The Pep Episodes XV
This article is part of a partnership with Grup 14, an organization dedicated to Futbol Club Barcelona and supporters around the world. The Pep Episodes are created by Alex Truica and originally published at Grup14.com.
Two more games, two more wins. But this time, it was not only the back-to-back victories against VfL Wolfsburg (5-1) and 1. FSV Mainz 05 (3-0) that were in the limelight, but the manner in which Bayern Munich battered their opponents or, to be more precise, the way the main protagonist of the two victories did it: A performance so astounding he left even his manager in sheer disbelief.
Of course we are talking about Robert Lewandowski and his five-goal haul in just nine minutes against Wolfsburg, scored after being subbed in at halftime, when Bayern were trailing to the runner-up. Three days later, Lewandowski added two more goals to his account, bringing his tally and his record to 101 Bundesliga goals.
Against Wolfsburg, Guardiola couldn’t believe his eyes, standing at the sideline, baffled as the rest of the world, after Lewandowski scored his fifth with a marvelous sideways scissor-kick. Newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ) noted: “Guardiola was amazed by his center forward as a little kid is by Santa Claus.” And indeed he was, as the video that immediately went viral showed. “I’ve never experienced such a thing, neither as coach nor as a player,” the Catalan said afterwards, “I am very happy for Robert.” Lewandowski’s goals papered over a rather dull first half of the German Champions, and Guardiola admitted that: “You play poorly for 45 minutes and then you grab five goals in nine minutes. I can’t explain it.”
The German media didn’t hold back on the superlatives for the striker. A “one-man tornado” said Süddeutsche Zeitung, kicker sports magazine called him “unearthly”. The term is pretty familiar to Barcelonistas, Spanish papers usually use that when speaking about Lionel Messi. Fittingly, Die Welt wrote: “Lewandowski arrived in the category of Messi.” In terms of goals in a single game, of course; Messi once scored five against Bayer Leverkusen in the Champions League.
FAZ talked about how Guardiola – who was considered as “the gravedigger of goal-getters” – is supposedly not the biggest fan of pure number 9s. At Barcelona, he got rid of Ibrahimovic and Eto’o and moved David Villa to the left, after he reinvented Messi as a false 9. Last season Guardiola sometimes didn’t know how to use Lewandowski to get the best out of him, moving him often to the left, hence preventing the Pole from playing to his strengths. Now, with Lewandowski setting records, Guardiola has a comprehensive No 9, so FAZ noted: “Even the world’s smartest coach sometimes gets tutoring from his own players.”
These days, Lewandowski is even more than just a pure goal-scoring center-forward. “He is virtually the synonym for Bayern’s whole game,” FAZ furthermore added. He encapsulates Bayern’s game because he wears the defense down, just as the Bavarians do with their rivals. Bayern, much like Barça these days, have trouble scoring in the first half. Before the break, they had a goal difference of 4:3. After the halftime whistle, they recorded an impressive difference of 19:0. When the opponent has been worn down, Lewandowski, Müller & Co. strike mercilessly. This was the case against Mainz 05, too. For 50 minutes, Mainz did a great job by pressuring and bugging Guardiola’s team, who again didn’t convince; but after the first goal – a header from, of course, Lewandowski – the German Champions upped the tempo and finished the game off in just 17 minutes.
“It was quite difficult here, Mainz are a very physical and dynamic team. In the first five minutes after the break it seemed as if we hadn’t yet fully returned to the pitch,” Guardiola stated. And the hero of the day, Lewandowski, admitted: “The first half wasn’t so easy, Mainz did well. After the first goal it was easier.”
Speaking of easy: That’s just the case with Lewandowski and scoring goals these days. Dinamo Zagreb, Bayern’s next opponent on Tuesday in the Champions League may experience that firsthand as well.
The Pep Episodes are a weekly column about the adventures of Pep Guardiola in Munich exclusively written for Grup14 by Alex Truica, a freelance sports journalist and editor. You can follow him on Twitter.