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Riding a 9-match win streak and looking at an opportunity to seize control of the group, Bayern came into Belarus to battle BATE with high expectations of a big win. Instead, Die Roten were humbled by a 3-1 loss that revealed lingering problems that haven't been fixed.
First of all, it's only fair to point out two things that I couldn't help but notice: first of all, the condition of the field in Minsk was horrible, with the pitch apparently having been flooded over the previous few days to slow down the flow of play. It was less than 4 minutes in when we started seeing divots, and the crappy conditions may have had something to do with Bayern's inability to generate an offense. And second, the officials seemed a little amateur, especially the referee who somehow got into a position to let a Bayern pass bounce off of him on at least 3 occasions.
Having said that ... Bayern can't blame this problem on officiating, field conditions, UEFA, or any external factors. Basically, we failed to snag a win for the same reasons we failed in the CL final last year, especially for the following two factors:
(1) We don't know how to break down opponents that play a very defensive formation
Yeah, you'd like the other team to be more honorable and come out to fight it out in the middle of the pitch. But, you know what? Sometimes they're not going to. If CHELSEA wouldn't play an aggressive, attacking style of play against us, you have to expect that BATE was going to keep most of their players in the defensive third. At some point, we need to stop complaining about it and start doing something about it.
Our FBs, even when they press forward, never seem like a big threat to score; we do too much sitting still rather than making lateral, overlapping runs; Mandzu, just like Gomez, can get isolated from the rest of the attacking formation, and the one guy I thought might be able to come off the bench to really mix up the patterns and show some creativity really fizzled out today (more on that in a bit). If you know the opponent is going to stack 9 or 10 guys behind the ball, then it's even more imperative to generate a quick strike attack when you win a loose ball in the middle of the field - meaning you should be passing the ball back to our GK practically NEVER (as opposed to at least 8 or 10 times, as we did today).
(2) We are awful on set pieces, especially corners
Seriously, we suck balls. It's now gone beyond just the annoying "we always waste those chances" level, and has moved on to a point where the opponent KNOWS that we're going to waste a corner, so they can deliberately clear any ball for a corner and know that we won't do anything with it.
This would be like a baseball game in which the batting team knew they'd get a free base anytime they hit a foul ball - you'd see them doing it every time. Or a hockey game in which a team could get a faceoff in the opponent's zone every time they flung the puck into the seats - again, that's all they would ever do. When the opposing defense understands that "Bayern earning a corner = Bayern basically giving the ball up," they're going to be much more eager to just knock the ball out for a corner, rather than try to clear it upfield or save possession.
Below, find a player-centric analysis of a few guys' performances. Just so we're clear, this is NOT some kind of disastrous situation going forward. We're still tied for 2d place in the group, with two straight against a very beatable Lille squad coming up. It's just frustrating to think we were riding so high a few days ago, and to then see everything crumble. But maybe it will be good in the long run. The new guys haven't been around for a loss, maybe it will wake them up a bit.
- Neuer: honestly, I thought he did mostly well. It's painful to say it, but this could have been 4-1 or 5-1 if he hadn't made two good reaction saves. I guess he may have had a chance on the 2d goal, but this can't be placed at his feet in any way.
- Mandzukic: didn't make too many grave errors, but was somewhat absent and gets isolated if he's not being fed the ball. Which, you know, was exactly what we thought we WEREN'T getting when we bought him.
- Shaqiri: mostly a disappointing performance. Instead of being the spark-plug off the bench, he missed an opportunity to find Mueller with a pass and then blew a shot on goal all within a 2-minute span. Maybe trying to do too much. He did have a nice ball on the Ribery goal, though.
- Gustavo: that long-range goal from a few weeks ago was pretty deceiving - Goose is pretty much an extra CB who plays in the midfield. Aside from tackling and aggressive ball-winning, he doesn't bring a lot to break down an opponent. Even his man-marking needs work (the first goal was one where he could have marked the guy who scored it, although that was a lucky break for BATE).
- Mueller: I love you, dude, but just shut up and play.
I believe this has the first 3 goals (missing only the Bressan goal; which, to be perfectly honest, I missed too). Back with more later. Again, maybe we needed this to wake us up and make us realize what we still need to solve. Thanks for reading.