Bayern Munich beat Borussia Dortmund 3-1 at the Signal Iduna Park to move four points clear at the top of the Bundesliga on Saturday evening. Arjen Robben and Robert Lewandowski put the visitors 2-0 up at half time before David Alaba extended the lead midway through the second half prior to Marc Bartra’s late consolation.
Let’s take a look at a few of the main talking points after another exciting Klassiker.
BVB’s defensive deficiencies remain
Borussia Dortmund opened their Bundesliga campaign with five clean sheets, but midway through that run they were given a reality check with a 3-1 defeat at Tottenham in the Champions League. Dortmund have kept one clean sheet in their last 10 competitive games, a 5-0 win at third division side Magdeburg in the DFB Pokal.
Injuries to their first choice full-backs hasn’t helped, with Raphaël Guerreiro, Marcel Schmelzer, Erik Durm and Lukasz Piszczek all unavailable for Peter Bosz at various stages this season. Let’s not forget that Sokratis was forced off just before half-time against Bayern, but it could be a blessing in disguise for Bosz in the long run.
Jeremy Toljan, Dan-Axel Zagadou and Bartra have been covering the full-back positions with the players mentioned above absent, the Spaniard taking over the right-back role since Piszczek’s injury playing for Poland in early October. Bartra has performed admirably but right-back is not his natural position and we saw against Bayern how Kingsley Coman and Alaba repeatedly targeted him to take advantage.
In fairness to Bartra he was given little support, especially from Andriy Yarmolenko, but when Bosz was forced to bring on Toljan for Sokratis and Barta moved back into central defence, it was perhaps what we should have seen from the start with Ömer Toprak on the bench. Showing more faith in Toljan and keeping the Bartra/Sokratis partnership together in central defence could be the way forward until Piszczek and/or Durm return.
Pulisic shines again
There were few positives for Dortmund to take from the defeat, but Christian Pulisic’s performance was clearly one of them. The 19-year-old attempted 12 dribbles and completed eight of them, doing everything in his power to break through the Bayern defence without much help from his teammates.
Peter Bosz told Sky after the match: “Pulisic was clearly the best player in our team, he had an incredible game.”
The American continually tried to get his his side back in the contest and was finally rewarded with a fantastic piece of skill in the final minutes of the match. Cornered by three Bayern players, he managed to evade Sebastian Rudy, nutmeg Robben and bypass Joshua Kimmich with a pass to Gonzalo Castro who set up Bartra for Dortmund’s late consolation goal.
Bayern Munich great Lothar Matthaus said after the match that his former club should do everything they can to sign the USA international, telling Sky: “If Bayern Munich someday looks for a replacement for Robben and Ribery, then they have to put out their feelers for Pulisic. With his confidence and his speed, he is called to higher [things].”
Pulisic was expected to climb up the pecking order after Ousmane Dembélé’s move to Barcelona and ongoing injuries to Marco Reus and André Schürrle, but has often found himself behind new acquisitions Andriy Yarmolenko and Maximilian Philipp for the wide attacking positions. This could have been the performance to finally convince Bosz that despite his age and experience, Pulisic deserves to be one of the first names on Dortmund’s team sheet.
A month is a long time in football
Bayern Munich’s 3-0 Champions League loss at Paris Saint-Germain in late September was a major turning point for the Bavarian club, and when they threw away another 2-0 lead in the Bundesliga at Hertha Berlin days later Carlo Ancelotti’s time was up. Jupp Heynckes returned to the club and month later, Bayern have since turned a five point deficit into a four point lead.
Those thinking that Dortmund’s great start under Bosz suddenly made them title favourites must now realise it was merely an illusion, with Bayern back on track under Heynckes and in pole position to win their sixth successive Bundesliga title. It’s another lesson to remember that fortunes can change very fast in football, and teams full of top quality international talent just need a push in the right direction to regain their best form.
Hoeneß and Rummenigge got it right
The expressions on the faces of Uli Hoeneß and Karl-Heinz Rummenigge on that dark night in Paris was bad news for Ancelotti. The Italian tactician had clearly lost the dressing room, his team were humiliated by a Champions League rival and they were playing bland, uninspiring football.
It’s unclear when Hoeneß and Rummenigge convinced Heynckes to return to the Allianz Arena, but the 72-year-old has clearly justified their decision. Heynckes’ sound relationship with many of Bayern’s stars including Robben was all that was really required, with a few minor tactical switches helping such as Javi Martinez returning to a holding midfield role.
With so many players unhappy and confused under Ancelotti, they have regained their joy on the pitch and are moving forward as a cohesive unit. Robben is clearly enjoying himself, telling reporters after the Klassiker victory: “We’ve raised the bar again in terms of our football, this was our best performance of the season; we played like a team again.”
It appears that Bayern Munich are well on their way to another Bundesliga title. It’s unlikely that RB Leipzig, Borussia Dortmund or Schalke 04 can realistically mount a sustained title challenge against the Bavarian giants, but the illusion that it was possible was fun while it lasted.
By Matthew Marshall.