The next step towards the fourth consecutive league title has been taken. Bayern won a mostly dull match against Hertha BSC and have kept their 7-point distance to Dortmund. Since the Tuchel squad beat Stuttgart at the same time, the season’s main goal has yet not been achieved officially – a win against Gladbach next week however would be enough.
3 things we noticed
1. Weak first half without consequences
You surely can explain the uninspired offensive performance by looking at the calendar. Apart from the magical triple season, which seems to appear more and more surreal with every passing year, Bayern have always had difficulties in this part of the Bundesliga season when they make it that far in the Champions League. Furthremore, you have to keep in mind the midweek game against Bremen, even though Guardiola tried to weaken that effect with a heavy rotation.
Nevertheless, Bayern’s game culture has been on the downfall for several weeks. In Berlin, they seemed to be inhibited and static in their orientation, like they’ve been since January – slow and van Gaal-esque: a lack of pace at counter-pressing, an U-shaped build-up which brought the ball into complicated situations on the wings, forcing Kimmich and Rafinha into committing lots of turnovers. The first half was one of the weakest offensive performances of the season.
Although the game got better after the break, the impression remains that Bayern need to rely on goals from distance, own goals (Stuttgart), set pieces (Benfica, Werder) or spectacular overhead kicks (Frankfurt) to win their games. The merely 6 shots on goal against Hertha were a negative record of the season. The form of key players, like Thiago, is questionable as well. It shows the immense quality of the squad that, even in games like that, they manage to score win after win. The same will be needed in the Champions League: result-oriented football. After all, fluency and self-confidence won’t just return to the attacking play until Wednesday.
2.Defense wins championships
As flawed as the offensive play is at the moment, the defensive work is solid and focused. Neuer and the back-line have conceded only one goal in the last seven Bundesliga matches. It is rather ironic that it will be the defense which brings Guardiola his third consecutive championship. Dortmund score more goals than Bayern (75/74) but have conceded twice as many (14/30).
The defensive performances are even more impressive when you consider that Guardiola has rotated continuously in recent weeks. First a forced rotation to react to the injuries of Boateng, Martinez, Benatia and Badstuber, now to give Martinez and Alaba voluntary but much-needed breaks from playing. Kimmich, who initially arrived to Munich as a midfielder, started as left-back in Berlin and finished the match on the right – decently on both sides. Joachim Löw will have noticed in the stands. Tasci, who played alongside Benatia, had his second appearance of the season and played surprisingly well.
The discussions regarding Tasci were rather disrespectful lately. He was already mentioned in online slideshows of Bayern’s biggest transfer flops. There can be no doubt that he expected more from this loan deal. That being said, who would have thought during the winter break that a 21-year-old Joshua Kimmich would be able to play central defender on this high level? From the very start, Tasci was seen as an emergency insurance. The playing time of Kimmich since January shows that there absolutely was the need for another center-back. Kimmich’s unexpected quality is what doomed Serdar Tasci.
Against Hertha however, he showed that he has enough quality for the Bundesliga. He won several important tackles against Ibisevic in the first half (4 out of 5) and had the best passing accuracy of all starters, apart from Neuer (90%). It is unlikely that Tasci will stay with Bayern after the summer. The loan has been a risk-free one for Bayern from the beginning. Still, the discussion about Tasci as a transfer flop should end. There are 15-16 teams in the Bundesliga that could use him. They surely have noticed his performance against Hertha.
3. Costa helped
There should be something about Arturo Vidal here. His performances have been Bayern’s life insurance in the last games. 4 of his 7 Bayern goals made it 1-0. Against Hertha, his goal and his 17 successful tackles saved the win.
But you must not forget about Bayern’s second scorer. Douglas Costa isn’t in peak form. He makes a lot of mistakes, wrong decisions and doesn’t seem to be as fast and explosive as in the first half of the season. We had been warning that Costa’s weakness in decision-making and precision will come to light someday. This is now the case.
Nevertheless, he manages to have a positive influence in such difficult situations just with his sheer volume. It still helps the team if only 3 of his 35 offensive actions are successful. You could notice that against Hertha as well. Costa had by far the weakest passing rate (69%), was completely uneffective in his dribbles (2/7 successful) but still had a role in of three of the team’s four scoring chances. The goal, a shot from distance and a great pass to Thiago are a remarkable contribution despite his rather unlucky game.
Costa has to become more effective, but as long as he keeps going and doesn’t get discouraged by his mistakes, he can remain an important part of the Bayern squad.
|HERTHA BSC – FC BAYERN 0:2 (0:0)|
|Hertha BSC||Kraft – Pekarik, Langkamp, Stark, Mittelstädt – Lustenberger, Cigerci (83. Kohls) – Weiser, Stocker (64. Kalou), Plattenhardt – Ibisevic (46. Schieber)|
|FC Bayern||Neuer – Rafinha (57. Alaba), Benatia, Tasci, Kimmich – Vidal, Thiago – Müller (57. Ribéry), Götze, Costa – Lewandowski (83. Martinez)|
|Subs||Ulreich, Alonso, Coman|
|Goals||0:1 Vidal (48.), 0:2 Costa (79.)|
|Cards||– / Rafinha, Müller, Vidal, Thiago|
|Referee||Marco Fritz (Korb)|
|Attendance||76.233 (sold out)|