In all honesty, this was intended to be tactical recap of Satuday's DFL SuperCup disappointing loss to Borusiia Dortmund at the Sigal Iduna Park. However, I didn't feel the need to subject you to what was basically a Widmer Brothers fueled tactical diatribe that was over a thousand words include some very rude comments about our new manager. Instead, I put the keyboard aside and thought about this in the larger context for a little while.
We can pretend that this is still pre-season and this result is the product of any number of the normal pre-season reasons that teams don't win games. We could chalk this up to a team that is still learning a new system. We could chalk this up to a team that didn't have all of its players available. We could chalk this up to being a nearly meaningless match. We could chalk it up to Ribery and Neuer being injured. The only problem is these are excuses papering over the fact that for 90 minutes, Bayern Munich was outplayed and was an absolute tactical mess. These excuses paper over the fact that for 90 minutes, Pep Guardiola had Bayern Munich play football with the direct intent of attempting to bend the game to his will without any real attempt to shut down or prevent Borussia Dortmund from playing their type of football. These excuses paper over the fact the season has started and Bayern Munich already lost a trophy.
Yesterday's game had some very real issues in implementing the 4-1-4-1 that Pep Guardiola seems to favor. This team was too narrow for most the first half. Shaqiri and Robben often cut inside too early and allowed the Dortmund defense to compact early, force the turnover and spring on the counterattack, all too easily and all too often. In many ways, it was a return to the exact same problems this Bayern Munich squad had with Borussia Dortmund over the years preceeding las season. The second half started better as Shaqiri and Robben played with much more width and we're able to break down the Dortmund defense. However, the same problems on defense sustained themselves into that half as the Dortmund team able to break on the counter, and to break dangerously.
I don't expect Bayern to prevent every Dortmund counterattack. That's unrealistic. However, I do expect Bayern to play defense; to contain and stop Dortmund counterattacks. In the last season, Bayern Munich played soccer. They did not play "Bayern Munich" soccer. By this I mean, this was a tactically flexible squad, that played as much to accentuate their own strengths, as to also blunt their opponents strengths. This is what all great football teams should strive to do. This Bayern Munich side did no such thing on Saturday. Pep Guardiola had Bayern Munich fully committed to using this 4-1-4-1, despite the overwhelming evidence that this style of play did nothing to stop or halt Jurgen Klopp's Dortmund side. With the introduction of Bastian Schweinsteiger Bayern Munich stamped its will on this game, and the Dortmund side lost a lot of its attacking steam, but until that time this side was weak and fragile.
This is extremely concerning. The DFL SuperCup matters. Not to the extent the Champions League or the DFB Pokal matter; but it still matters. Pep Guardiola watched this team, with the personnel available to him, be overrun by Dortmund and made no attempts to fix it. He made no tactical shifts and he stuck to an ethos. This is the core concern. On Saturday, Guardiola played this team with an ethos. A 4-1-4-1 "gospel" that was repeatedly exposed for over 60 minutes; a "gospel" that looked defensively inept and tactically unsound.
Given Guardiola's history in instilling a near dogmatic adherence to the tiki taka ethos in Barcelona, this worries me. Last season, Bayern Munich accomplished what, in all likelihood, was the greatest season ever by a German club, by playing to its strengths, altering itself to take advantage of its opponent's weaknesses and playing defensively sound football. Guardiola showed yesterday that he was willing to play to an ethos; to the match and the trophy case's detriment. The warning flag has been raised. Let us hope he lowers it quickly.