Freitag, 8. Oktober 2010

When the shit hits the fan...

…get a tent. Was it Shakespeare who said that?

Well, the point is that’s just precisely what’s happening with Bayern at the moment. And it’s not that this is extremely surprising, because we’d been warned. Our manager and many other powerful figures in the club (Hoeneß, Rummenigge, etc.) had pointed out before the start of the season that the recent World Cup paired with the fairly long and intense last season would affect the team’s performances. A natural and very Bayern-like solution would have been to buy a few players here and there to fill the gap until the big guns are ready for firing again.

What most people did not take into account was the fact, though, that Louis van Gaal is not the type of manager who would succumb to this old reflex and tear a functioning squad apart. And why would he?

To be fair, at first it looked as if he had got it perfectly right, because the first performances (e.g. in the Supercup) did indicate that the fatigue is there and will strike mercilessly when the matches become more intense, but the fact that the team as a whole was in very good nick and (theoretically) knew what they were doing was a bit of a consolation.

What then happened was a succession of rather unfortunate events. And I don’t really want to push bad luck or anything, but especially in the games we lost, there were a few instances where a bit more luck would have probably pushed the game into a totally different direction (possibly a win). In Kaiserslautern, Müller missed an absolute sitter (or should have passed to Olic or Klose to put them in a position from which even they in their horrid form couldn’t miss). The game against Cologne was just frustrating (as well as the chances we missed – again) and the home-defeat against Mainz and the following defeat at Dortmund was just another of these matches that could go down an entirely different path, if (I know that this is repetitive now) we hadn’t missed all those good chances.

So, is it just a matter of not converting opportunities to goals?

Very much so, I’m afraid.

Can it really be that simple?

Yes.

There are, of course, other factors that make watching a Bayern match not a very pleasing experience at the moment (if you support Bayern, that is). Despite the two key players (Ribéry and Robben, in case you’re wondering) missing, it has become painfully clear that the problems do lie elsewhere. Problems which were also very present in the last season but glossed over by outstanding performances by others. I’m talking about our defense (the problem, not the outstanding performances). We always had a problem in central defending. Neither van Buyten or Demichelis were ever real candidates for crunch-time matches in the Champions League – a fact that became more than obvious in the final against Inter. Van Gaal probably envisaged a future with Badstuber and Breno, to be fair, but the short-term perspective meant having to make do with Demichelis and van Buyten as one of the full-backs with young Diego Contento and Philip Lahm being the left- and right-back respectively. That, in theory, sounds all very good, but it really started to go a bit pear-shaped, when Diego Contento picked up an injury and van Buyten returned to his usual, agile-as-a-fridge self. Demichelis? Well, he’s in a bit of a sulk, because he hadn’t earned a place in the starting line-up, and whenever subbed in, he is very eager to show his unwillingness – so he’s not an option either.

Where does this leave us?

Well, there would have been young David Alaba, but (you’ve guessed it) he’s out injured as well.

Could one have anticipated all or any of that?

That certainly depends whether you are an optimist or a pessimist.

Let’s start with an optimistic point of view:
Ok, I know that there are many players who were at the World Cup and are probably a bit tired when they come back. One of my most important players is out injured for a longer time, but there are still a few fellows on the bench who might at least partly compensate this loss. What is more, the team know each other and the way I want them to play football (something which worked very well last season). So I guess it would not be very wise to hire more players, since there is also Toni Kroos returning from Leverkusen so that’s one new lad anyway and he is indeed a very decent footballer.

Here’s what a pessimist might sound like:
Oh dear, more or less all of my players are tired from the World Cup, my key player is out injured, so basically the team is worth sod-all. Plus I think it is very likely that none of my four strikers will be able to score in the first seven or eight games and we will have to deal with plenty of injuries (my guesses are the recently recovered Ribéry, Contento, Schweinsteiger and Alaba). What is more, even those who should not be troubled by World Cup fatigue will show a striking dip in form and tear down the rest of the squad with them.

Well, ok, both cases are a tad extreme, but my opinion is that, if you are overly pessimistic, you’re forced to hire players that will end up on the bench or not in the squad at all when the established players return to form (and that’s “when” and not “if” here). In other words: you spend a lot of money on temporary replacements which you won’t need any more in a couple of weeks’ time – you could also call this the “Schalke” way of doing things and just look where they ended up.

