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Five observations from Bayern Munich’s 1-0 win over Darmstadt

Carlo Ancelotti plays conservative defense. And we’re going to have to start adapting to watching that style of play.

SV Darmstadt 98 v Bayern Muenchen - Bundesliga Photo by Christof Koepsel/Bongarts/Getty Images

Arturo Vidal is a poor choice for defensive slugfests

Arturo Vidal is Bayern Munich’s workhorse. He’s the defensive backbone in midfield and he’s the physical warrior hurtling late into the box. Unfortunately for Vidal, he’s completely wasted in a bunker onslaught. If there’s one thing that Darmstadt do well, it’s defend and that was what they focused on. How Carlo Ancelotti decided that this was a game Vidal needed to start will forever remain a mystery to me, but at least Ancelotti knew that removing the ineffective Vidal was the first move he needed to make.

Javi Martinez

It’s been a long time since we’ve seen the monstrous version of Javi Martinez. The one who takes midfield control by the scruff of the neck. The one where opposition attacks break upon him like water on rocks. He’s been gradually getting back into form all season but I think it’s safe to finally say that version of Javi Martinez is back.

Darmstadt attacked Rafinha in this match, identifying him as the weak link the Bayern backline given his isolation when Thomas Müller is played as the attacker on the right. Martinez for his part snuffed out the danger time and again, closing down advanced runners and winning challenges.

Bayern Munich should have never won this game

Let’s be honest. The scoreline from this match should read 0-0 and Bayern should be headed into their showdown with RB Leipzig two points behind. It took a perfectly executed trick set play from Douglas Costa and Thiago to even garner an inch of space for Costa to let fly with his stunning strike. That inch was something Darmstadt denied them all match.

Carlo Ancelotti isn’t afraid to pull a trick from Pep Guardiola’s playbook

After 60 pointless minutes of play, Carlo Ancelotti pulled an early tactical trick out of Pep Guardiola’s playbook. He shifted Douglas Costa over to the right hand side and pushed Thomas Müller into the middle. For nearly 10 minutes, Bayern Munich played one of the lopsided formations that defined the Pep Guardiola era.

With Müller and Lewandowski attacking the centerbacks and occupying the Darmstadt low block, Costa was freed up to attack the channels between the centerbacks and fullbacks. This allowed Bayern to actually get penetration into the Darmstadt box and it was that attacking thrust that forced Darmstadt into giving away free kicks that resulted in Bayern’s most dangerous looks on goal, as well as the lone goal in the match.

Adding in Franck Ribery in place of Arturo Vidal dramatically speeded up the process.

Carlo Ancelotti takes a maddening amount of time to make a substitution

After three years of Pep Guardiola, we’re still getting used to the way Ancelotti does things. Guardiola was always quick to go to his bench; quick to shake things up when games were in a deadlock. The Spaniard wanted to be in control of the game and he wanted to keep the opposition responding to his team. Carlo Ancelotti is more than happy to cede control as long as the Bayern defensive game stays intact.

Many times this season, we’ve seen Ancelotti perpetuate stodgy games where the Bayern defense was the only functioning part of play rather than being more aggressive in changing the matchup. It’s the reason why he sticks with the 4-3-3 and Thomas Müller wide right when his more attacking threats are unavailable. I don’t think that’s ever going to change and it may just be one of the ways Carlo Ancelotti approaches the game that we’re going to have to learn to tolerate.

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