Vidal, Alonso and Lewandowski all returned from Greece with minor injuries, with the latter staying in Munich as a precautionary measure. Partly planned, partly forced, Pep Guardiola used the opportunity for the first major rotation of the season.
1. Rode (!) makes the difference
Sebastian Rode once again proved that he’s a valuable asset for Bayern. Although he hadn’t been more than number 15-18 on the depth chart in the first weeks, he managed to play well immediately in Darmstadt. Guardiola put him in the Thiago position in central midfield and the rotation paid off. In the first half, Rode was allowed tons of space between the opponent’s defense and midfield lines. Due to fine tuning issues of the newfound attacking crew, he wasn’t able to exploit that space at first. In set possession, Rode wasn’t that noticeable, whereas he did a good job in transitional play. Just like we’re used to, he was highly valuable in pressing moments, repeatedly preventing his team from conceding a dangerous long ball.
In the second half, Guardiola moved him a bit outside, allowing Rode to act more vertically. He overloaded the right flank with Costa or Coman and used the space to end the match with an assist and a goal in quick succession. Furthermore, he had an impressive passing accuracy of 92%. In true Rode fashion, he wasn’t afraid of the hard work, winning 50% of his tackles and covering a distance of 11.25km. Away matches against the likes of Darmstadt, Ingolstadt or Hannover are what Sebastian Rode was built for. These are the moments when he’s very valuable for the club and surely he will prove his worth again this season.
Guardiola is right when he says that a player like Rode would deserve a lot more playing time. It will be up to the coach to make sure that Rode is aware of his importance for the team, regardless of actual playing time.
2. Kimmich impresses in first start
After a short appearance against Augsburg, Joshua Kimmich finally got his first Bundesliga start for Bayern this time around. The 20-year-old replaced Xabi Alonso but played the role differently. He moved back a lot less and played fewer diagonal passes. Instead, he dominated the midfield area with high accuracy (over 95%) and great defensive positioning (3 interceptions, a team high). Kimmich covered the biggest distance of his team.
It was obvious how much more confident Kimmich became throughout the match, gradually taking more and more risks. The youth international had no problems finding solutions to Darmstadt’s occasional pressing, although it has to be said that a match against such a deep and careful defensive line might not be the best benchmark. One pass was remarkable, as Kimmich assisted a scoring chance for Mario Götze with a lovely long ball across the box, displaying his outstanding vision. Kimmich proved that he’s a reliable option whenever Xabi Alonso needs a break – this is exactly what the club expects from him at this stage.
Of course there is still room for improvement. He needs to act faster (increasing speed to attack exposed areas) and his tackling still leaves a bit to be desired. If he continues to develop like this, he is going to make the club very happy.
3. A focused performance
The match against Darmstadt reminded many of last season’s match against Paderborn. Back then, the promoted side came to Munich as league leader, surprising many with a carefree tactical approach. Darmstadt’s story is similar. Dirk Schuster’s team is just as much of an underdog, yet had a great start to the season, facing Bayern without a single loss or even deficit, despite having played in Gelsenkirchen and Leverkusen already. Bayern had to stay focused to beat this team at such an early stage of the campaign.
This was accomplished because Guardiola’s well-aimed rotation worked out perfectly, with the new additions contributing right away. Kimmich, Rode, Coman, Rafinha, Bernat – none of them needed significant time to get into the match, despite limited playing time so far. Naturally the match was a bit flawed at times – compared to the last matches, only few long balls were completed – but an improving combination play with lots of short passes made a solid win possible. Another important three points for the team – just like in recent years, Bayern are managing to avoid dropping points against clearly inferior opponents, thus increasing pressure on the competition at the top.
|SV DARMSTADT 98 – FC BAYERN 0-3 (0-1)|
|SV Darmstadt 98||Mathenia – Garics, Sulu, Caldirola, Holland – Niemeyer (69. Rosenthal), Gondorf – Heller, Rausch (77. Vrancic) – Kempe – Stroh-Engel (59. Wagner)|
|Subs||Zaluska, Sailer, Junior Diaz, Jungwirth|
|FC Bayern||Neuer – Rafinha, Boateng (72. Alonso), Alaba, Bernat – Rode, Kimmich, Vidal (66. Martínez) – Coman, Götze, Costa (68. Müller)|
|Subs||Ulreich, Thiago, Lahm|
|Goals||0-1 Vidal (20.), 0-2 Coman (62.), 0-3 Rode (63.)|
|Cards||Yellow: Wagner, Sulu / Martínez|
|Attendance||17.000 (sold out)|