VfL Wolfsburg – FC Bayern München 0:2 (0:0)

Just a few days after the Champions League highlight against Juventus and on the club’s 116th birthday, Bayern was facing another game on the road. The opponent was the reigning cup winner VfL Wolfsburg. Author: Christopher • Translator:

The two remaining Champions League participants met for the fourth time this season. Bayern had difficulties to take away two wins in the last match-ups, a 5:1 at home (after trailing by one goal at half-time) and a 3:1 victory in the DFB Cup. The media attention was on Robert Lewandowski again, who scored five goals in just under 10 minutes in the last league game against Wolfsburg.

3 things we noticed

The two remaining Champions League participants met for the fourth time this season. Bayern had difficulties to take away two wins in the last match-ups, a 5:1 at home (after trailing by one goal at half-time) and a 3:1 victory in the DFB Cup. The media attention was on Robert Lewandowski again, who scored five goals in just under 10 minutes in the last league game against Wolfsburg.

1. Furious Five below their potential

Before the game against Darmstadt we praised the five offensive players for the high pressure and the large number of shots on goal, which Coman, Costa, Lewandowski, Muller and Robben created. On average, there were more than 30 shots on goal per game. Against Wolfsburg, for the first time in an away game, Pep Guardiola put the full offensive strength of his squad on the field. However, only to moderate success. Firstly, because Coman (37%) and Müller (20%) had a significantly negative duel winning rate, but also because especially Costa had a hard time getting into the game. As in his appearance in Leverkusen, where he also played in the left half space, he had a bad decision making. He broght too much verticality into the Bayern game too early and too often.

Shots Vfl Wolfsburg vs. FC Bayern

The build-up play out of the back was to quickly and risky at times. From the middle of the first half, Wolfsburg was able to block many passing lanes and disrupt Bayern’s build-up. Thus Wolfsburg created good (initial) counterattack chances. At the same time Bayern’s attacking players were too focused on their individual class and all too often ran into 1v2 or 1v3 situations and logically ended up losing the ball. Although Costa had seven, Coman five and Robben three successful dribbles, these rarely created good scoring chances. Only Thomas Müller (4 key passes) and Coman (1 key pass) could create something. Too little, considering the quality of the players.

That two of the above mentioned trio eventually scored, shows the quality of the Bayern squad. 14 shots (of which only four (!) were shots on goal) were enough in this game for two goals and the important away win.

2. Franck Ribery turns the tide

As mentioned above, Bayern’s game suffered from a lack of patience and a flawed decision making. Pep Guardiola improved both aspects with his substitution in the 56th minute. Franck Ribery brought a clear vision into the game, the one Douglas Costa sometimes is still missing. Symbolically this was visible in the variety of combinations that brought Träsch and Vierinha close to despair after the 56th minute. Both Thiago, and Bernat were integrated much better in the combination play by Ribery, compared to Costa’s link-up with Coman and Bernat previously. Almost inevitably Ribery initiated the first goal and assisted the second goal by Lewandowksi as well. At the same time he used his dribblings more focused and won as many of them only half as much time compared to Robben.

In the coming weeks, tough decision will have to be made when all offensive players stay healthy. Costa’s performances were too weak recently, to not give Franck Ribery a spot in the starting XI. Although the role of Ribery as a bench player could be a very interesting one. No other player in Bayern’s squad knows how to use spaces so efficiently. Nevertheless these spaces usually only open up in the course of the second half.

3. Manuel Neuer

In recent weeks, it was very quiet around the Bayern goalkeeper. At the two goals he conceded against Juventus Neuer was powerless. To clear were the shooting chances, but in retrospect his pass to Philipp Lahm seemed a bit unhappy. This little mistake was not visible in Neuer’s performance in Wolfsburg. On the contrary, Neuer had a considerable share in the victory against Wolfsburg. Manuel Neuer had to stop eight shots on goal – some of them were high-percentage opportunities. At the start of the game against Kruse (19th minute) he scratched a header from the line. Later he saved a free kick by Naldo, who indeed was kicked inaccurately, but still was uncomfortable for the keeper. In the second half Neuer was hardly involved, but he at first kept Bayern in the game against Draxler (64th minute) and then prevented the game from becoming close again against Kruse (83th minute).

Also in the build-up game Neuer remains very stable. 79% of his passes found a teammate. With a relatively small formation and players without strong heading ability (Wolfsburg won 65% of headers), it must be extremely unpleasant for a goalkeeper to keep the flow of his team going. Neuer did a better job today than during the difficult phase in Turin.

VfL Wolfsburg – FC BAYERN 0:2 (0:0)
VfL WolfsburgCasteels – Träsch (72. Schürrle), Naldo (76. Knoche), Dante, Rodriguez – Arnold, Luiz Gustavo – Vieirinha, Draxler, Schäfer (84. Azzaoui) – Kruse
SubsGrün, Putaro, Stolze
FC BayernNeuer – Lahm, Kimmich, Alaba, Bernat – Alonso – Robben (56. Ribéry), Müller, Costa (50. Thiago), Coman (88. Rode) – Lewandowski
SubsUlreich, Benatia, Götze, Vidal
Goals0:1 Coman (66.), 0:2 Lewandowski (74.)
CardsYellow: – / Bernat
RefereeManuel Gräfe (Berlin)
Attendance30.000 (sold out)

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