When you look through the oh-so-wise newspapers who are happy to assess the current crisis at Bayern these days, there seems to be quite a substantial amount of hypocrisy floating around. Not too long ago, relying on young promising players instead of spending big to mend short-term problems was the heralded, absolutely right way of managing a football team – especially in this day and age of financial difficulties and horrible football buyouts. In other words: van Gaal was right and everyone else was wrong. And this was not just his own publicized egotistical opinion – the papers were full of that stuff. Not changing the team and relying on the players who won the national double and made it to the Champions League final in the last season was seen as the daring (but still right) way forward. Seven games, four defeats and only five goals (with one own-goal) into the season and everything was wrong, short-sighted and this major catastrophe to be anticipated long ago.

Sure.

I’m not absolving the management of this rather horrid start to the season – surely not. But one bit of criticism that has always been hurled at Bayern was that managers don’t get time and the management sometimes makes unwise, rash decisions, which are usually not well thought through from a long-term point of view.

Being Bayern Munich, there’s only one thing which will help: start winning games. And that certainly starts by scoring goals. Coming back to what I said in the beginning: this is probably what had started all this rubbish – missing chance after chance in games that we had controlled to a great extent up to the point of conceding a goal. Turning it around at Hoffenheim seemed like a step into the right direction, but then there were Mainz and Dortmund. And these two games showed in a frighteningly clear fashion that many players had apparently not grasped the seriousness of the situation. There still seems to be the idea that Bayern Munich can win games, purely by keeping the ball and simply waiting for goals to be score (somehow). As has been demonstrated drastically by the team so far, this recipe doesn’t really work without nay creative momentum, so what are the possible solutions?

Tackles? Nah, not that important.
Yellow cards, red cards? Never. (cf. tackles)

I’m not arguing that hacking down your opponent automatically wins you matches, but in times when playing stylish attacking football doesn’t seem to work, getting stuck in might seem like a viable solution; it certainly helps.

Don't get me wrong, I'm also quite furious at the we the team plays at the moment. And the performances of some players are beyond belief (in a bad way), but calling the whole van Gaal way into question after only seven Bundesliga games (and two wins in the Champions League)? Really?

So when the shit hits the fan…

...be patient.

And start scoring.

Samstag, 25. September 2010

Sod aesthetics

It is really wretched at the moment. On the one hand I do approve of our dominant ball-keeping type of football, but then again, if the goals are missing, this will bite you in the back rather quickly. And I must say, playing 0-0 at home against Cologne is just rubbish. Granted, it’s always going to be a difficult matter if you play an opposition whose only goal is destruction, but it’s not like this happened the very first time. And it wasn’t much of a surprise, either.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining. These teams do have the right to play the way they play, even if it can get on your nerves at times. What pisses me off much more is this at the moment very obvious lack of creativity Bayern are displaying at the moment. It was painfully apparent against Cologne that none of the players seem to have a sound idea about how to crack such an opposition.

On strategy they seemed to be trying was crosses – loads and loads of crosses. The questions that were forming after the first few goes was for me: Why try something you’re not really good at? And why try crosses, if you don’t really have the strikers to deal with them?

Against Rome (who were equally negative), they tried shots from range in the second half – and hey presto, Rome crumbled and finally gave in. A week later against Hoffenheim, a shot from Ribéry paved the way for Müller’s goal.

Maybe it’s just me (and I certainly don’t know as much about football as our manager does), but these were measures that seemed to work. It might not be terribly elegant or creative, but keeping the ball all the time a firing in crosses that either don’t reach the box or disappear towards the Marienplatz doesn’t seem too productive to me, either.

But enough moaning, there’s also some positive stuff: The team seem to have understood that, if the going gets tough, you have to kick back, especially when the others are kicking you. Now I don’t accuse Hoffenheim of being particularly brutal, but they do seem prone to the occasional (and by that I mean frequent) nasty foul, which just doesn’t earn you a yellow card, but certainly leaves a mark on your opponent. The difference between the Cologne and the Hoffenheim game for me was that Bayern started to fight back; there was one statistic against Cologne that I could not really believe: zero yellow cards for Bayern. Now you could say that it’s a result of the dominant style of play and about 70% possession. That might be true, but if you don’t score, you have to impress the opponent some other way, even if it’s by play a little dirty. If you look at Bayern’s performance in the second half, that might have (hopefully) sunken in.

So shooting from range and committing a few more fouls. Can that really be the solution? Well, it has to be, I guess, especially now that both Ribéry and Robben are out injured. Football aesthetics will inevitably bemoan this and see it as a return to typical Bavarian form: Beautiful football is for Bremen or others, we just score and gather points and trophies.

At the moment, I don’t really care about that.

Sod aesthetics.

