A disappointing start to the Bundeliga campaign. Bayern controlled possession but couldn't cash in, 'Gladbach took advantage of an error from Manuel Neuer to score and then hangs on for life. I guess the main take-away point is that we can't blame all of last year's struggles on Louis van Gaal; today was a performance straight out of the depths of the van Gaal era, and the players don't have anyone left to blame but themselves.
In the last thread, I said we need better finishing, but the problem is actually less about final-touch finishing and more about creating high-percentage chances in the first place. In order to score a lot of goals, you want to do three things: control possession of the ball, turn sustained possession into good chances within 20 yards of the goal, and then turning those chances into goals. It's actually the second step that we're struggling with. Bastian used to be our string-puller, setting up teammates from the middle of the field. He continues to struggle in that role. Muller looked OK, but his role is unclear and constantly changing. Gomez is supposed to be the finisher, but his two best chances today resulted in a header off the pipe and a lunge at the ball where he missed entirely (this was the one where the ESPN 3 announcer said, correctly, that "any touch at all would have put that ball into the back of the net."
The goal was clearly a Neuer mistake. He decided early to go out and meet the ball, but didn't realize how fast Igor could close, and/or just couldn't get high enough to stuff the header. It almost looked like Neuer was trying to both knock the ball away and also start the break going in the other direction, rather than just clearing the danger. Take a look:
I'm not at a panic point yet, and we did do some things right. Our right side - Rafinha and Robben - at least brought the effort. Gustavo did well until he tweaked his ankle on a bad landing. And, to be fair, Neuer did have a nice save in the first half. What we really need is this: a way to consistently turn spells of possession into high-percentage shots. It used to be Robben and Ribery carving up the flanks, combined with Schweinsteiger sending in good passes from the deep middle. Two of those three fountains have dried up - Schweinsteiger's passing doesn't have the same precision and danger as it used to, and we practically never creat anything from the the left side. Only the Robben cut-in still works, and defenses are starting to get wise to the fact that he always cuts inside. Even so, he had one good attempt with that move, and forced a diving save. But I can't help but think he would be better served to occasionnally cut it back to the right, or even spin off the first step and go back out to the right. Even if he did that just once a game, it would force the defenders to respect both sides, and maybe open up the left a bit.
Uli seems appropriately upset. We'll see what happens this week (when most players will be gone with national teams anyway). More analysis tomorrow. Thanks for reading.