Is the Bavarian “crisis” over? Time will tell, but FC Bayern’s 3:1 win over VfL Wolfsburg turned the Matchday 8 encounter into a display of composure that was lacking in previous weeks.
Slightly better defending
In my opinion, a key element in this game was slightly improved team defending, mostly in the form of increased support to holding midfielder Javi Martínez.
Joshua Kimmich regularly drifted inside to help Javi when he was under pressure. James Rodríguez dropped back deep on the right side to help regain the ball and launch fresh attacks. Thiago Alcântara made similar moves on the left, and served long balls forward, often aiming at Serge Gnabry and Robert Lewandowski in the final third.
Die Bayern went down to 10 men in the second half when Arjen Robben picked up a second yellow card. The Wolves picked up a goal within six minutes. However, it did not affect team morale. Thiago played an especially vital role to maintain possession in the midfield, and the Reds managed the situation well.
Better pressure management turned defending into attacking past the 70th minute, when Robert Lewandowski held up play against two men before finding James. The Colombian was free on the right and he did not have a problem beating Koen Casteels for the third goal.
The Bavarians could have played nervously at that particular moment, but they showed composure that was lacking before the international break. It is a big takeaway for Bayern fans.
James a better fit than Müller
Player form can always fluctuate, but I believe that James Rodriguez should be ahead of Thomas Müller in Niko Kovač’s plans.
James brings technique that the Raumdeuterdoes not possess, in addition to superior versatility. He drops back to help the defense better. He passes accurately from deep positions, takes corners and free-kicks in addition to being a scoring threat.
As most Bayern fans do, I love Müller, but we have to recognize a dip in form in the last couple of years. Combine that with James’ effectiveness as a midfielder and you have a strong case to favor the Colombian in important matches.
Robben’s diving catches up with him
Arjen Robben is known for diving, and it cost him dearly on Saturday. The Flying Dutchman chose to dive in the area instead of fighting to get his shot through in the 44th minute. Referee Guido Winkmann appropriately gave him a yellow instead of awarding a penalty.
That turned a run-of-the-mill foul on a missed challenge in the 57th minute into a second yellow, thus a red card.
Robben’s unnecessary dive added risk to the game against Wolfsburg. If anything should improve with age, it is decision-making to avoid mistakes. Picking up cards without a tactical reason is not a good display of judgement. Robben is unlikely to change his ways, and that is sad.
Room for improvement
FC Bayern delivered on the day against the Wolves, but there is plenty of room for individual improvement in Munich.
Serge Gnabry’s ball control was lacking, leading him to lose the ball cheaply on the left wing. Javi Martínez has been better at holding the midfield together in the past. His lack of pressure on Wolfsburg’s goal showed that nearly standing still is not a valid defensive tactic.
A few stars more than made up for those shortcomings, though. Niklas Süle was a rock in the defense. James played well from box to box. Robert Lewandowski showed his usual love for Wolfsburg by being involved in all three goals.
FC Bayern will go up in the Bundesliga table after this win. The result may not entirely silence their critics, but it could pave the way for renewed success down the road.