Donnerstag, 16. September 2010

"English" weeks

Aaaah, the “English weeks” are back. Now, this doesn’t mean that, after Steve McClaren, the Bundesliga will suddenly start importing English footballing know-how, unless you want to know how to financially ruin your club and put it into the hands of foreign owners who basically know sod-all about football...

On a more serious note, most of the Bayern players were looking forward to the weekend/mid-week rhythm, i.e. more matches. Seeing that they were also complaining about being tired, this sounds a bit counter-productive, but maybe this just means that they aren’t that much into training sessions... Anyway, the way that some, and indeed most players looked on Saturday against Bremen was more like a powered-out, hung over bunch of guys who were slugging themselves across the pitch. However, Bremen didn’t look that much better, either, so the logical consequence was a dreary 0-0, or so you might think. It was actually the more entertaining sort of 0-0 with a rather impossible ball-post-keeper-crossbar-keeper combination, plenty of opportunities on both sides and a bunch of wrong decisions: passes where there should have been shots and the other way round, etc.

Of course, this constituted some sort of mini-crisis, you know: not scoring in two matches, only four points from three matches, not too much brilliant football. Clearly, after matchday three, the championship is halfway gone and the Champions League group, which was initially deemed rather lightweight, seemed a bit tricky, too.

And the first half against Roma looked to confirm all these bad feelings: no movement, hardly any opportunities – and a team that was about as negative as Schalke’s balance sheet. The new and slightly reviving element was Toni Kroos, but even he didn’t manage to break down the Roman catenaccio (in a sense this match was probably the best preparation for the next game against Cologne). It was probably very telling that the first serious shot on goal was Schweinsteiger’s attempt in the 37th minute. And this is something that always baffles me. If you play a purely defending side and you can’t break them down by passing it around and having about 80% possession, why not shoot from long range? It’s not that these lads can’t hit a ball properly. Plus, if you keep them coming from all positions, you might get a deflection, a corner, the keeper might drop one. But maybe that’s just my limited understanding of football...

In the end, van Gaal was probably right once more, as he apparently intended to “play them kaput”. To those who are not too familiar with the van-Gaal variety of the German language, this basically means that you keep the ball, let the opposition chase it until they are tired and then score the goals. Granted, it worked rather nicely against tiring Roman, but on occasions it can be quite frustrating – and rather risky, if you ask me, since there are these days when the sodding ball wouldn’t cross the line.

Despite the fine result, there were still loads of talking points:

Philip Lahm seems to be feeling the World Cup more than anyone now. While Müller seems to be on the up again, little Philip looks like he’s in dire need of a break, but who should replace him? Exactly. There’s literally no one there. Maybe he’ll recover soon and all this slight criticism is a bit pointless now, but what’s gonna happen if he picks up an injury?

Daniel van Buyten is another case of tiredness. However, he’s not suffering from post-World-Cup blues, he just doesn’t get much sleep because of his little daughter. Maybe earplugs would be in order? He didn’t cause too much damage, though, but maybe the next opposition won’t be that forgiving.

On the bright side, the left side of the back four looks very stable now. I was particularly impressed with young Diego Contento, who had a great game against his idol Francesco Totti. Great eye, very calm and the sliding tackles clean and with impeccable timing. The same basically goes for young Holger Badstuber, who also didn’t seem to care too much about the initial criticism (especially after the Kaiserlautern match). Great stuff all round.

A propos criticism: Thomas Müller look rather horrible against Bremen and would have been a prime candidate for a rest, so I was a bit surprised to seem him in the starting line-up. After scoring the one-nil he wanted off (tired?) and the manager granted his wish. I don’t know any figures, but Müller seemed to have covered most of the pitch as if to say: “Finger to the critics, I just keep running.”

So maybe, “English weeks” are the solution?

Donnerstag, 9. September 2010

Bad? No, could be worse.

Sometimes, breaks come at precisely the required moment. When Bayern lost to in Kaiserslautern, I was really glad to be buggering off to Italy for a few days and not feel the urge to read the papers and what not. What was even better was the following Euro qualifiers which also directed attention away from this wretched game.

Anyway, let’s face the bugger.

Starting with the good things, maybe it was for the best that we get an early warning, because the display against Wolfsburg wasn’t that great either, but we walked away with three points. So I guess some of the players were thinking that it might as well work out by not doing too much except for keeping the ball and trying to shove it in front of the goals every once in a while. Well, if Thomas Müller had put it in the back of the net or just passed it across to Olic or Klose, then maybe that strategy could have sufficed… but, alas, he didn’t – and shortly after, Bayern saw themselves two goals down and one didn’t need too much imagination to see this game go down the way it eventually did.

