It was simply impossible for a Bayern Munich team so talented no to start putting in impressive performances at some point. Apparently, the return of Bastain Schweinsteiger to full health and form is the difference between Pep Guardiola being misunderstood and berated than the same manager talked about as a tactical genius.
Coming away with big wins from Schalke has become something of a tradition for Bayern Munich in recent years, and their 2013 visit was no different. Schalke had about 15 minutes of enthusiasm push them forward,but Bayern handled their counter attacking very well, and as Guardiola put it after the match, showing he’s learning about his new league more and more each time, there’s nothing more important in the Bundesliga than limiting your opponent on the break.
In any case, Bastian Schweinsteiger scored the opening goal for Bayern, and a minute later Mario Mandzukic, also with his head, made it 2-0, ending the match. The goals from Claudio Pizzaro and Franck Ribery didn’t really make any difference, only giving the win a more impressive flair to it.
The key man had to be Schweinsteiger, as Guardiola moved away from his 4-1-4-1, giving Philipp Lahm, still a defensive midfielder playing in front of the defense, a lot of help and simply freeing up the Bayern Munich possession. This match highlighted the thing Guardiola admires the most about his teams when they play his system right. It isn’t just the possession, but it’s the ability to turn the pace on after slowing the game down, confusing the opposition into some sense of boredom or complacency.
For the fast part, there’s David Alaba, at least in this case. The 21-year old Austrian left back is slowly turning out to be the complete package. He can attack and defend, finish plays with crosses or smart passes and add a goal threat option from distance, like in the middle of the week against CSKA Moscow. There might be some ups & downs in his play, but Alaba isn’t far from the day when he’s the consensus pick for the best left back in Europe.
Bayern weren’t as reliant on the Ribery – Robben duo this time. Robben had himself one of those selfish days, when things don’t work out for him. Schalke focused on him and Ribery, which made it so much easier for Alaba to shine and find himself open again and again. Toni Kroos had great freedom in the middle due to the wonderful build up play from Schweinsteiger slightly behind him, and in general things felt a lot more natural and fluid for Bayern Munich, putting in their best match of the season.
Things should look like this from now on, at least in theory. When Javi Martinez is back from his injury, it should mean Philipp Lahm will return to the right back position, unless Guardiola is sensing something about Lahm’s speed that’s fading away. Rafinha might have a lot of pluses offensively, but his positioning and defending have always been a big question mark.
Now tied on top with Borussia Dortmund, the beginning of the season doesn’t’ seem all that bad. One late goal from Freiburg is all that separates Bayern Munich from perfection, and it seems that things can only get better now that Schweinsteiger has returned.