Forza Futbol

A Better Lens at Spanish Football

Diehard Bayern München supporter @RedRobbery takes a look at Bayern’s dream of playing in the ‘home’ Champions league final at the Allianz Arena in May 2012. Specifically, he talks about how Bayern will sink the yellow submarine, Villarreal. It is a great read.

Take us home, Champions League – this season’s CL final will take place in Munich’s Allianz Arena, home of Villarreal’s opponent FC Bayern. It goes without saying that the possibility of being the first to win the arguably most important club trophy at home (AS Roma came close in 1984 but lost the shootout against Liverpool) motivates the club even more than usual. Changes were needed after a disappointing season and they did their best to fix the mistakes. What mistakes?

You might remember the great 2009-10 campaign. Louis van Gaal’s first season in Germany, a brilliant Arjen Robben dominating everything and only one win short of a (trophy-wise) perfect season. What seemed like the beginning of a Dutch era in Munich from the outside actually was far from perfect and the following season made the flaws obvious.

The offense became more and more predictable, it was an open secret among coaches how to prevent Bayern from scoring. Too static, too horizontal, too dependent on solo runs, mistakes or sometimes pure luck.

The defense had lots of room to improve but did not at all. Lack of support from midfielders, confused defenders when possession was lost, a team out of position struggling to stop counter-attacks.

Last but not least: a coach unwilling to spot or at least unwilling to acknowledge the mistakes. Louis van Gaal is by no means a bad coach but he definitely is a stubborn one. Tell him he did something wrong and, come hell or high water, he’ll do everything to prove that he was right.

Van Gaal’s former assistant Andries Jonker somewhat saved the season by reaching the important CL qualification spot but the bosses knew that the time to shake things up a bit has come.

This summer, Bayern signed the world-class keeper Manuel Neuer, talented center back Jerome Boateng, rock-solid right-back Rafinha for the regular lineup, promising Nils Petersen to replace the ageing, considering his club performances massively overpaid Miroslav Klose and Japan’s biggest talent Takashi Usami as a long-term project and potential future Ribery/Robben replacement.

Now you might be thinking: “That’s not a lot of fresh blood for a rebuild.” You’re right, because I haven’t mentioned the maybe most important signing yet: the new coach, Jupp Heynckes.

Granted, Heynckes, aged 66, won’t change world football and it’s thinking anymore. Many criticized the appointment because of this, because of it having short-term solution written all over it. I think it was the right decision. In my opinion, the worst thing you can do after a coach who’s always focused on his very own playing philosophy fails is to immediately sign another coach with a complex, unique idea of how to play football. Players aren’t machines, you first need to get rid of the old thinking before starting to implement a new one. This is what Jupp Heynckes is there for. Give the offense the freedom it so blatantly lacks and teach the defense, no, teach the entire team how to defend. Simply put: fix the mistakes.

So far it looks like Heynckes does exactly that. The offense rotates, penetrates, switches positions, has fun. Especially Franck Ribery, who seemed to have anything but a good time under van Gaal, finally starts to play like his old self again (a minor hint at his often disappointing performances for the French national team but this is a different story…). Even more importantly, after everlasting doubts, the existence of a defense can be confirmed. In 8 competitive matches, Bayern conceded one, I repeat, one goal, an incredibly fluky one at that. Some say that this means nothing, that the team has yet to face a real offense (I guess Villarreal can be counted as that). What these people forget is that the back line even struggled against those “weak” teams too often. Nobody is thinking that this is Europe’s best defense in the making but a remarkable improvement can’t be denied.

You’ll see la bestia negra (yes, Bayern should be wearing black shirts) return to Spain in a 4-2-3-1 formation. With Arjen Robben unavailable due to a nagging injury that might be gone in a few days or a few weeks, something rather rare will be seen: one inverted wing and one ‘normal’ one. On the left there will be the right-footed Philipp Lahm and Franck Ribery, on the right, barring surprises, the likewise right-footed Rafinha and Thomas Müller will try to cause havoc. Bayern’s game will shift to the left (Müller doesn’t need positions, anyway) with Bastian Schweinsteiger directing the offense and Luiz Gustavo (or Anatoliy Tymoshchuk) stopping opponents before a real counter-attack starts. Left-back Philipp Lahm will often cut inside and pass the ball to Toni Kroos, Mario Gomez or Thomas Müller, right-back Rafinha on the other hand will mostly supply Gomez with crosses. The wingers, Ribery and Müller, will always do the unexpected, don’t think that Ribery only cuts inside because of being an inverted winger, he can just as well run to the goal line, enter the box and play a dangerous pass. But enough of the tactical features, Juan Carlos Garrido might read this…

The starting lineup isn’t always easy to predict since Jupp Heynckes likes to rotate and give every player a chance to shine but the most likely starting XI is the following:

 Manuel Neuer

Rafinha – Jerome Boateng – Holger Badstuber – Philipp Lahm

Luiz Gustavo – Bastian Schweinsteiger

Thomas Müller – Toni Kroos – Franck Ribery

Mario Gomez

This won’t be an easy match for either team. What’s gonna have the bigger negative impact? Villarreal’s respect for one of Europe’s most prestigious teams or Bayern’s respect for the loud, yellow El Madrigal? Time will tell, either way I’m sure that this is gonna be a very interesting and entertaining affair. Any loss can break your neck in this group of death.

If there are any further questions, contact me on Twitter @redrobbery and feel free to visit my blog RedRobbery  to find out more about the team that’s gonna try to sink the yellow submarine.

Read the Dinamo Zagreb – Real Madrid preview

super submarino On September - 13 - 2011

3 Responses so far.

  1. VIVA-BOLA says:

    Villarreal 50% – 50% Bayern

  2. [...] two months ago on the eve of Villarreal – Bayern, both these teams were about to kick-off the 2011-12 Champions League group phase. Believe it or [...]

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