Bad luck? Tired from the World Cup? Arrogance?

Maybe it’s all those things, but it most certainly was also down to a general lack of enthusiasm and willingness to bite back and take up the fight. When you think about it, a (newly promoted) side playing Bayern in front of a big home crowd should be expected to be out to destroy the visitors’ game and basically throw the kitchen-sink at them in terms of commitment, fighting spirit and what not. That this usually includes looking counter-attack isn’t such a secret, either, but it seemed that the Bayern squad was totally oblivious to that and they have to learn or think about these things again.

Worries? Reasons to panic and buy a couple of players?

No, most certainly not.

And why should we? There were definitely things the manager will have to mention, but I have no doubt that he will. And maybe it was just my fancy, but didn’t Müller rather pass the ball in the Euro qualifiers than have a go himself? Badstuber also seemed consolidated, just as well as Philip Lahm. Ok, granted, the opposition were Belgium and Azerbaijan, but they were still looking a lot better.

So what is to be expected from the next match against Bremen? Sod knows. And that’s for various reasons. It’s still not entirely clear how Arjen Robben is to be replaced. A viable solution would come in handy, as the Dutchman is very unlikely to play in a single match for the remainder of 2010, thank you very much. However, an alternative is quite urgent, because the team exhibited in the first two league games a tendency that we had hoped to have wiped out: give the ball to Franck and let’s just see what happens – something even Kaiserslautern can deal with, let alone Champions League oppositions.

So who should be in charge?

For starters, there’s Thomas Müller. He played that position during the World Cup and, in my opinion, should be able to do the job – certainly not in Robben-style (he’s too lanky for that), but in Müller-fashion, which would suit me equally well. Alternatively, there’s Toni Kroos, but his strength seems to be more in a central role behind the striker(s), but let’s not forget Hamit Altintop, who’s just had another great game for Turkey, scoring an absolute beauty of a goal against Belgium. Sometimes I wonder why we don’t see more of that here at Bayern. It would definitely be a relief to know that there is another decent right winger.

And up front? Well, it looks like Klose’s back in shape (and it only took him a year!) so there shouldn’t be too much trouble. The only trouble I really see are the back-ups. Olic is definitely not at 100% (as he impressively proved against Kaiserslautern) and God knows at which percentage Gomez is, but it can’t be too much.

So what to expect from our next match against Bremen? Sod knows.

You can even be too predictive about the opposition. On a good day, they tear you apart; on a bad day the same thing happens to them. One superficial advantage might be that Per Mertesacker is out injured (due to a very nasty elbow on Tuesday), but then again, he did not seem to make that much of a difference in the Werder defence, either.

As far as Bayern are concerned, the performances so far weren’t that bad, maybe a bit lacklustre, but it could be a lot worse; it could be so bad that you’re forced to spend money you don’t really have, obliging you to qualify for Europe (Champions League, if possible)... but we’re talking about Bayern here.

Dienstag, 24. August 2010

“Typical!” or: classic Bayern-Dusel

So there we were: just a few minutes to go until the start of the new season. There was anticipation all around. Actual champions versus former champions, first game of the season, etc. And then came a choreography which (in my humble opinion) was really hard to be surpassed in terms of tastlessness. Ok, little kids running across the fields in mysterious ways holding banners with all the names of the first division’s clubs. Granted, you could hardly do without that sort of thing. But then, mini-zorbs (or whatever you want to call those people within plastic balls running/rolling around on the pitch) entered the field accompanied by some more weirdos tossing signs with the Bundesliga logo about in a very dynamic / poncy fashion. It was all capped off by singing the national anthem. Wow.

Oh, and there was some football as well.

Steve McClaren gave is debut on the Bundesliga bench and God knows what his instructions for his team were. It must have gone something like “You see, these are the big guys, most of them played at the World Cup, so please be polite and don’t disturb them too much in their ways.” It was indeed almost a little bit scary to see how easy Bayern could walk past all the Wolves players. And it was (of course) Thomas Müller to open the scoreline for the new season after a beautiful combination with Toni Kroos (back from a loan to Leverkusen). Typical.

It didn’t take long for another not so surprising thing to happen: Mark van Bommel got the first booking of the season. Typical, one would be inclined to say, but really, these things are actually something from the past. The former “mean machine” (or “aggressive leader” as former manager Ottmar Hitzfeld dubbed him) has been domesticated a tad and most of his bookings usually result from clumsy rather than malicious challenges; but anyway: first booking for van Bommel: check.

