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Guardiola opted against any major surprises in the starting lineup, fielding an XI that was to be expected after preseason. Having suffered from a minor illness lately, Thiago started the match on the bench. Two new arrivals made the eleven, namely Arturo Vidal and Douglas Costa.
Bruno Labbadia on the other hand made five changes following the embarrassing cup loss against Jena, going with a more defensive-minded team. In Diekmeier, Djourou, Spahic, Ostrzolek, Ekdal and young debutant Gideon Jung, Hamburg started the match with six defense-first players. Schipplock and Gregoritsch instead of Olic and Lasogga meant a bigger focus on the transitional game in offense. They shaped up in a defensive 4-3-3 that turned into a 4-5-1 when not in possession.
The Bavarians came up with a 4-1-4-1 that saw Xabi Alonso in defensive midfield and at first focused mainly on controlling the pace. The first scoring chance of the season went to Arjen Robben whose header off a diagonal long ball barely missed the target in minute 7. From then on, the 75.000 fans at Allianz Arena witnessed more of an idle state and unusual unforced errors that resulted in two tactical fouls and bookings for Boateng and Alonso. Bayern didn’t cause Hamburg any serious trouble until the 27th minute, when Douglas Costa’s pacey dribble led to a free-kick. Alonso’s wonderful cross into the goal area was converted by Benatia.
That goal came a bit unexpectedly since Bayern struggled to enter the box against the away team and their parked bus. In the following minutes, Hamburg had to recover, conceding another one or two dangerous attacks that didn’t result in anything. Long-range shots by Alaba and Boateng plus a Lewandowski header out of a beautiful build-up marked the biggest scoring chances while Hamburg became more and more physical. Bayern entered the locker room with a 1-0 lead.
In the second half, Hamburg looked a bit more courageous, offering Bayern more space in attack. This was punished immediately. A bad clearance by Ostrzolek allowed Lewandowski to make it 2-0 in the 53rd minute. From then on, it was more of a practice match against crestfallen opponents. Müller’s quick brace made it 4-0 in minute 69 and 73, with remarkable assists by Costa and Lewandowski. Alaba, Rafinha and Vidal wasted additional chances. Guardiola took advantage of the situation to give the older players some rest, bringing on Götze, Rafinha and Thiago for Alonso, Lahm and Robben. Douglas Costa concluded the match with a diagonal shot to make it 5-0 in minute 86.
As we’ve seen so often with Bayern, there were two completely different matches within 90 minutes, one up to the lead and one from then on. After the first and even more so the second goal, they showed a breathtaking performance. Up to that point, it had become obvious that there’s still a bit of work to be done for Guardiola.
3 things we noticed:
1. 4-1-4-1 on hold
It might’ve been a bit of a surprise that Pep Guardiola opted against a back-three against the extremely deep-lying HSV, relying on a more traditional build-up of the back-four and Xabi Alonso right in front of them. Especially in the first 15-20 minutes, we saw a more extreme positioning from the front five that again and again formed a horizontal line in between the many-legged HSV defense. Many positional swaps and circulation took place on both flanks in order to keep the opponent moving, with Costa and Lewandowski covering the left while Robben and Müller took care of the right. In the first minutes, Vidal too appeared up front, positioning himself between the four attackers – and sometimes even higher than them. Basically, Bayern shaped up in a 4-1-5 with the idea in mind that Alonso or Boateng can play a pass right to the edge of the box.
That formation could very well be a foretaste of what is to come. A more direct and vertical game to get the ball into dangerous zones at a higher speed – that’s how the signing of Vidal was explained. The problem against Hamburg was that they defended in such a deep position that there was hardly any space to bridge and that the area near the box was completely overloaded and blocked. The passing paths to the parallel front five were almost shut down. This also caused Alonso and Boateng to play several long balls in the opening minutes. Bayern struggled to get through.
The only real exception was a Lewandowski header, when a nice passing pattern (vertical to Robben, out wide to Lahm, back inside to Lewandowski) unlocked the HSV defense. Aside from that, not much was offered. The five players responsible for the build-up seemed like a waste, with Hamburg moving deep into their own half and only Schipplock offering anything that resembled pressing. This forced Guardiola to make tactical changes after only 20 minutes. Alaba moved into central positions more often, pushing Vidal back alongside Alonso. The aim seemed to be to lure Hamburg out of their deep defense and to overload the flanks more regularly to increase pressure on Labbadia’s team. Bayern’s build-up became a bit more complicated, keeping the destructive HSV busier than the clear 4-1-4-1 did. The second goal at the latest made the job easier, with Hamburg taking some risks and leaving more spaces vacated.
