Wolfsburg and Bayern drew at the VW Arena in a high-tempo match that was end-to-end and full of drama this weekend. An early fluke goal by Thomas Müller in the 7′ was equalized by Sascha Riether late in the game. In between the early and late book-end goals was a game full of stories. Franck Ribery twisted his knee in the 20′ minute after a clash with Josue. Both teams shook the wood work and both missed penalties that they didn’t deserve, while both were denied goals by the referee that the arguably did deserve. Bayern Munich fell a further two points behind the leaders Dortmund, while Steve McClaren’s job was possibly saved by the 86′ goal.
Here are seven musings on the entertaining match.
- Thomas Kraft looked great in goal. It looks like van Gaal’s decision to use the young keeper is the right one. Although it could be his undoing. The kid looked fantastic in goal and seemed to be more than just a shot-stopper. Shot-stoppers are a dime a dozen in football. The ability to organize a defense and make proper decisions is what separates average from great. Kraft made all the right decisions. The problem is that the front-office wants Schalke’s Manuel Neuer, and now that might not be such a good idea. I doubt having a coach mess up your summer plans will go down well with the egos at Bayern.
- Some would argue that seeing Messi or Ronaldo with the ball is the greatest image in the game. For me, it’s seeing Marc van Bommel being fouled. Don’t get me wrong, I have no issues with Bayern Munich and don’t wish to see any of their other players treated roughly. But van Bommel represents everything wrong with football: fouling, diving, cheating, arguing. The sooner Milan buys him, the better the league will be. But until he goes, thanks Josue!
- This might be more of a question than a statement. During the match, Wolfsburg were getting to the by-line often. The passes made from this position were always excellent in my opinion. They were deeper than the defenders and were placed for a trailing player to blast into the net. But nobody was ever there. It would seem to me that this should have been Diego’s role. However, having taken a year off from the league, I can’t say if this was perhaps a space that Dzeko might have often inhabited. Is that true? Or was it just bad luck? Seems to be something McClaren might want to focus on as there was ample opportunity.
- Robben can’t do it all. While the possession stats show that Bayern Munich had more of the ball, watching the game didn’t give you that impression. It seemed that the only time Bayern were really eating up possession or pitch was when Robben had the ball. He was the only one for Bayern that was really having a go at the Wolfsburg defense. Granted they lost Ribery early, but there is still enough talent that they should have more in attack. If your only link between the rest of the outfield and the forwards in one player then you are obviously easy to defend. And that seems to be something that van Gaal must focus on.
- Dzeko’s departure may well pay dividends. McClaren wants a 4-3-3. Dzeko demanded a 4-4-2. A manager that has to change his system to accommodate one player, does no club a favor. With the forward’s departure, they seemed to start the process of converting their tactical shape. While they lack the personnel to play the preferred system, and plan to use the proceeds from Dzeko’s sale to get the right players, for now they seem to be working with a 4-2-3-1, using Cicero and Josue as a double six behind Dejegah, Mandzukic and Diego. If they can get Elia, as has been rumored, then they can have three forwards. Possibly replacing Cicero with a more box-to-box midfielder might help as well.
- There is nothing worst that a referee that loses the plot during a match. Manuel Gräfe did just that. He allowed the players to boss him. But worse was the way he allowed the questionable offside that disallowed a Diego goal to influence the penalty he awarded when Dejegah dove. It could be argued both ways that the goal that went through Kraft’s hands should or should not have been allowed. So if there is a case, there is not need for a make-up call to right a wrong. Luckily Kraft saved the penalty to preserve the match’s integrity.
- With Bayern drawing and Dortmund taking out their other closes competitor, Bayer, over the weekend, it’s over. Or is it? It’s a big lead, but two years ago Hoffenheim returned from the break as Herbstmeiser and won their first match, 2-0 over Energie Cottbus (I miss them). Yet, they lost the league to a red-hot Wolfsburg that year. They didn’t even end up in Europe. While Dortmund are a stronger side than that Hoffenheim squad, everyone (including myself) should realize that there is a lot of time left in the most competitive league in Europe. But for Uli Hesse’s sake, I hope they hold on