Not pretty, but it will do: three takeaways from FC Bayern v Hertha BSC
Not long ago, Bayern were being written off. As of this Saturday evening, they are level at the top with Borussia Dortmund. Who would have thought it?
This is not a match I would choose to watch again. In fact, Hertha have often gone out their way to be defensive and awkward. Earlier in the season in Berlin, this tactic worked. For more than an hour, it really looked as though Niko Kovač’s side were going to be shut out.
Then came the breakthrough, and a goal from a man who turned out his second sterling performance in the space of five days.
We all love to see pretty football, but right now most FC Bayern fans will take this result. By hook or by crook, the Bavarians are back level at the top with Borussia Dortmund, and eight points clear of third-placed Borussia Mönchengladbach. Not that long ago, this would have been difficult to believe.
For the second time in the space of less than a week, I am dedicating one of my three takeaways to Javi Martínez. Would have thought that, when not that long ago many of us were itching to throw the Spaniard on to the scrapheap?
One can only wonder where this revival has come from. Was it the constant drip-fed criticism? Has the coach decided to take the big number eight under his wing? Either way, a fire has been lit and the results have been impressive. The defensive midfielder has been a rock, and capped everything off with what proved to be the winning goal. It does not really get much better than that.
When the team as a whole fails to fire, sometimes it just takes a couple of standout performances from one man. This afternoon, Javi was that man.
The one big negative, something that can also be carried over from the Champions League meeting with Liverpool in midweek, has been the lack of potency up front. At Anfield, one can put this down to a deliberate strategy. At home against Hertha BSC, it was slightly worrying.
It is true that the Berliners came to Munich with little or no ambition. We all know just how hard it is to break that sort of opponent down, no matter how many talented individuals there are in the squad. But Bayern looked limp, fractured and woefully short of ideas. Robert Lewandowski was largely anonymous, and there was little of note from the flanks. James, usually so creative in the middle of the pitch, had an off day.
Perhaps even more concerning was the injury to Kingsley Coman, who was on the pitch for less than ten minutes before limping off with a suspected hamstring injury. Bayern lacked pace and energy for much of the match, and Coman’s introduction just before the hour mark was intended to fix that. Sadly, the plan backfired. We can only hope that the Frenchman’s withdrawal was precautionary.