1. Kingsley Coman brilliant and battered in the first half
With Arjen Robben still unavailable and Douglas Costa on the bench, Kingsley Coman started today on the right wing and, in a word, he was brilliant. Coman outran, outdribbled, and simply outplayed Werder Bremen's defenders again and again. Coman in fact led both teams in dribbles, attempting six and winning four. He worked smoothly with Philipp Lahm and Thomas Muller, nearly logging several assists with his key passes, but he paid a high physical price for his efforts. Werder Bremen's defenders pounded Coman throughout the first half. Just fifteen minutes into the game, Coman took an elbow to the abdomen and seemed to gesture that he needed to come out. He played on, however, only to be brutally tacked by Clemens Fritz ten minutes later. Fritz finally received a yellow card for flying cleats-first into Coman's shin. Coman was visibly limping after that challenge, yet fought on, delivering dangerous crosses and even taking a shot himself. He faded noticeably into the second half and finally was taken off for Vidal. Let's hope none of the many knocks the outstanding young Coman took today leave lasting damage.
2. Philipp Lahm has found the fountain of youth
In the last three or four matches, Philipp Lahm has been playing like someone ten years younger than his 32 years. He put in yet another phenomenal performance today, working effortlessly with his junior Kingsley Coman on the right, and doubling back to shore up Bayern's ofttimes shaky defense. It was the captain himself who denied Claudio Pizarro an assist by tackling his pass to Fin Bertels for what would surely have been an opening goal for Bremen. On the opposite end of the pitch, he even nearly put his name on the score sheet with a fantastic cross. It goes without saying that Lahm's outstanding form could not come at a better time, as Bayern can use his support in every area of the pitch, but especially on defense and on the wings. Look for Lahm to play a major part in Bayern's upcoming CL matches.
3. How much longer can Alaba play at center-back?
It is well known that David Alaba would prefer to play in the midfield, where he feels most comfortable. He himself has acknowledged that center-back is not his favorite position, but for the past several months, center-back is exactly where Pep Guardiola has needed him. Lately, however, Alaba seems to be in a serious defensive slump, and today again we saw Alaba making what could have been a costly mistake, as he gave the ball away to Bremen's Zlatko Junusovic with only Manuel Neuer standing between him and the goal. Nothing came of Bremen's efforts, but the entire scene would have been unnecessary, had Alaba not made the initial mistake. Later, even after moving to left-back to make way for Medhi Benatia, Alaba nearly committed an own goal while trying to clear a dangerous ball lost by Benatia in an aerial duel. Bertels pulled Alaba ever so slightly off balance as he attempted to sky the ball, causing him to chip it instead right over Neuer into the net. The goal was disallowed for the foul, but the call could easily have gone the other way, leaving Alaba shamefaced. Alaba later succeeded in blocking a shot by Bertels off a free kick, but he still looks like he seriously needs a break from central defense. The sooner Jerome Boateng returns, the better.
4. Audition for Atletico?
In terms of the high physicality of the first half and Bremen's well-orchestrated defense, today's game could be viewed as a trial run of Bayern's upcoming Champions League matchup against Atletico Madrid. Did they pass the audition? In some ways, yes: despite the drubbing he took, Kingsley Coman repeatedly pierced Bremen's defenses, and Franck Ribery opposite him was also a threat. Mario Gotze likewise produced two promising key passes through the middle. Yet none of these many chances led to a goal. Instead, Bayern's first goal came off of another magnificent corner by Xabi Alonso -- and as we all know, we can't count on Bayern to score from corners regularly. (I will be delighted to be proven wrong.) Meanwhile, on defense, despite an overall solid performance by Javi Martinez, Bayern still conceded dangerous chances that a better squad could have converted. With Alaba currently inconsistent at center-back, and Medhi Benatia likewise seemingly unsure in front of the goal, I hesitate to say Bayern's back line is ready for the challenge.
5. Cheaters sometimes win
Arturo Vidal entered the game in the 67th minute, relieving a battered Kingsley Coman and taking over the offensive coordination with Bayern's strikers. Given how physical the game was, it was not a moment too soon. Vidal made his presence immediately felt, however, not for his gritty play, but rather for drawing a penalty on a blatant dive: Janek Sternberg attempted to tackle Vidal in the penalty area. Despite missing the ball, he also made no contact with Vidal. Vidal, however, leaped into the air as if his feet had been swept out from under him, and the referee fell for it. Thomas Muller coolly converted the penalty, giving Bayern a 2-0 lead. Karl-Heinz Rummenigge recently advocated the introduction of video-assisted officiating, and this is one case where the call would have gone against Bayern. We haven't seen a dive like this even from the likes of Arjen Robben recently -- and with Robben, there is almost always at least some contact. Frankly, it's a disappointing, unsporting way to tie up a game. Bayern Munich is better than that. We may have won anyway with a 1-0 lead, but cheap tricks are not part of this Bayern Munich team's culture.