotti made some changes to his starting eleven: Starke replaced Ulreich in goal, and Feldhahn started in the back four next to Martínez, Rafinha, and Alaba. In addition, the Italian started Thiago and Vidal in defensive midfield, rather than Thiago and Alonso in the previous game. Further up the field, Ancelotti tried a very variable system with Ribéry on the left and Benko on the right. Pantovic was an offensive central midfielder on paper, but moved to Ribéry’s left side a lot during the game. Green was the only striker.
The Munich team didn’t seem to mind the heat in Charlotte, playing fast from the beginning and creating several scoring opportunities via their left side. In minute 7, Alaba ran behind Ribéry, sent a cross into the centre, and Green merely had to tap it in to make it 1-0. Invigorated by the lead, Bayern continued to play very vertically, but didn’t forget to shift sides. One example for that was the 17th minute, when the ball wandered from left to right via several players, eventually finding Benko in the penalty area, where he dribbled past his opponent and found Ribéry in the middle. Goalkeeper Handanovic was already beaten, so Ribéry could easily score the 2-0.
A little later, Bayern scored after a counter-attack. D’Ambrosio missed a long ball from Starke and enabled Ribéry to charge towards Inter’s defensive line with speed. Bayern’s captain passed to Green, who took his time to precisely score in the far corner; Handanovic was beaten yet again (32′). After a brief water break, Green scored for the third time: Vidal didn’t get attacked in central midfield and passed to Rafinha, who had run behind him. He passed flatly into the centre and Bayern’s striker hit the back of the net again. It was 4-0 at half-time, the highest lead in the test games so far and possibly the best half under Ancelotti so far.
During the second half, things calmed down noticeably: Bayern made four substitutions, Vidal, Martínez, Pantovic, and Ribéry had left the field; Alonso, Tillmann, Bernat, and Öztürk came on to replace them. The lack of Ribéry’s quality was obvious instantly, and Bayern couldn’t play their way into Inter’s penalty area as easily as had before. This was also due to the fact that Inter was much more stable in a 4-4-2 and moved around the field better. The Munich fullbacks were transferred more effectively and the spaces in midfield occupied better. The Italians even managed to create some half-chances for scoring, and a misplaced pass by Alaba right into Icardi’s feet gave Inter a consolation goal one minute before the end of the game. Once again, it was a black-out by a Bayern defender that lead to a goal against.
3 Things We Noticed:
1. Heavy Verticality
Admittedly – Inter Milan’s performance makes it difficult, to judge Bayern’s player. It was still striking, how vertical the two central midfielders Thiago and Vidal were. Both kept dropping back between Martínez and Feldhahn and collected balls right at their own penalty box. In contrast to the Guardiola era, the ball was sometimes carried forward through dribblings. Thiago is the perfect player for this, of course, but Vidal can play the role too. Consequently, both moved up the field quite high and tried to occupy the half-spaces when Bayern had the ball. These offensive moves kept tearing big holes into Inter’s 4-4-2, especially on the Italians’ left defensive side. It wasn’t by chance that two goals were scored via that side, quite easily.
However, it was also noticeable that due to the offensive positioning by Vidal and Thiago there were fairly big holes in midfield, especially since Martínez and Feldhahn didn’t replicate the move up the field in their own positions. We will have to wait until the first competitive games to see how vulnerable Bayern’s system under Ancelotti will truly be for counter-attacks. There certainly is potential for danger like there was in Guardiola’s first season.
2. Julian Green – outfield player no 20?
It has taken him a while, but the game against Inter Milan was when it finally happened: Julian Green made the most of the chance he got during the first three weeks under Carlo Ancelotti. So far, the youngster played in every test game, but usually lacked force in his attacks. During the first game, against Lippstadt, we clearly noticed his scoring weakness. Against Inter, he looked much improved and hinted at why FC Bayern keeps holding on to him. Three goals within the first half, all well-thought-through and with a good finish. Green’s potential finally flickered back to life. In the past, his biggest issue was repeating good performances; the upcoming weeks will be a good indicator for how well it will go this time. The American international player will likely be part of the first eleven once more in the last friendly in his home country against Real Madrid. After that, Robert Lewandowski will return to the team and all games will be competitive. Green will have to continue working on himself if he wants to start the season as outfield player number 20 for Bayern. There is a strategic gap behind Robert Lewandowski, and Green could make the most of that, even though he doesn’t exactly embody a classic second striker.
3. Hotspur Franck Ribéry
Franck Ribéry is bubbling with enthusiasm for playing and is currently a major part of FC Bayern’s playing style. In collaboration with Alaba, he surely plays a pivotal role in Carlo Ancelotti’s plans. By overloading the left attacking side, the Bavarians create space for Ribéry and Alaba’s combinations. The moves are well-known but still very effective, as Ribéry profits from his current fitness level; he seems livelier and more dynamic than he did last season. This helps with the many dribblings the Frenchman executes. During the first thirty minutes against Inter, he was the starting point of almost every Bayern attack. He prepared the 1-0 with a pre-assist, scored the 2-0 himself and initiated the 3-0 through good physical play and assisting Green’s goal.
However, hand in hand with his increased enthusiasm there are resurfacing lacks of discipline during the game. It almost seems as if creativity and aggressiveness can’t be separated for Ribéry. Felipe Melo fouled him pretty badly (24′), but it wasn’t a foul previously unheard-of during a football game. Ribéry was still so annoyed by Melo that he shoved him, only two minutes later, while the ball was elsewhere. The experienced player consequently received a yellow card for that and was lucky to not have been punished more severely. Carlo Ancelotti will have to do a lot of moderation work if he wants to catch Ribéry and channel his energy into the right track. In his current state, he is a source of danger – not just positively, as he can be close to a sending-off in every game, depending on the factors that influence him.