In what hopefully will not be a new on-going feature, we’d like to invite our readers to see how many mistakes they can spot in the first 4 seconds of this video clip.
Here’s a brief list of problems:
(1) We allowed Frankfurt to set up with a man in the most dangerous position - directly to the inside of our “wall” and a step towards the guy taking the free kick. This would be OK on more of a straight away free kick, when you expect your other team to blast a shot at the goal. In that kind of situation, it’s important to tightly pack in 3 or 4 guys directly in the line of fire, and it’s not as important to control the “edge.”
But in a situation like the one in the video, allowing your opponent to plant a guy in that spot permits him to either come forward to meet the ball on a pass, or to drift sideways and “screen” the defender in Gustavo’s position, preventing him from trying to get to the ball or cut off another attacker (which is exactly what happened on this play).
I understand you can’t just shove the guy out of the way, but we could have done one of two things to prevent Frankfurt from taking this perfect position here: either lined someone up way off to the near side, halfway between where Contento is planted and where the “wall” begins, or we could have lined someone up just one or two yards behind where Frankfurt planted a played on the edge. From either of those positions, a defender can cut off the kick by getting to it first, or, in a worst case scenario, at least race to a spot between where the ball lands and the goal.
(2) No one makes an aggressive play on the ball in the air.
When I saw this live, I was annoyed at Tymo, because the ball basically bounced off his ass and right to a Frankfurt player. But looking at it again, I don’t know if I can really fault him. He was marking a man and got dragged through the path of the free kick, and at least he managed to knock the ball away. But no other Bayern players even managed to get NEAR the flight of the free kick, despite the fact that Frankfurt kicked it precisely to the most dangerous spot. Gustavo (as mentioned above) and van Buyten both allow themselves to be screened off the ball by Frankfurt players.
Now, as a defender, free kicks can be hard because the player you’re marking probably has a better idea of where and how the guy taking the free kick is going to send it into the area. Still, even if you don’t know exactly where the ball is going to land, you have to be ready to fight through contact and get near it. Especially van Buyten - he’s probably the strongest guy on the field, and he lets a Frankfurt player just shield him away from the play.
(3) Our captain and best defender literally does not even MOVE from start to finish.
Let me first say that Philipp Lahm is my favorite footballer in the world, and I’m very glad we have him. If we didn’t, our record this year in big games would probably be even more pathetic.
Having said that, take a look at the play again. Lahm starts up to, right outside the 18 and inside the semi-circle. From the time the play starts, through the free kick being struck and flying into the box, through Tymo knocking it away with his backside, through Rode sliding in to meet the ball and strike it, and through the ball hitting the back of the net, Lahm literally does not move. He takes one sideways step and listlessly turns his body. Meanwhile, Rode comes from much farther away, hustling non-stop, and gets right to the perfect spot to pounce on the rebound.
Sure, there was a bit of luck with the deflection falling right to his feet. But good things tend to happen when you’re running hard and pushing forward at every opportunity. Contrast his high-energy run to Lahm’s flat-footed “I’ll just watch from here” attitude - which do you think is more likely to result in taking advantage of a lucky bounce?
(4) Even on a very clean play that last less than 3 seconds, at least one Bayern player always manages to STOP in the middle of a play and complain for a foul.
Go back and watch Müller from start to finish (he’s the farthest to the left of our big clump of guys near the top of the screen). When the play starts, he sees Rode racing from left to right towards the area where the ball is headed. Müller correctly tries to run with him / bump him off his route. When they meet, there’s a tiny bit of forearm bumping, but certainly nothing that would be considered a foul either way. But Müller, apparently thinking there’s no way the ball will bounce back out to where they’re running, stops his run and turns around to wave his hand up for a foul.
Again - Frankfurt got a little lucky with the ball bouncing off of a Bayern player and falling back out to where Rode happened to be running. But that’s what happens when you charge through the box at full speed, and find an open area to run through. Both Müller and Lahm could have reached the spot where Rode eventually struck the ball if they had run full speed the entire play. It would have been hard for them to know exactly where the ball might land, but still - do SOMETHING. Maybe you’ll get lucky and end up in the right spot, or at least be near enough to the shooter to throw off his balance or force him to wake a different angle.
There could be more mistakes than I’m seeing - I invite you to point them out in the comments. And yeah, I know what people will say - “oh, you think you know so much about football that you can correct these players who have been doing it their whole lives?” Actually, I freely admit that I know less than many of these players, and also less than several of my readers. But that’s the point - even with my amateur viewpoint, I can look at this clip and immediately see several things that are done incorrectly. Keep in mind this was a 0-0 game that was supposedly a “must win.”
I don’t know what the solution to our free kick malaise might be. I’m sure LvG is responsible for some of it, but he’s gone and there’s no point in blaming him. Will our new CBs / RBs do better defending free kicks next year? Maybe, but the problems run deeper than that. We need a team-wide commitment to defense - not only honing defending skills, but also communicating, working in coordination, and even just making sure the effort is all there.
From where I sit, all isn’t lost yet. Hannover’s last three are vs. ‘Gladbach, VfB Stuttgart, and Nurnberg. Gladbach has a poor record, but they still have a chance at avoiding relegation and they can be a tough out. Stuttgart is low in the table, but their goal differential is not bad and they play well at home. And Nurnberg is a damn good team that might still be in the running for a Europa League spot. With a little luck, Hannover should be held to at least a draw in one of these three. That means Bayern has a chance, if we win the last three. We’ll be back tomorrow with a look ahead to all that, and some more transfer rumor talk. Subscribe to our twitter feed at http://twitter.com/bayern_offside, if you're so inclined. Thanks for reading.