1. Serdar Tasci fails to impress
When Bayern Munich shocked the transfer market by loaning former German international Serdar Tasci from Spartak Moscow for €10 million as a defensive reinforcement, the most optimistic scenario was that he could provide a reliable defensive presence at center back in Bundesliga matches – and even potentially in the Champions League. Tasci's performance Saturday put a damper on those hopes. Although Tasci logged a significant number of touches and won five aerial contests (compared to Kimmich's one), his poor defending resulted in Darmstadt's goal and early lead in the first half. Bayern's defense improved dramatically when Tasci came out early in the second half and David Alaba took his place. Tasci must improve if he is going to contribute at all to Bayern's campaign.
2. Five attackers but few dangerous shots
At halftime, Bayern had already had 16 shots to Darmstadt's four and seven corners. By the end of the game, the total was an astounding 36 shots to five and 18 corners to none. Every starter for Bayern except Manuel Neuer and poor Kingsley Coman had at least one shot – even Tasci and Kimmich. Bayern took shot after shot, but few good ones. The worst offender? Arjen Robben with a game-high 10 shots – twice as many as Thomas Müller, who took five and had two goals to show for it. Robben played centrally, roaming behind Robert Lewandowski, but he seemed unable to break through and had little chemistry with his teammates on the right. Coman was completely isolated, and the ball rarely found Müller until he surprised Darmstadt and all of us with his baffling finishing ability. In a sense, Pep Guardiola's strategy of overwhelming Darmstadt with five attackers succeeded, but the goals that turned the match around came from spontaneous brilliance, not the measured build-up play that Guardiola so meticulously planned.
3. Franck is BACK
Almost a full year since he last placed at the Allianz, Franck Ribéry came on for Coman early in the second half, taking Costa's position on the left wing, while Douglas Costa moved to the right. Ribery made his presence felt almost instantly. His phenomenal speed and agility were on full display as he repeatedly created opportunities for Lewandowski and worked fluidly with Müller. After an earlier attempt to find Lewandowski was thwarted by a debatable offsides call, Ribery's efforts were rewarded when a perfect cross rolled to Lewandowski's feet and merely had to be put in the net. The timing of Ribery's return couldn't be better. He looks absolutely ready to take on Juventus.
4. Vidal dominated, but Alonso was missed
Today was Arturo Vidal's day. He put in a dominant performance in the midfield today. The vast majority of Bayern's possession flowed through him. His passing and defense were outstanding – he lead the team with 10 successful aerial contests – twice as many as next-place Tasci! Vidal was not only a possession monster, but also was decisive on offense. He took a fantastic shot that bounced off the post and provided Müller the assist that turned the game around. Though Vidal ran rampant (collecting several fouls), the absence of Xabi Alonso left Bayern's back line shaky. Tasci and Joshua Kimmich seemed to struggle to coordinate. As Vidal played more aggressively and farther up field than Alonso usually does, the burden of defense fell on the two center backs alone. Alonso's calming presence on defense is important in the serious contests ahead.
5. Kingsley Coman isolated
As mentioned above, Coman was the only starter besides Neuer not to have a shot on goal. Paradoxically, he lead the team in dribbles (four - with Lewandowski next with three), as he constantly strove to outmaneuver Darmstadt's defenders and create plays. Little else went right for the young winger, though, as he found himself isolated on the far right and unable to connect with his teammates. While Robben attempted again and again to find the net from the center, Coman seemed more like an afterthought on the wing. When Guardiola decided to make a tactical change in the second half to accommodate Ribery, Coman was the odd man out. Coman obviously is a junior player and his role is not the same as Robben's, but a player of Coman's talent could and should be used more effectively.