Santa Zirkzee brings the gifts! Late 2:0 win over Wolfsburg
Hansi Flick spoke of “eleven fit professional players” the day before thus the lineup was fairly unsurprising. Joshua Kimmich replaced the suspended Thiago in the single pivot of a 4-3-3 which resulted in the usual chain reaction of Pavard moving to right-back and Javi Martínez returning to central defense. With Goretzka and Tolisso injured Müller and Coutinho played in midfield while Perišić, Gnabry and Robert Lewandowski played in the three forward positions.
Oliver Glasner surprisingly preferred Felix Klaus to Wout Weghorst in central attack; other than that, VfL Wolfsburg played in its usual mixture between 4-3-3 and 4-1-4-1.
Wolfsburg met Bayern’s attacking game with a high press, which at first lead to an extraordinary amount of offside-calls against Bayern. Wolfsburg defended well all things considered. Bayern might have been the more attacking side but Wolfsburg got the first big chance in the 16th minute. Following a corner lots of Wolfsburg players remained in Bayern’s half where Schlager got the ball after Wolfsburg winning the ball back with a well executed press. He passed the ball to Klaus in the box who was denied by Neuer with a good safe.
After Wolfsburg dictated play with intelligent football in the first quarter of the game, Bayern managed to beat Wolfsburg’s press and more and more pushed them into their own half without really getting any promising shots on target. Yet even this somewhat dominant phase faded away thus resulting in a goalless draw for half time. A few seconds before the end of the half Javi Martínez injured himself and had to be replaced with Jérôme Boateng.
With no further substitutions Wolfsburg started the second half vigorously. The wolves now dedicated themselves to attack without really putting Neuer in danger. Coutinho interjected Wolfsburg’s attacking-phase with one of his infamous long-range shots in the top-right corner but the giant Casteels saved it (53´). Following that the game calmed down so much, it practically stood still.
From the 66th minute onwards the only notable thing happening were multiple substitutions as first Paulo Otávio came on for Renato Steffen, then Wout Weghorst for Felix Klaus. After Maxi Arnold missed a dangerous shot from the edge of the box, Flick, too, brought on his first attacking player with the hero of Wednesday Zirkzee coming on for Philippe Coutinho (83´). And just in his second game three minutes later the hero practically became a legend. Just like many times before, there was enough space on the wings for a cross, this time Müller put in a low cross to the edge of the box. Zirkzee and Gnabry were basically blocking each other yet the young Dutchman managed to get a hit on the ball. Casteels touched the low shot but failed to keep it out of the net.
Just as he did against Freiburg, another three minutes later Serge Gnabry once more wrote the bookend to Zirkee’s match-winning goal. Thomas Müller played a long ball to Lewandowski who pulled the attention of the defenders to himself and away from Gnabry who was running inside the box. The German international scored with a precise shot ending any question who the winner would be. FC Bayern managed to take advantage of Dortmund’s slip-up in Hoffenheim ending the Hinrunde with three points more than their rivals and four points trailing Leipzig on rank 3.
The first half was not good without being really bad either. Being the underdog, Wolfsburg was moving their lines intelligently, giving Bayern a hard time and sometimes even attacking with courage. Bayern’s defending on the other hand was decent enough with even Wolfsburg’s biggest chance being not that difficult to save for Neuer despite Klaus shooting from a fairly central position in the box (16´) Even attacking-wise Bayern was alright. They were not attacking well exactly, and sometimes the decisions players took, were extremely frustrating, but overall at multiple instances this season Bayern had been attacking way worse than they were against Wolfsburg. The fact that they were playing one of the best defensive sides in the Bundesliga was very noticeable. Thus for the entirety of the game Bayern was struggling to create anything of note. In many ways until the closing five minutes of the game this was a typical goalless draw.
Between Coutinho’s long-range effort in minute 53 and Zirkzee’s winning goal in the 86th minute, Bayern created basically nothing of note. Their attacking game came to such a screeching halt in the second half, it was practically begging to get injected with youthful life. Yet Flick refused to substitute possible saviours to awaken the slumbering attacking game. Ivan Perišić in particular was so ineffective that it is difficult to imagine Sarpeet Singh or Oliver Batista-Meier sticking out badly. The question can be asked if Hansi Flick had not waited too long to make an impulse from the bench. Ultimately, the factual success of having brought on the player who scored the eventual winning goal does point towards Flick being correct in his assessment, yet you can also make the opposite case: It seems a bit like Hansi Flick needs to be compelled to bring on youth players.
Weeks like these show just how Bayern has won so many consecutive league titles. It is cold, the Christmas vacation is already around the corner and at times you can even see a tad of sluggishness on the pitch. Both wins against Freiburg and Wolfsburg are fairly lucky, in both games not much was happening for long periods of time. Yet with later winners, Bayern gets the full six points out of these games whereas in a fairly similar game Dortmund for instance gets the lead and still manages to lose. That is mental quality. But it is also individual quality. Joshua Zirkzee is a real talent. He is the first teenager since Peter Werner in March 1966 who scored in both of his first two appearances in a Bayern shirt. And there is another individual record: In the shadow of Thomas Müller’s decreasing goalscoring tally (he only scored twice in the entire first half of the season), he became the first player to get eleven assists in a single Hinrunde. Mental and individual quality hand in hand has been the footing of many a league title in the past.
Javi Martínez will sadly be having not so nice holidays as he is going to miss at least the next six weeks of football. We wish him and all the other injured players a swift recovery!
Now players and fans alike can recharge their batteries for the second half of the season.
The Miasanrot team gives their best thanks to every reader and wishes happy holidays!