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Wolfsburg's midfield was a class above Bayern Munich

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When the team's linchpins don't play up to their normal standard, the rest of the team will struggle.

Martin Rose/Getty Images

Blame for Friday's shellacking at the hands of Wolfsburg can be laid at the feet of every player that wore a Bayern Munich shirt on the day. However, most of it stems from the middle of the park, where Wolfsburg's midfield pivot of Maxi Arnold and Luiz Gustavo bossed the park against Bayern's supposed linchpin pivot of Bastian Schweinsteiger and Xabi Alonso.

It's always fun to brag about the number of passes and/or touches that Alonso has racked up in his short time with Bayern. It seems that every time he steps on the field he puts up another impressive figure to impress everyone. This led to teams targeting the Spanish maestro with man-marking to take his ability to impact a match and dramatically reduce it. Wolfsburg focused on taking away Xabi's influence with Bas Dost and Ivan Perisic spending the majority of their defensive duties targeting him. It worked.

Alonso was thrown off his game completing a measly (for him) 84% of his passes while misplacing 15 of them. He only completed 81 passes on the day --- third most in the entire team.

wolfsburg-alonso-squawka-pass-chart

As you can see, the majority of Alonso's passes were completed in the defensive half of the field. Of the passes that were attempted in Wolfsburg's half of the field, only one was sent into the penalty area.

Schweinsteiger's passing chart doesn't look any better. Seventeen of Bastian's passes went astray, the most in the entire team, for a dismal 78% passing rate.

wolfsburg-schweinsteiger-pass-chart

While Bastian did complete three passes in the Wolfsburg penalty area, only one of his passes from outside the box found it's way into it. However, like many of his passes on the day, it was awry.

The opposition midfield pivot, Arnold and Gustavo, played their roles to perfection on the day. Dieter Hecking's gameplan was to pressure Bayern when they had the ball to force the turnover and then launch immediately into the counterattack. Arnold and Gustavo misplaced only 11 passes on the day, completing 83%. With a natural destroyer in Gustavo and a playmaker that can sit deeper and create like Arnold, Wolfsburg continually invited Bayern to have the ball, and it showed with the Bavarians racking up 70% possession on the day.

wolfsburg-arnold-gustavo-pass-chart

While the two long passes from Arnold from a deep lying position allowed Kevin De Bruyne to beat the Bayern defense for pace on his two goals, this is not the area in which Wolfsburg's pivot excelled on the day.

wolfsburg-arnold-gustavo-interceptions

Arnold and Gustavo combined for 13 (!!!) interceptions on the day. This allowed many of their quick counterattacks  where they could have and probably should have scored more goals than they did. Their opposition, Schweinsteiger and Alonso, managed only one interception on the day. This was by Alonso around midfield just two minutes into the match.

We know that Pep Guardiola preaches control by his team, and that control comes through possession. Yes, FC Bayern finished the match with more than double the possession of Wolfsburg, "control" also comes from being able to control the middle of the park. When Alonso and Schweinsteiger are unable to dictate the pace of the match in the middle of the park, they invite the opposition to grab the game's control through quick counterattacks against Bayern's ridiculously high line.

Guardiola's system has always been a high risk high reward game. When the team plays the way he envisions, it can be a beautiful sight to behold for supporters and neutrals alike. When they don't, Bayern loses 4-1 away to Wolfsburg.

Charts courtesy of Squawka