So it was 1-0 at halftime, Bayern in total control and one would have thought that it was just a matter of time for Wolfsburg to crumble and accept their fate. Oh, how wrong you could be. During the break, McClaren must have said something like that: “Ok, f**k politeness, I don’t want to be called a wolly again (although there’s no sign of rain and I can stay well clear of umbrellas), you get out there, get stuck in and [insert stereotypical brutish managerial phrases at your own liking]”. Anyway, it worked – and it worked well. Wolfsburg should have been more obliging and listened to Bayern’s begging more intently, since they played as if they wanted to concede: “Possession? Oh no, we’ve had enough of that during the first half. You have a go now...”

If you look at the statements after the match, you couldn’t help but notice that the Bayern players themselves still didn’t really know what had hit them or what they were thinking during those first 15 minutes of the second half.

Well, thankfully, Wolfsburg scored that goal, which, ironically, put Bayern back in the driving seat. It wasn’t very strategic or coordinated driving, though. It rather resembled someone who wants to get somewhere really, really fast – no matter if there are brick walls or anything. Some people would wrap their car around the next tree, but not this team, no.

Of course, the first reflex the seasoned Bayern-hater has is: Typical! Bayern-Dusel: again and again scoring a decisive goal during the dying minutes of a game. Pure luck? I doubt that. It takes a bit more than simple coincidence to not give up, even if you keep running into that brick wall and time is running out. You think that this is just a prerequisite for a good football team? Well, take a look at Wolfsburg’s performance: Sure, they wanted to win, but did they really want it and believe in themselves? Well, you be the judge of that, but sometimes results do speak for themselves...

Anyway: Typical!

So this was the curtain-raiser, everyone at Bayern was happy enough, although no one seemed to be blinded by the result. But people probably had other things on their mind.

During the warm-up I was wondering: “Where’s Martin Demichelis? He’s not on the field warming up. Well, he must have picked up a last-minute, unfortunate injury...” But lo and behold, the mobile internet solved that mystery fairly quickly. Senor Demichelis had lost his bearings a bit and thought that it might be a good idea to act like a petulant child and refuse to go onto the bench unless he be in the starting eleven. Smooth move, Martin. Louis van Gaal was more than happy to oblige and respond in timely fashion: “Well, if he leaves the club, I don’t have a problem. There’s still Maximilian Haas.” (another youngster from Hermann Gerland’s reserve team, also known as “the Wonder Boys”) – the manager’s not so subtle way of putting Martin Demichelis in his place (which is on the bench, in case he’d forgotten).

Well, let’s be honest. It’s not the first time Demichlis waved his handbag around threatening to hit somebody unless he got his will (which usually means: playing where he wants, when he wants). I’m not saying that I would love to see him leave (despite his tendency to include at least one mind-numbing blunder in every match), but there are irrefutable parallels to Luca Toni – and we all know how that ended. So at the moment it looks like one of the most senior players we still have in the squad is about to leave – in a most undignified fashion.

And now we’re off to Kaiserslautern. As a Bayern supporter, wherever you go, there are many other Bayern fans, but those who are not will hurl lots of abuse at you, but I must say that the quality of antagonism you get in Kaiserslautern is a very different one, which is why a win against the “Red Devils” is even sweeter than a regular away-win. Well, if you factor out all the emotional riff-raff and what now, it should be a fairly unspectacular matter – but who knows whether the feared Betzenberg can weave its magic or not...

Typical!

Donnerstag, 19. August 2010

Three cups and a curtain raiser

Yes, it’s no typo. Cups – plural. I already hinted at the fantastic Supercup last time, but there were two more to play for: the ginormous Franz-Beckenbauer-Cup (bonus question: which enormous aspect of Big Franz’ personality does this trophy represent?) and, of course, the German Cup. Well, you choose your priorities…

Just a few quick words about the Supercup, where Bayern played supposedly big rival Schalke – with their latest big transfer Raúl (yes, as in Real Madrid’s Raúl). To be honest, I wouldn’t have been to surprised to lose this one, as our World Cup players had just come back from their holidays and Schalke had a more or less unperturbed pre-season. But, alas, the boys in Red pulled off a decent performance and Schalke did not really stand a chance against what could in all honesty be called Bayern’s B-outfit. Predictably, Felix Magath had another sourly dig at his club’s apparent unwillingness to spend big – something he seems not to grow tired of... Well, let’s see what happens when they start losing in really meaningful competitions.

