"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?

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