Bayern pays the price for Guardiola’s poor tactical choices

Make no mistake, this Bayern team is capable of beating any team in the world. But Real Madrid are not any team in the world and you can’t beat them sleepwalking and hamstrung. You need to be well prepared and take your chances. Poor tactical choices made by coach Guardiola meant Bayern never had a fighting chance.

Bayern neither have the speed nor the organization among their back-four to maintain such a high line of defense deployed against counter-attacking monsters Bale-Benzema-Cristiano. But that is, in a way, beside the point. Even before BBC could thread a few strings of their marauding runs at lightning speed, Bayern were done and dusted. Buried by two powerful headers, from set-pieces, by Sergio Ramos. Ramos has this ability to take any high-octane tie on its throat by imposing himself. Mostly by making some rash fouls but sometimes carrying his team across the line all by himself – by scoring his rare goals from set-pieces. Tonight, he scored twice from set pieces – rarest among the rare. Set-pieces have always been a glaring, gaping hole in Guardiola’s teams.

This Bayern team needs a completely new set of centerbacks and a rethink of strategy when they play big teams. When a team boasts Robben, Ribery, Mandzukic, Muller, Kroos, Schweinsteigern and Lahm on the pitch and cannot score a single goal over 180 minutes, and get thrashed 5-0, something should be fundamentally wrong. Also, the decision not to start Mario Gotze, who is more creative and had the best chance to score in the first leg in the few minutes he played, was a risk that ultimately didn’t pay. Guardiola has a lot to answer.

Pep Guardiola is making this Bayern team the laughing stock of world football. Bayern heirarchy should be thinking what is wrong with this team?

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Guardiola bared?

Everyone would agree that Real Madrid gave Bayern Munich a masterclass in counterattacking football. Benzema’s goal was sublime in its buildup and finish giving the Bayern defense no chance. The pass to Benzema is arguably the most important two touches Coentrao has ever made for Real Madrid. Coentrao’s anticipation of the gap and Cristiano’s acceptance that Coentrao had the better chance, not to forget the accuracy of the pinpoint pass, are stuff legends are made of.

One of the biggest dilemma’s for Guardiola seems to be around the deployment of Lahm. Lahm is a supremely gifted footballer who can play as a right-back as well as mid-fielder. Lahm is equally effective in both roles. Against Real Madrid, Lahm played midfielder most of the game and was successful in shrugging off markers, creating space and moving the ball forward every single time he got it. He has developed this ‘Silva-ish’ ability to quickly turn direction and move forward, which he demonstrated time and again yesterday. The problem is: when Lahm is moved to the midfield one hell of a hole is agape in the right back, which Real Madrid exploited masterfully.

Bayern Munich is now living in a kind of a tactical purgatory, struggling to choose between possession-based ‘heavenly’ football or more direct ‘hellish’ Bayern-style football. The stylized heavenly football that Guardiola is so keen to develop can live without a strong and alert defense but needs a magician in the center. The devilish ‘Bayern’ style played by Heyneckes last season was more direct and suits the current players but out of favor with the current coach. The players seem to be always in two minds, caught between the two.

The current Bayern team is a supremely versatile team. It switches between the two styles with little fuss and effortlessly manages to make the transition. One is effective against smaller teams and the other is effective against stronger teams. Against Real Madrid, Bayern seemed to be in a dilemma about which team to turn up with and got promptly punished.

The current Bayern team, arguably, has the best midfield in world football. What it lacks is a defense worthy of this team. The defense is too slow and not well organized. Guardiola would do well to get back to Bayern-style football that suits his current team and park tiki-taka for the next season. The draw is still not lost and despite the single goal advantage Real Madrid has a large mountain to climb.

Arsenal vs. Bayern Munich, 11th March 2014.

A hero is the one who rises at a moment of crisis. A true hero is the one who ensures that a moment of crisis doesn’t arise in the first place. Arsene Wenger is a true hero and he needs no proof than the fact that he assembled the Invincibles in the 2000’s. But even for Arsene, replicating his own success is proving to be impossible. All his birds seem to fly out of the coop at the break of adulthood.

It was quite painful to see time and again, in the first half, that the ball had to be passed back to Fabianski and lost away with no sense of direction by Arsenal. Arsenal were afraid to try and pass it back up, when they had the ball. A few more services to Oxlade could have tested the Bayern defense more. Arsenal clearly wanted to play just for 45 minutes in the second half and try and kill Bayern quickly before they can get alert and lay siege to the Arsenal box. The team still needs to work on improving the work rate and pressing hard.

Podolski may have dips in his general form, but when the occasion beckons a superlative performance, he is still able to dust off the rustiness and marshall the team around. He badly needed support. It is a pity that key absences (due to injury) ensured Arsenal would never really pop the question to Bayern. It was just hope against all odds. Other specific players to impress were Oxlade Chamberlain and Fabianski.

This Bayern Munich doesn’t resemble, even remotely, to the all-conquering team bandied about by all and sundry. The Champions League is very much open this year. This team would struggle to pass muster against Atleti, a team designed to snuff out such excesses as ‘meaningful’ possession. Dante’s foul on Oxlade was pure desperation. It is a pity someone was behind or he would have seen red rather than yellow. Looking at some of Oxlade’s other runs through the Bayern back four, there could have been a lot more in that run (brutally and intentionally stopped by Dante by a kick on the shin).

The less said about Robben the better. With every passing day he seems to be intent on rubbishing his reputation. Bayern are doing well and there is no reason for sly dives and underarm tactics. It should be in his blood! I have this nagging question in my mind. What will Robben’s own family think about him every time he dives to try and draw a foul or a penalty? Will they think that this guy could cheat them (although they are family) when there is a moment of crisis? What would his own children think of him when they see him dive? Isn’t he ashamed of what stares back at him when he looks in a mirror? Does he now realise why people don’t even utter his name in the same sentence with real sportsmen like Messi (forgive this sentence for uttering both the names)?

This Bayern team has miles to go before winning the CL this year. On the evidence of this performance, it doesn’t look all rosy.