This season is set to be Ribéry’s last at FC Bayern. It definitely looks as though he wants to change that story. At the very least, he is determined to go out with a bang.
1. You cannot put a good man down
Past it. Over the hill. Too old. Departure well overdue. Far too many things have been said about Franck Ribéry this season, not all of which have been complimentary. But as the old saying goes, you cannot put a good man down.
After over ten years in Munich, the 35-year-old Frenchman has won everything. He has nothing left to prove. But it may well be that his recent announcement has helped him relax and enjoy himself out on the pitch. With four goals in his last four matches, he has certainly wound back the years.
This evening, it was not just about Franck’s two goals. It was also about his fighting for the team, chasing after every fifty-fifty ball, surviving some crunching tackles and having to put up with hoots of derision from the noisy Frankfurt fans.
Of course, it will always be about the statistics. Ribéry’s opening goal was smart rather than spectacular, and his shinned second was rather fortuitous. But nobody will be too concerned with that, least of all Franck himself.
As I said in my three Leipzig takeaways, the French winger has provided Bayern fans with many great moments to savour over the years. This was just one more to add to the long list.
2. Solid defence, epic Süle
There were a few concerns just before the kickoff, when Mats Hummels was ruled out at the last moment. We need not have been concerned. Despite a couple of iffy recent outings, Hummels’ replacement Jérôme Boateng was quickly back in the groove, and the Bayern defence had a solid look about it. It finally looks as thought the leaks have been patched up.
Frankfurt started brightly, and at times looked as though Adi Hütter’s side might have overrun the rejigged Bavarian back four. But as the game went on, the men at the back looked increasingly secure. The dangerous and much-fêted Frankfurt attackers were deprived of space and closed right down, to the point where they were rendered almost anonymous.
By far the brightest of Bayern’s defensive stars, however, was Niklas Süle. The giant centre-back is getting better with every game, and his performance against Frankfurt’s speedy attack was nothing short of epic.
To combat the pace of the likes of Luka Jović and Sébastien Haller, Süle’s positioning was excellent. In one-on-ones, he imposed himself with his strength and height. It is far too early to conclude that Süle will be among Germany’s defensive greats. But with performances like this, he is certainly heading in the right direction.
A doff of the hat too to Javi Martínez, who filled in brilliantly as the single six.
3. Made in Croatia?
When the wheels were threatening to come off with dismal home draws, defensive meltdowns and lurid tales of dressing room disputes, Niko Kovač was supposed to have taken the team to one side and laid down the law. The demand was them to fight for everything. To be more “Croatian”.
Whatever the coach might have said, it appears to have had a positive effect on the team. Die Roten have now won their last five Bundesliga matches, and the Swiss Cheese defence has sorted itself out. Manuel Neuer has not conceded a goal in over six hours of football.
Against his former team, everything fell perfectly into place for Kovač. Bayern are clear in second place, six points behind leaders Borussia Dortmund. The criticism has slowly ebbed away, and the squad now have a couple of months to recharge and come back ready for the second half of the season.
The winter break has come just at the right time. The injury list will be considerably shorter when the season resumes in late January, and Canadian prodigy Alphonso Davies will also be waiting in the wings.
With the Hinrunde done and dusted, we can offer a gracious “well done” to Dortmund and their fans. Followed with a firm “we are coming for you”.
Happy Holidays to you and your loved ones.