Bayern Munich have ended their Bundesliga slump as they were back to their imperious best when they took apart Borussia Monchengladbach on saturday at the Allianz Arena. Two first half goals from Arturo Vidal and Douglas Costa were enough for the home side, as they retain their place at the top of the table.
Carlo Ancelotti started with his usual 4-3-3 formation with Manuel Neuer in goal. Javi Martinez and Mats Hummels were deployed as the two centre backs while club captain Philip Lahm was rested as Rafinha started at right back along with David Alaba running down the other flank.
Xabi Alonso again started as the more defensive minded midfielder with Arturo Vidal and Thiago Alcantara supporting him. The front three comprised of Arjen Robben, Robert Lewandowki and Douglas Costa, who was making a comeback after an injury spell on the sidelines.
As for Gladbach, head coach Andre Schubert opted for a 4-2-3-1 formation with Yann Sommer in goal. Julian Korb and Oscar Wendt were the two fullbacks on either side with Jannik Vestergaard and Nico Elvedi being the center backs. Christoph Kramer was deployed at defensive midfield along with Tobias Strobl.
Captain Lars Stindl rolled as an attacking midfielder alongside the likes of Jonas Hofmann and Fabian Johnson with Andre Hahn leading the line for Gladbach.
The 4-2-3-1 formation of Andre Schubert slowly started to take shape as more of a three/five man pendulating backfour, meaning, fullbacks Oscar Wendt and Julian Korb acquired a much higher positioning to feed the attackers(primarily with crosses) while the two defensive midfielders, stayed deep and at times, joined in with the centre backs(when the two fulllback were getting much higher up the field), thus making it a three at the back defensive chain when attacking and in defensive situations, Tobias Strobl joined in with the center backs with the two fullbacks getting back into position. This made the three/five man pendulating back four, something which proved to be a real success for Schubert last season.
This time however, it was not to be the case, as Bayern started to cream in Gladbach thanks to their array of widely talented individuals. Xabi Alonso stayed deep with Vidal and Thiago, often seen feeding the attackers with their laser passes. Indeed! Vidal and Thiago created a combined four chances, made four interceptions with an excellent passing accuracy of 94%. While Xabi Alonso guarded the defense like a pillar, the former Real Madrid man made a whopping eight interceptions against Gladbach.
While the midfielders were doing a fine job in the middle, the Bayern wingers were also having a joytime down the flanks. Arjen Robben and Douglas Costa wrecked havoc on either side, switching sides, dribbling in-around the byline and putting in relentless crosses. The duo put eight crosses against Gladbach whilst putting up eight shots!
The fullbacks also played a key role in Bayern’s attack. Rafinha was subbed off with Kimmich in the second half after having 113(!) touches on the ball. The fullbacks put in seven crosses, made ten(!) interceptions and created eight chances.
Since we are giving Bayern the credit for their excellent performance on the night, it’s time to give Gladbach some stick too.
The departure of Granit Xhaka left a huge hole in Gladbach’s midfield for sure and it was clearly evident when they were struggling to keep out the threat of Thiago and Vidal. Last season, Xhaka played in a similar role as Kramer last night but unlike Kramer, Xhaka single handedly swooped away Bayern’s threat from the middle. Even though Kramer did have a good game statistically, the world champion came nowhere near to filling the boots of Xhaka. The incursion of Tobias Strobl in midfield, on the other hand, didn’t really bode well for Andre Schubert either. The 26 year old, lacking the creativity caused a big problem for Gladbach offensively. With both players being deployed in defensive work, Gladbach heavily lacked transition in their play. Meaning they lacked someone who could bridge the gap from defense to attack, someone like Julian Weigl for Dortmund or Thiago Alcantara for Bayern.
Stindl, Hofmann and Johnson positioned themselves really higher up the field, making the job for Gladbach more difficult to have transitions. The only link from defense to attack were the fullbacks, but they were completely nullified from their attacking movements by the opposing Bayern fullbacks, their tally of making ten interceptions within the entire game is enough to prove it.
In the end, Andre Schubert’s will actually be rather pleased that his side did not getting humiliated by a bigger scoreline. Their much improved performance in the second half was a big reason for it. Both sides will now ready themselves for the midweek cup fixtures against Augsburg and Stuttgart respectively.