The Pep Episodes XXIII
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.
They are surely not used to that feeling. Bayern’s loss to Borussia Mönchengladbach contained some unaccustomed curiosities for Pep Guardiola’s men. Not only was it the first defeat of their Bundesliga campaign, it was the first defeat after incredible 56 games in a first half of the season. Jep, you read that right: Never before have Bayern lost a game in the first half of the campaign since Guardiola took them over two and a half years ago. The third unfamiliar feeling was that – until Saturday – they didn’t concede a single goal in the second half of a Bundesliga game, now they conceded three at a time.
Bayern showed two different halfes at the Borussia Park. In the first, they looked to be on course against the team of the moment, but missed three excellent opportunities – Coman bottled the best one by hitting the post from a few yards out. Surprisingly, the game completely changed in the second half. The foals came out of the halftime break galopping, out of nothing they looked confident and scored three quick goals within 14 minutes. “We were very strong in the first half and created plenty of chances, but scored no goals. After the break it was very complicated, we lost possession too often,” Guardiola recapitulated.
His team was oddly unstable at the back, not even Manuel Neuer seemed to have the best of days as he looked shaky in two of the three goals. Afterwards the goalkeeper admitted the team were somehow overrun: “We can concede a goal, because Gladbach has a good team, but we can not lose our composure like that.”
“You can always concede a goal, but after that we lost our discipline. That wasn’t good, we let them get at us on the break, and that was the reason we lost,” Guardiola recapitulated. The only positive note was Ribery’s comeback, the Frenchman, who was out for nine months, even scored the late consolation goal on his return. He was happy being back on the pitch, but he certainly wasn’t with the performance of the team: “It’s our own fault. After the first half we have to be 2-0 or 3-0 in the lead. But Gladbach did well and took all their chances,” Ribery said.
Kicker sports magazine called it “the humanization of Bayern”, while Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ) went with the headline “from this planet”- it have been the words of Bayern’s Sporting Director Matthias Sammer, who said that about the team.
The grounding was due to a “newly discovered old weakness”, as FAZ put it, reminding of last season’s games in Wolfsburg (1-4) and Barcelona (0-3), when the Bavarians didn’t have their so much desired control of the game, at least in some spells. “If someone manages to break with pace and enough attacking personnel in behind their backline”, Bayern will have some trouble, the newspaper explained. Süddeutsche Zeitung noticed the very same thing – it certainly isn’t news for some people, but one had the feeling that nevertheless the entire Bundesliga was left in astonishment.
Because it happens so seldomly that a Bundesliga side has the bravery to attack Guardiola’s men with more than one or two players. Usually the teams don’t want to expose their own defense, hence remain cautious. This time, Gladbach played with guts, at least in the second half. “We have to learn from this game that we must not lose our control”, Guardiola said, because that was exactly the case in their disjointed 14 minutes in the second half. They are “not used to fall behind”, Captain Lahm admitted afterwards. And so they fell apart in an truly unfamiliar way, and the Bundesliga chuckled and jubilated.
The Pep Episodes is 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.