Even though it was only a short phase: Guardiola’s initial approach is an interesting one and could be key against teams with a high pressing intensity, allowing Bayern to get past the pressing block and into dangerous areas without losing control. Hamburg can’t be seen as a serious test run for this as their approach is a different one. Guardiola is going to put this system on hold.
2. The new guys are exciting
Just like the entire team, Arturo Vidal and Douglas Costa needed one half to really get into the match. What the two most expensive signings of the summer showed after that was nothing short of exciting and has us look forward to the season even more. Costa in particular did everything that Bayern had hoped for when they signed him: a goal, an assist, three shot assists, four successful dribbles. Furthermore, he created the free kick that led to the opening goal. This is the statistical level of Robben and Ribery. Costa’s acceleration is brilliant, as proven against Diekmeier and Ostrzolek. The Brazilian showed that he’s more than an artist, impressing with his work rate and pressing intensity. It was also noticeable that his dribbling looked a bit more trusted and natural on the right than it did on the left, where he played before Robben was subbed off. It’s a normal learning process of the special Bayern game that he had some problems when passing himself out of tight spaces.
In the upcoming weeks, the 24-year-old will have to confirm his recent performances. The long-term absence of Ribery opens up lots of playing time for him. Consistency is the order of the day. Anyhow, the beginning was impressive.
A bit less spectacular but similarly vitalizing was Arturo Vidal’s performance. He influenced the game in all areas with his extensive style. As previously mentioned, he started the match in an attacking role but then moved more into central midfield. There his role was to support the offense and stop any HSV counter. Vidal played 127 passes (by far the most), assisted three scoring chances and won the second-most tackles (16). It will be interesting to see what role Guardiola has in store for him. It’s entirely possible that Vidal takes over Alonso’s spot once Thiago returns to the starting lineup. When Thiago was brought on against Hamburg, the two looked to be in sync, although the comfortable lead surely played a part in that. The former Juventus player has already proven that it will be very difficult to pass on him because he can help the team in so many different ways.
3. Benatia provides a highlight
Had this match ended 0-0 or 0-1, one scene involving Medhi Benatia probably would’ve been a popular choice to demonstrate the early struggles of the team. In the 12th minute, an absentminded Benatia lost the ball without any pressure, forcing Xabi Alonso to take one for the team and use a professional foul on Sven Schipplock, who was about to break away. This moment could’ve been used for many stories if Benatia himself hadn’t played a major role in securing the win. That one moment aside, the Moroccan played an exceptional match. Not only his liberating goal was remarkable, his presence and tackling were as well. Benatia won 19 out of 22 tackles (clear leader), played the third-most passes (79) with an accuracy of 95%. In this match, Benatia clearly was the more solid center back, partially because Jerome Boateng didn’t always show his usual explosiveness.
Benatia is entering a decisive season in Munich. Last season, he played well but lacked real highlights. It’s a promising sign that, this time around, he’s already provided one of those in the opening match. He played a key role not only for the goal he scored but also the third goal of the night, where a won tackle by Benatia led to the attack that allowed Müller to convert a lovely cross by Costa. Due to injuries to Martinez and Badstuber, Benatia will be heavily relied upon. His performance against Hamburg showed that he’s ready for that.
|FC BAYERN – HAMBURGER SV 5-0 (1-0)|
|FC Bayern||Neuer – Lahm (72. Thiago), Boateng, Benatia, Alaba – Xabi Alonso (56. Rafinha) – Robben (65. Götze), Vidal, Müller, Douglas Costa – Lewandowski|
|Subs||Ulreich, Bernat, Kimmich, Hojbjerg|
|HSV||Adler – Diekmeier, Djourou, Spahic, Ostrzolek – Ekdal (61. Olic), Jung, Holtby – Gregoritsch, Schipllock (70. Lasogga), Ilicevic (69. Diaz)|
|Subs||Hirzel, Kacar, Müller|
|Goals||1:0 (27.) Benatia, 2:0 (53.) Lewandowski, 3:0 (69.) Müller, 4:0 (73.) Müller, 5:0 (87.) Douglas Costa|
|Cards||Yellow: Boateng, Alonso / Diekmeier, Spahic|