Stuttering Start to the New Year
Bayern suffered a rocky start to 2017 with an underwhelming display against a lively opposition. Thanks to the heroics of one Robert Lewandowski, however, Bayern were able to come away with 3 points.
Lewandowski the Hero
The game looked to be done and dusted when substitute Franck Ribery sent a hopeful cross into a crowded box. However, Lewandowski outmuscled his marker to get on the end of the cross, took two phenomenal touches to create space, and finished with his left foot, all while being surrounded by 5 Freiburg defenders. Bayern have only him to thank for getting a win when they were far from deserving it.
The absence of Thiago was too evident as Bayern Munich were outplayed in the midfield and lacked creativity. Both Xabi Alonso and Arturo Vidal were sloppy in their passing and poor when defending. Joshua Kimmich brought some much-needed stability when he joined the match as a substitute, and one cannot help but question whether Carlo Ancelotti should have started him in place of either Alonso or Vidal. Similarly, yesterday’s match would have suited the directness of Renato Sanches perfectly, and it is a real shame he did not get any minutes. Matches of this type are excellent for developing young talent. It is a bit disappointing Bayern did not take advantage of that.
Ancelotti has Faith in Muller
It is unlikely there was a single Bayern supporter who was not desperately hoping that Thomas Muller would kick off 2017 with a goal. But no matter how much poetic justice that would have brought, it was not meant to be. He made the runs, he got into the right positions, he had his chance (and on another day could have won a penalty), but still, he had no luck. Despite this, Ancelotti stuck with him when he could have easily subbed him off. Like most of us, Carlo is adamant that Muller will once again find his form and be a vital cog in the Bayern machine.
Through the entirety of the match, there was a lack of communication between players. Too often balls were played either to the opposition or straight out of bounds because the ball player misread the run of his teammate, who either stopped short or went a different direction. Winning against such resilient competition is difficult enough when working as a team, but it proves nearly impossible when every player is not on the same page.
Manuel Neuer – 7: Could do nothing about the first goal, an excellent shot slotted into the corner. Made a few good saves later on and spent most of the match outside his own box.
David Alaba – 6.5: A relatively quiet night for the Austrian. Did well getting forward, but provided no end product. Caught slightly out of position for the match opener.
Mats Hummels – 7: Despite a sluggish start, Hummels pulled his way back into the match and gave a solid performance.
Javi Martinez – 8.5: From start to finish, Bayern’s most reliable player throughout the match. Hardworking as ever, more matches like this and Ancelotti will have a tough time choosing his preferred central defensive partnership.
Philipp Lahm – 7.5: A vintage performance from the captain. Solid in defense and a threat going forward.
Xabi Alonso – 5: Gave the ball away far too easily in midfield and looked lost amidst the pace of Freiburg’s younger players. Games like this are coming far too often for the footballing legend.
Arturo Vidal – 5: Perhaps still suffering from a slight injury, Vidal should have been rested for this match. Like Alonso, his passes were far too poor and his defending was anything but trustworthy.
Douglas Costa – 6: Toiled endlessly on the left flank and displayed his fine dribbling, but could not get the better of the Freiburg defenders before making way for Ribery.
Thomas Muller – 6.5: Another frustrating performance for Muller, who perhaps suffered from his teammates’ lack of creativity. Regardless, more is expected out of the German international.
Arjen Robben – 7: Did well to cut inside on multiple occasions, but could not bag a goal. Selfish at the start, Robben played much better in the second half.
Robert Lewandowski – 9: Scored both goals for Die Roten and did so with his left foot on both occasions. He also proved himself to be a decent ball-winner, drifting into the midfield throughout the match.
Joshua Kimmich – 7: Should have started in place of either holding midfielder, Kimmich brought stability and pace to a struggling midfield.
Franck Ribery – 8: Immediately brought a directness and creativity lacking on the left wing. Provided the assist for Lewandowski’s game winner.
Juan Bernat – 7: Brought on with Ribery to revamp the squad’s left wing. Bernat once again showed his legitimacy as a rival for David Alaba at left back.