It was emotional inside the Volkswagen Arena on Friday night as the fans displayed a great tifo before the kickoff, in memory of Wolfsburg’s late Junior Malanda who passed away in an accident recently. Everyone expected it to be a tight affair but one team dominated the proceedings right from the word go and to everyone’s surprise it was Wolfsburg. Double from Bas Dost in the first half and a another brace from Junior’s countryman Kevin De Bruyne blew the champions away in a 4-1 rout. Die Roten were lethargic in the midfield, their defence were clearly outdone by the brilliant trio of De Bruyne, Dost and Maximilian Arnold. Juan Bernat didn’t have time to celebrate his long-awaited first goal for Bayern as his team sunk to their first defeat in Bundesliga this season. Though it would be foolish to write off Bayern based on a single match performance, but lets look at five important things that stood out from a match that breathed life into a somewhat boring season of Bundesliga.
1) De Bruyne Is The Next Superstar Of Bundesliga:
Kevin De Bruyne without a doubt has been the catalyst for Wolfsburg’s form this season. The young Belgian’s pace,ball control and clinical finishing tore apart Bayern’s defence. Dante and Boateng had no answer for the 23-year old’s brilliance. His link-up play with Maximilian Arnold and in particular with Dutch striker Bas Dost was what Bayern missed on the other side of the pitch. He popped in every part of the pitch passing,winning the ball back, conceding fouls from Bayern’s players which resulted in growing frustrations in the opposition camp. After a dismal spell with Chelsea the attacker is clearly enjoying a great time under Dieter Hecking. With already 11 assists and 5 goals to his name this season, the Wolves could go a long way in this season if the Belgian playmaker continues with his impressive form.
2) Boateng Failed To Keep His Record Intact:
It clearly indicated that Bayern had no momentum throughout the first half. They were going nowhere as the ball bounced off a brick wall everytime it reached the Wolves’ territory . Jerome Boateng has to be blamed for most of the team’s sluggish play. He repeatedly launched long balls into the left flank from the halfway line which Wolfsburg successfully closed down to allow Thomas Muller any space. As a result Arjen Robben was left stranded on the opposite flank about whom we will discuss in our next point. Boateng did little justice to his record of playing 56 unbeaten games for Bayern and his improved defending under Pep Guardiola as he was repeatedly beaten by Arnold and De Bruyne. The on rushing Bas Dost only made things worse for him and defensive partner Dante as they had no answer to the Dutchman’s pace. Whether it was a tactic implemented by Guardiola to play long balls or it was Boateng’s own instincts that made him do it are secondary. It certainly slowed down the momentum and took out the fluidity of Pep’s playing style. The on going legal battle with his ex-agent Jorg Neubauer might also be a reason for the Berlin native to lose his focus. But the coach must be ready to address any issues with his centre-back to stop him from repeating these mistakes again.
3) Robben’s Involvement In The Attack:
As a result of long balls into the path of Muller on left flank, Arjen Robben looked isolated on the right wing. It was not until the 71st minute when Mario Gotze was introduced did things improve for Robben and Bayern. He hardly saw the ball until then and Sebastian Rode the right back for the night offered little help as he was taken to school by Ricardo Rodriguez.The experienced midfield duo of Bastian Schweinsteiger and Xabi Alonso cut out frustrated figures as they failed to supply Robben with the ball. Robben’s trademark dribbling and cutting pace could have created more space for other attackers to get inside the Wolfsburg’s box. But the static predictive passing by Bayern made it easy for the Wolves to launch counter attacks whenever posssible. The Dutchman is in a fine form and also scored his 100th goal for the club last month. He has already scored 10 goals in 13 Bundesliga games prior to Wolfsburg match. But in this match he couldn’t contribute mainly because of his team mates.
4) Guardiola’s Late Change In Tactics:
Guardiola is known for changing tactics when things dont go accordingly. But holding his cards until late against the Wolves last night was surprising to say the least. Thomas Muller had clearly a match to forget as he was outmuscled by Arnold and Vieirinha. Even Manuel Neuer(38) had one touch more than Muller(37) who failed to muster up any chances down the left flank. Sebastian Rode was clearly out of his depth as he was unable to cope up with Kevin De Bruyne’s trickery and Ricardo Rodriguez came out on top everytime Rode ventured forward. The 4-1-4-1 at the start of the game was changed back to the more comfortable 3-4-3 by substituting Rode with Mitchell Weiser as Alaba dropped back to three man defence. Robert Lewandowski also had an ineffective outing as centre backs Naldo and Robin Knoche kept him quiet all evening. The striker had no help from Robben who was isolated on the right flank and passes from David Alaba dried up due to the hardworking Gustavo and Arnold. Pizarro and Gotze were the like-for-like substitutions for Lewandowski and Muller but Guardiola waited until the 71st minute until which the game was out of hands for both forwards to make an impact. The team’s dynamism improved but no avail as the Wolves held firm. These mistakes will help the Catalan coach improve the team performances in the upcoming Champions League and German Cup matches as it has always been the case. But for now, Guardiola will have to live with the result for leaving it too late.
5) Bundesliga is a One-Horse Race? Don’t Think So:
One night has changed the opinions of many who mocked Bundesliga to be a “One-Horse Race”. Discussions like how many records Bayern would or could smash on their way to a third consecutive Bundesliga title and the number of chances the Bavarians have to finish the Bundesliga undefeated reached an end. If Jurgen Klopp’s Dortmund have slipped this season, Wolfsburg rose to challenge against the mighty Bayern. Wolfsburg have played their best football under Dieter Hecking showcasing what Bundesliga clubs are made of. They demolished one of the best sides in Europe playing fearless football. Prior to this match, Bayern conceded only 4 goals in 17 matches but in one match alone they have now conceded 4 goals and even the 11- point difference between the two has come to down to single digits(8 points). Even though the reduced lead will not worry the Bayern camp, but other Bundesliga teams will take an inspiration from Dieter Hecking’s men when they come up against Die Roten further in the league. If not this season, Wolfsburg are set to repeat their 2009 title winning campaign under Felix Magath in the near future.