The next cup was bigger in all manner of senses. As I already pointed out, the trophy itself must have been designed by a guy with serious doubts about his manhood, but the opposition also seemed bigger: Real Madrid. Sounds good, and if Mourinho can really pull off a true magic trick and teach them how to defend, they might actually do really well this year. Again, a decisive loss or something like that would have been no surprise to me, but, again, the lads dominated most of the game, and van Gaal even managed to do his usual stuff and throw in a pretty much unknown young player named Jüllich, who did a great job against Christiano Ronaldo, no less. Well, in the end the Red lost on penalties, but witnessing the trouble the Real players were having when lifting the trophy, it was probably for the best of the boys’ health…

And, to round this cup-madness of with a serious competition, there was also the German Cup with its usual first-round-romance of underdog against the big guns. So Bayern vs. fifth-league Germania Windeck it was. And yes, they were taking it seriously, of course, because if you don’t you’re out, and the cup has its own rules, of course, and so on and so forth… And to be honest, on one or two occasions it looked as if the part-timers could really be some sort of trouble, but then Bayern pulled it together and did the business – not in particular style, but even shortly after the match, no one really cared. Windeck were happy because of the big gate (they had even moved to Cologne’s big stadium) and Bayern were happy to be in the next round and evaded another Vestenbergsgreuth.

After these three cups, we’re getting even more serious: the curtain-raiser to the new season against Wolfsburg, who played in the opener one year ago – as defending champions, would you believe it? Anyway, it’s the first match of the season, it’s serious and everyone’s expecting Bayern to win, which is not so interesting, because it’s what Bayern usually get. But there was a World Cup, important players are injured (Robben, Olic) or still a bit tired (all the internationals), and (argh!) we haven’t had any prominent multi-million transfers so far. The last bit sounds a bit unreal, but it truly is the case. But apparently, there was no need to, says our manager – and I’m inclined to believe him. Ok, Diego Contento at left back still looks a tad shaky, but then again, there were much bigger doubts before the last season, and in the end, that one didn’t turn out too bad, did it?

Maybe a word or two about the opposition: It’s incredible to see how they quickly rose to the top from being probably one of the greyest teams in the league and how determined they are to go back down just as quickly. What opposing teams at the start of the season usually have going for them against Bayern is the fact that there are many new players who haven’t really had the chance to create a certain chemistry between them. Or maybe there’s been a major tournament and – well, you know the rest of the story. Well, it’s a bit different this time. New players: not really (maybe you want to count Toni Kroos); ok, tournament: tick, but from what I can tell, it hasn’t seemed to have affected the players too much.

Admittedly, a curtain-raiser is always hard to predict and I’m usually not particularly optimistic, but even I’m expecting a win from this one – maybe not very glamorous one with an awful lot of goals, but a win nonetheless.

Anyway, it’s good to have proper football back. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I enjoy the World Cup or the Euro, but after losing to Spain and seeing many people quite upset, a friend of mine turned to me and said: “Hey, imagine that happening to Bayern...” Exactly. So let’s look forward to real, heartfelt excitement.

Let the games begin!

Samstag, 7. August 2010

The pre-season 2010/11 - or: what pre-season?

It's the ideal situation for moaning and complaining on too high a level.

We simply have too many interenational who went pretty far in the World Cup. Most of our supposed starting line-up have just come back from their presumably much-needed holiday after the World Cup - one of them even severely injured (thank you, Dutch witch-doctor...). One could now do the expected (and maybe even slightly justified) thing and sit down and cry like a little schoolgirl, but what's the point?

Exactly.

Interstingly, our manager Louis van Gaal exhibited just this very tendency (and he looks nothing like a little schoolgirl, even if you push it). Doesn't sound too much like Mia san Mia (= we are who we are), does it? If one was to be malicious, one could probably argue that he's already making up excuses for a rather horrid start to the season.

But why be so pessimistic?

Ok, the aforementioned internationals won't be in good nick for the first few games, but there's still those who did not go to the World Cup (what? who?) and those who made an early exit (Franck Ribéry, anyone?). And there's those who went but spent most of their time sitting around (Hello, Mario Gomez).

If anything, it's time for the supposed back-benchers to suck it up and seize their chance, because it's probably never been that easy to sneak into the starting eleven and maybe even stay there.

Let's have a look at the various department's, shall we?

Goal

Ok, in goal there should be no surprises. Hans-Jörg Butt it is. Sounds a bit boring, but who cares if he plays another very solid season and does what he does best, and that is not being noticed too much (ok, he's not all that grey, he even made it to the World Cup).

