The big criticism throughout Pep Guardiola’s first months in Munich as been the way Bayern’s won. Particularly compared with last year, when the Germans steamrolled the rest of the Bundesliga, Bayern’s results have lack decisiveness. Though it’s a problem most teams would love to have, FCB hadn’t won any of their first five league matches by more than two goals, and although it was a relative issue, the result were still indicative of the ongoing reset taking place under Guardiola.
Then Champions League happened. Or, more readily, their performance in Champions League on Sept. 17. Against visiting Russian champions CSKA Moscow, Bayern finally dominated both on the ball and the scoresheet, posting a 3-0 win. That they followed it with a 4-0 win on the road at Schalke, a fellow Champions League team, hints something may have clicked in München.
Wednesday provided more evidence of the same. Against visiting Hannover in German Cup play, Bayern went into half up 2-1, a redirection by Thomas Müller and headed cross by Claudio Pizarro preceding Didier Ya Konan’s response, cutting FCB’s lead in half before intermission. Müller completed his brace just after the hour, with a goal from Franck Ribéry off Bayern’s bench giving the holders a 4-1 win.
It was what we’ve come to expect from Guardiola’s Bayern. Perhaps his approach lacks the swashbuckling edge Jupp Heynckes’s team rode to league, cup, and European titles, but the team’s exerting a disturbing amount of control on each of their matches. Today’s goal was only the eighth they’ve allowed in 11 “competitive” matches – competitive in quotes because we’re counting the meaningless games against Borussia Dortmund and Chelsea in the German and UEFA Super Cups. Take those out, and Bayern’s only conceded five in nine games, a testament to the paucity off opportunities Guardiola’s possession-heavy scheme is giving up.
It’s worth mentioning Bayern only gave up 18 goals in 34 league games last year. During their successful Cup run, they only concede three in six games. So it’s unclear Guardiola’s increased control has actual led to a better defense. Even if it hasn’t, it’s interesting to see Bayern’s end results returning to last year’s standards. It’s almost as if the specific system for team of this talent is important as we thought – that this group of players can adapt and dominate provided a minimally effective scheme and a boss who knows how to play it.
Regardless, Bayern’s on the ascent, and if we were to go back to the hypothetical European Power Rankings we alluded to in yesterday’s Dortmund post, the current European champions would almost certainly be number one. Since last week’s Champions League opener, they’ve been on the rise, while their rivals at the Westfalenstadion have been dealt their season’s first setbacks.