Newfound luxury: rotating center-backs
Bayern has more healthy starting center-backs than can play at a time, and it’s wonderful. And Carlo Ancelotti has no qualms about exploiting Bayern’s bounty of starters to ensure that our back line stays healthy. Today Ancelotti rested Mats Hummels and started Jerome Boateng alongside Javi Martinez. It was Boateng’s return to the starting lineup this season. He put in an excellent game, and after the hour mark Ancelotti could replace him with his national-team partner and the dominant show rolled on. Can Holger Badstuber finally celebrate his return and join the squad as a rotation player?
Not the return to Munich that Mitchell Weiser wanted
Since leaving Bayern for the German capital, Mitchell Weiser has become one of the most valuable players on Hertha’s squad. He came ready to fight against his former teammates today and played an aggressive game, but not much went his way today, as Bayern’s midfield generally dominated the ball and the back line duo of Boateng and Javi was nearly flawless. Weiser’s most dangerous moment came just before the end of the first half when he took a free kick for Hertha from just outside the penalty area. It was a quality attempt, but the ball flew just past the far post.
King Franck holds court
The story of the game today, at least of the first half, was the total dominance of Franck Ribery. Ribery has been in phenomenal form to start the season, and today was no different. Ribery’s pace and dribbling flummoxed Hertha, and he showed great chemistry again with David Alaba, who was instrumental in setting up Ribery’s goal. All credit has to go to Ribery himself, who singlehandedly out-dribbled three Hertha defenders to fire an excellent shot just under Rune Jarstein. Ribery is proving yet again that he has much more to give Bayern Munich. What luxury that Ancelotti could bring on Kingsley Coman for him to spare his legs.
Thiago channels his inner Vidal
After failing to reach his own high standards in a few games, Thiago seemed to announce his return to form with a bold, aggressive performance today. Thiago played with surprising bravado today, twice taking dangerous shots on Hertha’s goal from well outside. Thiago likewise was a force to be reckoned with in the midfield, helping stifle Hertha’s offense before it could even get started. Thiago’s aggressive performance today was rewarded most handsomely in his surprising second-half goal: after providing an assist to Lewandowski, whose goal was disallowed for offsides, Thiago took matters into his own hands. Hertha’s keeper Jarnstein unadvisedly played the ball to Allan, who simply had nowhere to go. Thiago coolly dispossessed him, knocking him down, and put the ball past Jarnstein in the back of the net. A moment later, he served an assist to Arjen Robben. I hope to see much more of this aggressive, physical – almost Vidalesque – version of Thiago.
Robben rides again - but who stays behind?
Arjen Robben at last celebrated his comeback in the second half today, coming on for Thomas Müller for twenty-five minutes of scintillating play. In a word, Robben was Robben: simply brilliant. Despite some initial miscues with Philipp Lahm, Robben soon hit his stride and began terrorizing Hertha’s hapless left-backs. In the 72nd minute, we saw – for the first time in what seems like ages – that familiar scene: Robben with the ball at his feet out right, cutting in left and curling a perfect strike into the far corner. Robben’s seemingly effortless return to form raises an important question: will Ancelotti start him, and if so, who does he drive to the bench? Today, breaking Bayern’s most famous unwritten rule – that you don’t bench Müller – Robben succeeded where Müller had not. Can Ancelotti devise a lineup that can accommodate both of them, or is a rotating Robben, not necessarily with Müller, the best way to keep the Dutchman fit?