Defense

Well, this is probably the most shaky part in the team; it already was last season - and the most neuralgic spot is the one at left back. Last years contenders were:

Edson Braafheid
Holger Badstuber
Diego Contento
David Alaba

Since the transfer market hasn't yielded an apparent results for a new candidate so far and Edson Braafheid has announced to give it another go (scary), it's again more or less the same crew, with Contento being apparently the manager's favourite, especially since Badstuber will probably continue in a more central position next to Demichelis or van Buyten.

Ah yes, the calamity duo. Ok, maybe that's a bit harsh, but it's probably no big stretch to say that they don't belong to the best full backs in Europe. And particularly Demichelis is always good for an absolutely mind-boggling blunder (between really good defensive work, that is), so it's going to be interesting to see who will make the cut and who will find himself on the bencht between those two.

So the only really firm spot in the back four is Philipp Lahm, who has developed quite a taste for skipper honours, much to the dislike of Herr Ballack, who must have this eerie feeling of becoming a bit superfluous: first Chelsea, now the national team. So it's time now to be a bit authoritative and tell young Philipp where he belongs - back in line. It will be interesting to see how their meeting on the pitch will be when Bayer play Bayern...

Midfield

In theory, most of the spots are gone: Ribéry, Robben, Schweinsteiger, van Bommel. Well, one of the is recovering (from all sorts of things), one is injured, and the other two have just come back from their World Cup holiday. So now it's time to shine for Altintop, Kroos, Tymoshtshuk (or however you spell him), Ottl, Sosa and Pranjic. Granted, it doesn't sound too glamourous. But then again, sometimes you don't want glamourous, you just want not too much trouble. And that should be possible even with these guys.

Strikers

Up front there's competition - big time. And much will depend on the manager's line-up: one proper striker or two of them? That, of course will also have consequences for midfield, but we're on strikers now. Predictably, after the World Cup, everyone's going a bit Müller, but it's probably wrong too expect too much from this young lad at the moment. About a year ago, we were watching him play for Bayern Munich Reserves down in League 3 and we assumed that maybe in two or three years' time, this lanky boy down there might be a candidate for the first team. Not that I wish him that, but it wouldn't be too surprising to see a bit of a dip in form - and who could blame him?
That leaves us with Mr. Duracell Ivica Olic, who would probably also go full speed ahead in a friendly against a youth team - and Mario Gomez and Miroslav Klose.
The former of the two has now publicly announced that he wants to make it in Munich (grrr!) and that he is determined to find his way back into the first team. Well, that's all good, Mario, but these are, as far as I am concerned, the absolute minimal requirements here at Bayern, so good luck to you.
The latter has just earned himself the anger of chairman "Killer-Kalle" Rummenigge. Before the World Cup, Klose said that he was now working really hard and that he had already lost 10 pounds. This obviously begged the question of what he'd been doing for the rest of the season. So for all your sakes, let's just hope that good Miro is kind enough to keep up this work-ethic and, erm, try just as hard here in Munich.

So what's the situation in the attacking department? I have no idea. Should be interesting, though.

Well, and there's Louis van Gaal, whom I wouldn't be surprised to pull another one or two young players out of his hat, whose names not too many people will have heard before. Or maybe there will be another surprising transfer. You know, all it takes is shaky start and the bosses are more likely to press the panic button in the form of a multi-million Euro transfer. Mind you, it worked out rather brilliantly last time.

But now, it's the so-called Supercup, where the Champions play the Cup winners, so Bayern would play, er, Bayern - no, hang on... It's Schalke, the runners-up in the League. I mean, not that I care, but why not Bremen, the runners-up in the Cup? Would that be too logical a decision? Anyway, that's probably just nitpicking...
So here's the Supercup in all its glory: the first title of the season, so important that they didn't actually bother having this competition in the last 14 years. But it's a title and it's against Schalke, so losing (although not too unlikely a scenario) is out of the question - technically. I doubt that anyone really cares by the start of next week.

And that's Bayern Munich's pre-season - if you really want to call it that: a funny bag of ifs and don't-knows, which makes it even more interesting.

Prediction? Well, it always will and always has to be winning the League, that's for sure; the Cup's a bit more tricky (one bad game and you're out), but the Big One is the Champions League. After last year's rather surprising outcome, the team seem to have tasted blood and want take "Old Big Ears" back to Munich. The good thing is that the competition won't start until mid-September. Of course, it's virtually impossible to predict a CL season, but after last year's inspiring performances, there's definitely a craving for more...

And in case you're not psyched for the new season, this should do the trick:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kleriFqRu1s&feature=related

Entschuldigung! Apologies!

