Ribery shines as he resurrects FC Bayern Munich from the ashes
Franck Ribery stole the show today as he led FC Bayern Munich again to a 2-0 victory against Schalke 04 in the 23rd round of the Bundesliga. Credit must be given to all the players who fought hard to keep Raul, Forlan and Huntelaar at bay.
Recently, I’ve been commenting about the lack of creativity regarding the Bayern attacks. I’ve also questioned Jupp Heynckes’ player-position assignments since the winter break (especially in view of Bastian Schweinsteiger’s recent injuries).
But today, most of these problems subsided as Robbery (i.e. the dynamic duo of Robben Ribery) put on a show. Here are some of the key reasons why Bayern won the match:
- Heynckes played Luis Gustavo instead of Toni Kroos (I have been suggesting for weeks now that FC Bayern can’t rely on Toni Kroos and should put Gustavo in instead). I strongly feel that the gears started to work again primarily for this reason today. I’m so happy for Luis Gustavo and relieved as a Bayern fan. Indeed, if you see the replay of Ribery’s first goal, it was Gustavo who won the ball back for Bayern by winning a 1-v-1 battle for the ball against a Schalke attacker – Gustavo won the battle and instead of falling to the ground – as Toni Kroos tends to do – Gustavo managed to stay on his feet and send Ribery off to the races – Ribery then showed tremendous skill and poise in tipping the ball over the oncoming Hildebrand (Schalke’s goalie) and then placing the ball in the net.
- Badstuber, Boateng, Neuer, Lahm and Rafinha were rock solid on defense. Neuer never lost his composure and made two great saves today. The back four also fought hard to win the ball back from the opposition and showed composure in playing out of the back. The marking was almost perfect. Bayern midfielder were also tenacious in fighting to regain possession.
- Lahm and Rafinha overlapped periodically and made some awesome crosses/passes and runs dribbling in the attacking third
- The spirits were up as the Bayern forwards finally showed some more creativity and originality in their attacks. There was a sense that – “Hey, let’s just keep going at them – don’t worry if any one of our attacks doesn’t work – eventually, something will work and they will crack.“ That’s a great attitude for attack football. This is precisely the philosophy that coach Klopp uses at Borussia Dortmund.
- FC Bayern also shot the ball more today. That’s always a huge plus for the attack and goes hand in hand with the point made above.
There are still a few loose screws that need to be addressed – if Bayern wants to compete with the top clubs of the world – like Barcelona, e.g. First, Heynckes has been giving Mario Gomez a huge line of credit in giving him thousands of minutes of playing time – and Gomez has not delivered. Gomez hasn’t scored for at least 5 games now. I can’t even remember a time when you could say that Gomez was a key player for Bayern – or a key reason for a victory. Meanwhile, Ivica Olic has been waiting patiently for his chance and has only been substituted for the final 15-20 minutes. Gomez is indeed coming to the end of his line and the coach and management should seriously consider selling him while he still has some value. I have suggested many times before that Gomez simply doesn’t have the ball skills requisite for a team like Bayern. He is not a good team player, and his technique is not outstanding. Well, if you don’t have great passing skills or technique then a center forward should try to make up for it with great headballs or with hustle – but Gomez has been less than stellar in these departments. Gomez is like sand in the gears of the Bayern attack – I’m sorry to say that he is becoming a liability.
Another loose screw is David Alaba. While Alaba at least has a high work rate (he is fast and can run forever), and he has a great positive attitude – he is still only 19 years old and his inexperience shows. Alaba occasionally makes some bad passes out of the back – and does not show great precision or penetration during his attacks. He is better as a defender, but even here he is not consistent. There are times when his pressure on opponents is lax. His marking has not been stellar. Having said that, David Alaba is improving. However, like Diego Contento, I question his ability to break into higher ranks. To own your position at Bayern, you have to have demonstrated that you are dangerous and/or extremely reliable. While Schweini is injured, players like Alaba and Kroos can get their chance to prove themselves. After several opportunities I conclude that players like Alaba and Kroos should be playing for other teams – not for a team like Bayern that has its eyes on the European trophy.
At such high levels of competition and expectation, Heynckes’s job as far as player-position assignments is no easy task. The real challenge will come on March 13th when Bayern has to play Basel at home at the Allianz arena in the return leg of the champions league round. Would you play Mario Gomez over Ivica Olic? Would you continue to play Gustavo over Kroos? Will Schweinsteiger be ready in time? Let me know what you think! I welcome your comments and feedback.
Rich Wiegand, founder of ProSoccerTactics.com