The opening day of Bundesliga witnessed the last two German champions face-off under the tutelage of the last two Eredivisie champion managers. Allianz Arena welcomed Steve McLaren, the first Englishman to hold such a position in the German top flight. McLaren, though, was aware that his team was facing a baptism of fire at Allianz Arena.
Last season, Wolfsburg cut a sorry figure as the then reigning champions could only finish eigth in the domestic league, the worst finish by a reigning Bundesliga champion since 1984-85 when Vfb Stuttgart finished on tenth position. Bayern’s record in the season kick-off fixtures did not do any favor to Die Wolfe as well. The last time Die Roten lost a game in the opening day was way back in 2001 against Borussia Mönchengladbach.
The smiles are back!
The Double winners
Bayern had been dormant in the transfer market. Van Gaal, amidst all speculations regarding the signing of Gregory Van Der Wiel in right back and Fábio Coentrão in left back, had insisted that he would like to continue with the current crop of players he had in his disposal.
McLaren, on the other hand, was active in the transfer market and brought in Arne Frierich and Simon Kjaer to bolster the defense. Winger Mario Mandžukić was brought in from Dinamo Zagreb to reinforce attacking threat from the left. Strong rumour regarding Džeko’s move away from Wolfsburg, possibly to the Bionconeri, was put to rest for the time being as Mclaren appointed him as their new leader on the pitch.
Bayern were without star player Robben and Olic. Toni Kroos made his second home debut. Diego Contento was relied upon to slot-in as the left back. Surprisingly, Dimechelis was left out and Badstubber was finally placed in his preferred position. Die Wolfe were without their new signing Friedrich, and left Misimović on the bench. History reflects that Bayern’s record at home against Wolfsburg had been outstanding. Die Roten had played thirteen times against the visitors in Munich. They managed to win twelve of them along with a solitary draw in a show of supremacy over their opponent.
Last night, they improved their record by winning the contest 2-1. In true reflection, Bayern deserved to win the game as they created more chances. Howeer, Bayern left it really late to find the winner, failing which it would have been their third 1-1 draw in an opening fixture, in a row. The players looked a bit rusty, understandably, as it was the first match of the season. The defense was sloppy at times and can be thankful to Wolfsburg’s lack of decisive goalward movements.
There is plenty of room for improvements, though. A few performers that need a worthy mention as they set off the season on a higher note than the rest are as follows:
The hotshot started the campaign from where he ended it last season. His movement, ball control and sangfroid in finishing and breaking the deadlock was a treat to the eyes. He remained a constant menace down the right flank and linked up well with Kroos whenever he cut inside. While he did not get much supply from a subdued Lahm in the second half and was found less on the ball, his effort for the first goal assured Die Roten faithful of rosy things to come.
The diminutive winger shook off all the disappointments of a catastrophic World Cup campaign and a tumultous personal life and showed true class on the pitch. He dictated terms against Die Wolfe and was easily taking on two or three defenders. Sascha Riether and debutant Kjaer had a night to forget due to his pace and trikcery. He set up Schweinsteiger for the winner and linked up well with both Kroos and Contento to wreak havoc on the Wolfburg defense.
If Van Gaal prefers to play this 4-2-3-1 formation instead of last years 4-4-1-1 formation, then Kroos has an important role to play in Bayern’s title defense. He set up Müller brilliantly for the first goal and lInked up well with Ribery, Schweinsteiger and Müller. Could fit in as their playmaker for the season.
Van Gaal showed his content in relying upon academy prodigy Contento as the first choice left back for the season. Contento returned the favor with an assuring display. He defended well, linked up well with Ribery down the left flank and delivered quite a few teasing crosses near the end of the match. He has good speed and acceleration and could be Bayern’s solution in his position.
Even though Bayern started off with a gritty win, it was far from a picture perfect scenario. The defense looked cluless from time and again. The entire defensive organization went for a toss after Misimović was introduced by Mclaren.
The players who failed with a distinction in the season opener are:
Mark Van Bommel
The veteran holding midfielder seemed to have started the campaign from where he ended his World Cup campaign. Awful tackles and woeful passing. He was duly handed the first caution of the night on 33rd minute as he kept taking out the players rather than the ball, more often than not. He hardly managed to move the ball forward and coupled it with mispasses. After the inclusion of Misimovic, he was barely found anyway near him. It is high time that Bayern look for a holding midfielder.
As a centre-half, his primary duty lies in keeping opposition threats at bay. But his discomfiture in defending opposition set pieces became evident, especially for aerial balls and he lost his marker in Džeko, which led to concede the goal. He was beaten in pace on a few occasion and was wrong footed quite easily by Misimović. With a slow Van Buyten to partner him, Badstuber needs to improve his anticipation, marking skills and determination to win Van Gaal’s confidense.
Is he good enough for a hectic season?
Of prime importance for Bayern is the fact that they have started off earning all three points. Van Gaal must have had a measure of the carelessness of his defensive line. He is a shrewd tactician and knows what needs to be done and there are still ten days for him to bolster the squad in accordance with his needs.
The veteran did not have to do much for the day. But on the rare occasion in which Die Wolfe attacked, Butt flinched in unison with his defensive line. There is a lot to be desired of his ball distribution, handling and shot power. One such mistimed shot off a backpass was easily intercepted by Misimović and if not for Butt’s extended left leg, it could have been Bayern chasing shadows from then on. His understanding with Van Buyten or Badstuber was far from convincing. Bayern would do well to find either an understudy of him or a direct replacement if they wish to repeat last season’s exploits.
Last season the Bayern academy product was made to play out of position in left back. He did put in some good performances but the lack of productivity was evident. Badstuber had an anonymous night in his favored position, partnering Van Buyten. He has the gifted ability of taking set pieces. But each of his set piece deliveries were poorly executed.
The veteran Belgian has already proved his worth(or the lack of it) in last season. His positioning during set pieces were woeful. He was easily beaten in pace by Džeko, Ziani and Misimović trio. His understanding with Butt lacked conviction: one such misunderstanding almost put Wolfsburg in front in the second half. With Demichelis falling out of favor with Van Gaal and Badstuber playing as the other centre half, it would be in the best interest for Bayern to find a replacement for Van Buyten.