Zuerst einmal Entschuldigung, dass hier so lange (Februar!) nix mehr los war. Ohne Euch mit Details langweilen zu wollen: Es war eine unglückliche Kombination aus zu viel zu tun (privat) und noch viel mehr zu tun (beruflich)...

Egal, hier soll es wieder regelmäßig mit dem FC Bayern weitergehen, es gibt aber eine Neuerung: diesmal auf Englisch. Warum? Ich will's einfach mal ausprobieren.

In diesem Sinne: Pack ma's.

------------------------

First of all, apologies for not writing anything in a couple of months (February!). Without bothering you too much with the details: it was a rather stressful combination of having too much to do (privately) and having to do even more (work-wise)...

Anyway, this blog should continue on a regular basis again, but with a twist this time: I'm going to write in English. Why? Well, because I want to try it and see how you like it.

So without further ado: Pack ma's!

Dienstag, 9. Februar 2010

…und plötzlich war er böse.

Die Rede ist natürlich von unserem Trainer. 3-1 in Wolfsburg gewonnen, das Ganze einigermaßen souverän, die Konkurrenz patzt und als Resultat punktgleich mit dem Ersten. Liest sich erst mal ganz nett und am Ende zählt zwar auch nur das, aber andererseits war ich auch nicht gerade euphorisch nach dem Spiel beim Meister (tatsächlich, das sind sie).

Einer der Gründe war mal wieder Martin Demichelis. Es überkommt mich immer noch ein kalter Schauer, selbst wenn er ohne Bedrängnis hinten an den Ball kommt. Genauso wie bei Ribéry oder Robben ist nicht so ganz klar, was passiert; nur dass das bei ihm keine Freude hervorruft. Zur Zeit können wir noch froh sein, dass entweder van Bommel und Schweinsteiger die Dinger schon vorher abfangen oder der Gegner den Ball nicht im Tor unterbringt. Gerade gegen Wolfsburg wurde das sehr augenscheinlich. Dass der Bayern-Sieg trotzdem als recht souverän eingeschätzt wurde und van Gaals Grummeln als lustige Notiz am Rande, hat mich dann doch ein wenig gewundert.

Es ist allerdings nicht nur die Defensive, die mir ein wenig Sorgen macht. Drei Tore in einem Auswärtsspiel sollten eigentlich genug sein, aber auch diesmal hätten es deutlich mehr sein können, was diesmal jedoch weniger an der mangelhaften Chancenverwertung lag, sondern eher an schlampig zu Ende gespielten Angriffen, die viel öfter zu Torchancen und vielleicht sogar Toren hätten führen müssen. Ich würde zwar nicht so weit gehen, das als Arroganz zu bezeichnen, sondern vielmehr als Sorglosigkeit. Das schmerzhafte Ergebnis könnte jedoch das Gleich sein.

Solange der Gegner die eigenen Chancen vergibt und wir uns genug Chancen herausspielen, um sogar bei grottiger Verwertung eine Handvoll Tore zu machen, ist ja noch alles in Ordnung, aber wehe, ein Gegner ist mal effizient und vorne läuft es nicht 100%ig rund. Dann steht der FCB am Ende schnell mal dumm da und macht sich – wie das van Gaal auch richtig gesagt hat – viel kaputt.

Von daher ist das morgige Spiel im Pokal gegen Fürth genau die richtige Begegnung. Zu Hause gegen einen Zweitligisten – eindeutiger kann es kaum gehen. Butt, Schweinsteiger und van Buyten sind angeschlagen und/oder dürfen mal Pause machen; dafür dürfen Rensing, Ribéry und Pranjic ran. Es könnte also tatsächlich interessant werden. Ausreden zählen da aber trotzdem nicht. Arroganz hin oder her – alles andere als ein einigermaßen ungefährdeter Sieg wäre zumindest bedenklich.

Überhaupt stehen darüber hinaus auch (schon wieder?) entscheidende Spiele an. Am Samstag dann gegen Dortmund. Von Namen her ein Klassiker, mittlerweile aber wieder eine recht klare Angelegenheit; trotzdem nicht weniger entscheidend, wenn man an Leverkusen und an die Meisterschaft denkt. Überhaupt, die Tabellenführung. Mittlerweile wird sie ja wöchentlich heraufbeschworen, vor allem weil sich der Abstand ja gefühlt minütlich verringert. Spätestens jetzt fallen einem natürlich wieder die vergebenen Chancen gegen Bremen und Mainz ein.

Da hätte der Trainer auch mal böse werden können.

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