Heading into the German Supercup, most fans of Die Roten were not looking forward to the match. Not only where they facing German Champions Borussia Dortmund who seem to have Bayern’s number, but they were doing it with a heavily depleted squad.
Mario Gomez, Claudio Pizarro, Bastian Schweinsteiger, David Alaba, and Rafinha were all on the injury list. Not only that, but left-winger Franck Ribery was doubtful due to inflammation in his ankle.
Things did not bode well for the Bavarians, who were facing a Dortmund side with a newly-fit Mario Gotze and new kid on the block Marco Reus, who was crowned as the best player in the Bundesliga last season.
Going into the match, nobody was really sure how Jupp Heynckes was going to play his cards. The coach revealed to the press that Luis Gustavo, typically a defensive midfielder, could also play at left-back if need be.
Instead, when the line-up was released, even more eyebrows were raised. Instead of pushing Gustavo out to the left, they opted to keep the midfield destroyer in a position where he could destroy and instead threw new kid and highly touted Bayern youth product Emre Can (who is normally a defensive midfielder) on the pitch as a left-back.
Needless to say, Bayern fans world-wide were expecting to receive another thrashing at Dortmund’s hands.
However, after six minutes Frank Ribery made an incredible pass and Croatian striker Mario Mandzukic sent Munich ahead.
Then, not even six minutes later, Arjen Robben smashed a shot right into the pole and Thomas Muller scored one of his trademark rebound goals sending the Bavarians into a comfortable two goal lead.
Truthfully, the scoreline at the start reflected Bayern’s dominance in the first half of the game. Throughout the entire first half, Bayern as a team has not looked better in a very long time. Their passing was crisp and neat, the midfield and forwards linked up perfectly, and Dante and Badstuber were able to fend off any attack from the current German Champions. Manuel Neuer had a rather boring first half overall, which made many Bayern fans very happy.
For a long time now,Dortmund has had Bayern’s number because not only do they possess an incredibly talented and well-rounded roster, but because tactically they had the Bavarians number.Dortmund plays a very fast, very technical counter-attacking game that is deadly to Bayern’s free-flowing possession game.
This time, Heynckes decided to switch up his tactics and instead press forward more, forcing Dortmund to lose possession which opened up for counter-attacks. This turned out to be a masterstroke on Heynckes part, and the change rattled the German Champions
Even though Bayern do not normally play a counter-attacking game, they are very capable of doing so. Both Robben and Ribery are quick and deadly on the wings, and Muller is a speedy player as well. But one thing that everyone learned is that Mario Mandzukic could flourish in this type of attack.
The Croat player linked up very well with the rest of the team, created chances, and even worked on the wing a bit. At the end of the day, he was the difference maker and proved to be one of the best transfers in the Bundesliga this season.
But nobody expected Dortmund to lie down and accept defeat, and they certainly didn’t. In the second half, Mario Gotze finally came on and changed the tempo of the game. The attacking-midfielder was able to facilitate Dortmund’s attack a little better and help them move forward better.
Heynckes decided then to make a risky move, the likes which haunts Bayern fans after the Champions League, and that was to take off an attacking player for a defensive one. Frank Ribery came off and Anatoliy Tymoshchuk came on.
It could have proved to be a disaster, but instead it turned out to be another tactical advantage for Bayern as Tymo was able to close down the middle more and prevented Dortmund from penetrating a more compact defense.
However,Dortmund’s attack still proved treacherous and thankfully for Bayern fans Reus and Gotze both squandered some brilliant chances. Manuel Neuer was also required to step up and save Bayern’s bacon more than a few times.
Eventually though, the Dortmund attack broke through as Polish striker Lewandoski, who has terrorized Bayern’s back-line for years, finally netted a goal which gave Dortmund a lifeline.
Shortly after, Heynckes decided to take off Arjen Robben and put on Xherdan Shaqiri, which turned out to be another stroke of tactical brilliance. Shaqiri brought a fresh set of attacking lets to Bayern’s midfield, and then Bayern were able to keep the midfield battle going and keep the attack out of their penalty box.
Then the Bavarians finally sealed victory after so many losses to Borussia Dortmund.
This match proved lots of things. First and foremost is that Bayern Munich has done very well for themselves on the transfer market, and did so even before the transfer window started. Not only did they manage to add depth, but they added versatility and flexibility to their attack with the new signings.
Mario Mandzukic likely won’t start over Mario Gomez once Gomez is healthy again. Gomez has his fair share of critics, but it’s hard to deny his talent when he’s scoring more than forty goals in a season. But the Croat at least offers a flexibility in attack that Bayern lacked before.
Despite only catching a glimpse of Xherdan Shaqiri, the short time he was on was promising.
Dante was a player that I worried about, but so far in the pre-season and in this game he has been highly impressive and defended very well.
For me, one of the most interesting players to watch was Emre Can. As I mentioned in a previous article, he is a player that many from the Bayern camp have spoken of very highly before. So far, he has impressed both in the pre-season and in this game. He’s also proven to be more versatile than anyone thought, being able to play defensive midfielder, center back, and now left-back.
At this point, I don’t even think I would find it shocking to see Emre Can in a keeper kit. That’s how versatile he seems in defense.
The only worry was the crunching tackle against Kuba which he could have seen a red card for, and eventually saw Can taken off for Badstuber.
The game not only showed an improvement in the team as a unit however, but it also showed improvement of individual players. Robben botched a few good chances, but he also passed the ball more often than usual. Thomas Muller, who had a poor season and Euro competition, seems to be improving as well.
So now the big question remains; are Bayern Munich finally done being bridesmaids to German football?
It’s too early to tell yet.
There was lots of promise and positives to be taken from this game. Bayern played well, they improved their tactics, and the new signings and promotions shined. The first half was a sublime display of German football.
But there are still frailties in the team. Every time a set piece was taken, Bayern fans hearts skipped a beat. It’s no secret that the team has trouble defending set pieces. Every corner kick for Bayern was a disaster as well, as Bayern cannot seem to get any crosses into the box. With a player who is as good at headers as Mario Mandzukic, this is something that will have to be addressed eventually.
At the end of the day, I think that there are two things to take away from the match for fans. One is that they shouldn’t get ahead of themselves. Beating Dortmund will do a lot for the team mentally, and is a massive boost, but that does not mean that the league is won. Cautious optimism is all I can muster. Dortmund is still learning to manage without Kagawa, but once they do they will be more deadly.
But the best thing that fans can take away is that the team does not have the mental scars many predicted. After losing the league by a missed penalty, disastrous Champions League final and disappointing Euros, many expected this to be a dreadful season marred with a lack of winning mentality.
Instead, we finally see the team Bayern can be. There’s fire in their bellies, and they look a much sharper, determined, and motivated side than last season.
Will Bayern finally get over their second place blues? Perhaps. The only thing that we know for sure is that FC BayernMunichwill be a great team to watch in Europe this season, and the Bundesliga could be the most exciting that fans have seen in years.