‘Bright Start for the Champions?’: Part One

Match day two saw Bayern Munich grasp an uneasy win, yet there is no doubt that Pep Guardiola’s men have started on a roll. Here is a summary of Bayern’s first two Bundesliga fixtures of the current campaign.

The competition this season is fiercer than what we witnessed throughout 2014-15. The old Borussia Dortmund that we have all missed last season is back and roaring. Right now, they are topping the Bundesliga table with eleven goals, while Bayern trail slightly with ten. Wolfsburg will continue to fight for the finish line, too. However, even with more competition, Bayern will still dominate with new players and older, improved ones, with fresh tactics, and what seems to be a stronger defence and attack.

What appears unfair to other Bundesliga teams is smart awareness from Bayern’s Pep Guardiola, who is not only concerned with winning the home title but the Champions League, and, while we’re at it, the treble, too. So, it only makes sense when Guardiola signed a world-class player in Arturo Vidal and a young, but impressive, talent in Douglas Costa. A lot of criticism, largely irrational, reaches Bayern and targets them as too huge a club.

It is a shame Bayern’s number one, Manuel Neuer, does not get tested more than he does. As last season’s best goalkeeper according to most UEFA, FIFA and German trophies, Neuer unfortunately sees more of the ball in practice than during live games. How is he supposed to improve without much real, spontaneous practice? Nevertheless, he still is his usual confident self, Neuer-the-Wall. The ball only rarely reaches him and it would be mostly a pass from his teammates, whilst he acts as a token fifth defender. In Bayern’s first two games in the Bundesliga, Bayern’s defence almost never allowed the opponents to form a credible threat on their goalkeeper.

With a shock and a thrill as well, Moroccan defender, Mehdi Benatia, opened Bayern’s score board two Saturdays ago, and the fans couldn’t be more thrilled. Benatia has proved his loyalty for the Bavarians and even more so by scoring a beautiful header. Unfortunately, during match day two, he became injured and will be out for a while.

Everyone who has been watching Guardiola’s boys can see the improvement in the team; the defence is watertight. Their defence is usually formed out of four: Philipp Lahm, Jérôme Boateng, Mehdi Benatia and David Alaba. It has, so far, shown to be the best structure for Bayern. Now that Benatia is injured, we will be seeing more of Spanish Juan Bernat or Brazilian Rafinha.

The Champions’ first two games where totally different; Hamburg undertook the policy of ‘park the bus’, having deep-lying opponents and almost all of their players defending, therefore, creating no attack but eventually allowing Bayern – who kept attacking relentlessly – to break through and score five goals. It is hard to stop Germans when they work in such harmony and with an abundance of dedication. All ten Bavarian players were participating in the attack. Boateng not only has been there in every counter attack against Bayern and stopped it, but he also shot a beautiful cross from far off which was blocked by Hamburg’s goalkeeper. More can be said about captain, Lahm, who was present and created some chances and assists for his team. These two defenders’ performances were stable in both games, in fact.

On the other hand, Hoffenheim were keen to attack, and tied Bundesliga’s fastest goal in history when Kevin Volland scored nine seconds into the game. But, that did not keep Bayern down; they kept their cool and eventually brought home a 2-1 victory with a last minute goal, by Robert Lewandowski, with ten players only, proving again why they are world class.

Arjen Robben, Bayern’s star, has barely just returned from injury. His solo performances when he dribbles past many opponents and scores beautifully are yet to resurface. However, he scored a penalty in match day three against Bayer Leverkusen, and has also been collaborating with Douglas Costa.

There is no question, as well, that now Lewandowski, at his second season with Bayern, finally fits in perfectly; we can all expect more goals out of him this season. The 27-year-old striker is creating more chances which are harder to stop; he tests his opponents to their limits. He scored two goals, one in each game, but the threat he poses on the opponents cannot be measured in goals solely.

Thomas Müller has shown progress as well; he is very useful to Guardiola as he can play in many positions, be changed to different tactical sports, as he attacks, dribbles, assists and scores. He netted a brace against Hamburg and, quite honestly, could have scored much more in these two games; he is restless and fights every second of the game.

Turning to Mario Götze, we see a player who hasn’t been at his best this past season, after Germany’s dazzling World Cup victory. But, when he started this Saturday against TSG, everyone could see more of his efforts when he was given the time. He was dribbling, moving into space a lot, and working best with his ex-Borussia Dortmund teammate, Lewandowski. If he starts more often, he could become even more beneficial. But the issue is that, right now, Guardiola has about 17 men ready to play and the competition waits for nobody. Will he make the cut next week, or will he start on the bench? It is more likely that he will start on the bench because the coach is rotating between the players a lot.

A face everyone hopes to see in the starting XI, however, is Thiago Alcântara. Whether he is one hundred per cent fit remains to be decided by the coach, but he must be in Bayern’s future as an undeniable talent.

David Alaba, Bayern’s Austrian hotshot, has become king of free-kicks, but is yet to score one this season. He is very fast and poses a threat whenever he attacks. Even though his mistake cost Bayern, putting them behind very early in the game, he redeemed himself when he helped Neuer in clearing the penalty goal.

Are the Reds who have been dominating the Bundesliga the past three years onto their fourth consecutive win? Will they break yet another record? The first two games against Hamburg SV and TSG Hoffenheim have shown nothing but positive signs. If any team can do it, it’s Bayern Munich. To top it all off, they also squashed dangerous opponents Leverkusen a whopping 3-0, proving they fear no one.

When discussing Bayern’s success story probability for season 2015-16, one cannot ignore the new players on board. What they bring to the table will be discussed in part two of this article.

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