Exciting football was on the menu when FC Bayern lost 2:3 at Borussia Dortmund on Saturday. The promising signs were, unfortunately, overshadowed by two fatal flaws in the team.
That motivation thing
For the first time since the season’s early days, the Bavarians displayed genuine motivation. That’s a sign of relief. The Reds matched the BVB tempo from kickoff with far quicker exchanges, better footwork and an increased work rate across the board.
Players showed the kind of tactical flexibility that made Thomas Müller occasionally drift to the left wing to support Franck Ribéry and David Alaba. Serge Gnabry was once again a most creative force, providing Robert Lewandowski with an excellent aerial cross that the Pole roofed in the net.
A higher activity level was especially beneficial for Franck Ribéry. He struggled with one-on-one situations, but he kept threatening on the left with the help of Alaba.
Should every fixture be played against Borussia Dortmund? This kind of motivation is needed for more than the Topspiel games, at least to avoid depending on them to win the title.
Suspect back line
Bayern’s midfield delivered the goods for long spells with pressure that held the Bees back.
In the first 60 minutes, Javi Martínez was far more effective than in the past four months. Double and triple teaming were regular fixtures. Thomas Müller delivered a crunching tackle. David Alaba ran like a madman when tracking back, sometimes outside of the left-back scope.
However, BVB’s fast counters were dangerous, feeding on passing and coverage mistakes by Joshua Kimmich, Mats Hummels and Jérôme Boateng before the opening goal. Those mistakes can turn any game into a nightmare.
Bayern’s back four is still suspect and it has to improve.
Lack of speed
Why did BVB play so well in the second half? Two reasons.
The first is obvious: they have a hugely talented young team with a strong coach, Lucien Favre, in the dugout. That makes for a deadly combination.
Secondly, the yellow and black are very fast on their feet, especially when staging a vertical counterattack. That was problematic for Bayern late in the game because they are… slower. Much slower. Their ability to track back is far below a quick team’s ability to surge forward, especially when tired legs become a factor.
There were also mistakes. On the third BVB goal, Jérôme Boateng covered an imaginary man, forcing Javi to chase Paco Alcacer from a terrible position. Niklas Süle was also up the pitch. Javi shouldn’t have been the last man back on that play.
The creativity that we have been begging for carved up the Dortmund defense multiple times and produced two stunning goals. The tactics were sound. Yet, FC Bayern’s defense failed in a “six-point” match that could decide the Bundesliga title.
I see plenty of positives from the first 60 minutes of this encounter, but weak defending and lack of speed are killers in football. While Niko Kovač can work on the first, he can do little about the second unless he turns FC Bayern into a defend-and-counter collective. Even there. How do you counter without speed?
This team doesn’t seem to have what it takes to win the league or compete in Europe.