You call this a formation?

Seven notes on Werder dismantlement of FC Bayern at the Allianz.

1. Stereotyping

A defensive player usually makes an attack-minded coach and an attacking player usually makes a defense-minded coach. Granted, there are exceptions such as the Bruno Labbadia’s of this world, but the general rule of thumb holds enough merit to overcome the fact that Rinus Michaels was a forward and Helenio Herrera was a defender.

Looking at some of the more attack minded coaches, we see that Rijkaard was a holding mid and Arsene Wenger was a defender. Laurent Blanc, a great center-half, is committed to attacking football at Bordeaux. Martin Jol was a defensive midfielder and Croatian manager Slavan Bilic was a defender. Bill Nicholson and Ernst Happel were both center-halves. And Werder trainer Thomas Schaaf, the ex-hardman, has long been the most attack-minded manager in the Bundesliga.

Up until the Euro’s, Marco Van Basten’s time at the Oranje was marked by dour football. Mark Hughes played such negative football at Blackburn, it was unwatchable. George Graham, he of the 1-0 to the Arsenal, was a forward. Fabio Capello, who was an attacking midfielder, is known for uninspiring football. Much like another Spurs attacker, Glen Hoddle, it seems that Jurgen Klinsmann is focused on defense and specifically a five man back line.

It’s Catenaccio football, plain and simple. No matter how you dress it up, any description of it as forward thinking or attacking is a lie. It’s a sweeper system and it’s dour.

2. Pay No Attention to the Man Behind the Curtain

Just this past Friday, I suggested a 5-3-2 with a double pivot as a defensive formation against a fluid attacking team for an injury depleted Hannover. I take it back. For that matter, I am done from this day forward with a five man back line. It’s a flat back four for me. The five man back line just leaves you weak in the midfield, especially in a time of five man mid-fields.

For Klinsmann, this system was a disaster. Lucio was too quick to break ranks and join the attack. So when the fullbacks and Lucio pushed forward, strength quickly turned into weakness with just DiMichelis and Van Buyten holding the fort. Lahm and Lell, while competent, fullbacks, are no substitute for true midfielders. And with only Toni, Schweinsteiger and Podolsi committed to attack, the formation stunk of 5-2-1-2. His midfield was overrun and Toni was picking up the ball deep in the midfield for most of the first half.

There have been many suggestions that had Toni converted his early chance, the game would have been different. I seriously doubt that, because clearly the system wasn’t designed for possession, which suits a creative team such as Werder. On top of that with deep lying midfielders and five defenders, the system was incapable of handling the ability of Diego and Ozil to pull out defenders and then exploit the open spaces.

3. I am the Great and Powerful OZ!

Then again, I have said since the beginning of last year that this was a team built for the 4-2-3-1, which then became the fashion at Euro 2008. And it’s still true to this day. They have two good holders in Van Bommel and Ze Roberto. They have fluid attackers that can play across the pitch. They have one of the three best solo forwards in the world in Luca Toni.

Just look at how more fluidly they played when Sosa and Borowski had joined Scweinsteiger as AMs. Granted it was a five goal deficit at that point, but had those two been out there from the beginning then Vranjes and Baumann would have been pinned back and Boenisch would not have been allowed the freedom to support Ozil down the left. In addition, they could have forced Diego and Ozil deeper into attack where Ze Roberto and Van Bommel could have handled them more efficiently.

4. Speaking of Magic in Oz(il)

I could understand why Schalke gave up on Mesut Ozil. He never really inspired confidence while playing for the Royal Blues. Something has clearly changed at Werder Bremen. He is on purple patch of epic proportion this season. Perhaps he had a change in attitude after Schalke’s parting dig to his lack of heart.

However, I think he just moved from a system where he didn’t work to a system where he does. At Schalke, he never played in a four man midfield. It was always a 4-5-1 or 4-3-3. He’s a speedy and creative attacking mid. In a 4-5-1, his channels were clogged. In a 4-3-3, he was stranded. Now he’s part of a 4-4-2, with a brilliant conductor in Diego to supply him with the ball in menacing positions. No longer expected to just run at defenses, he is now allowed to create from anywhere on the pitch. His best pass in this game may have been a flick on from deep in his own third to start a counter.

I’m happy to see him flourishing as he was such a bright prospect, who seemed to fade away last year.

5. Are You Kidding Me?

Michael Rensing has taken way too much blame for this loss. Astronomically way too much blame. Did he have a bad game? No. He had a bad second half. Should Bayern give up on him? God No! Will they? Hell yes. And he will go onto another club and eventually become an outstanding goalie. The kid is 24 years old, which is extremely young for the position, and replacing an absolute legend. He was always going to have some rough patches this year. Rather than giving up on him, everyone should take a breath and give the young keeper time to mature.

Goal #1
Lucio steps way too far ahead. Ozil threads a beautiful pass (nutmegging DiMichelis) to Rosenborg who is grafting freely between the nutmegged and Van Buyton. Rensing makes himself big as he takes on the charging forward, but Rosenborg gets it by him. Not his fault!

Goal #2

Ozil supplies a low trajectory cross to Per Metesacker. Perhaps Rensing could have come out for the ball, but the low trajectory and Metesacker’s run make it a dodgy proposition. Rensing holds his line, Van Buyten loses Per and he’s able to get a foot to the ball. Rensing saves, but Naldo is there to clean up with Schweinsteiger, Dimechelis and Lucio immobile as the two Werder center-halves run unabated through their area. Not his fault!

Goal #3
A rocket by Ozil to the upper right corner. No way Rensing, in fact any keeper, gets to this ball. Lucio and Oddo, having seen Ozil light up the game in the first half, decide not to close down on the MOM. Not his fault!

Goal #4
Now completely at a loss, Rensing makes his first blunder. As Van Bommel allows Rosenborg to get to the byline, DiMichelis makes a half-hearted attempt to close down. He lets Rosenborg thread a pass to Pizarro, who is too strong for Lahm at his back. Rensing is close to the play and moves too late and then allows his near post to be exploited. His fault!

Goal #5
Some call this one a gift. But once again the defense let Rensing down. Per Metesacker is completely open on the free-kick. Rensing attacks the ball but misses it. Per’s threat is neutralized. However the ball falls to Rosenborg, who is free between an uninterested Lahm and Van Bommel and easily slots in the loose ball. Bad luck!

6. The Biggest Loser

Lucio is a liability. DiMichelis is only “world class” as Rummenigge described, if Van Buytun is too. By the way, he isn’t.

So by next summer, Bayern are going to have to rethink their back-line. My gut feeling is that Dortmund loaned Mats Hummels will be brought back and given time to fashion an actual “world class” midfield with Brazilian Breno. Hummels is already better than all three of Klinsmann’s center-halves at the wee age of 19.

This is a shame for Dormund as Hummels and Subotic are the most exciting pairing to come along in ages. Any chances of turning the loan into a permanent deal are being eroded by the play of FC Bayern and the outstanding form of Hummels.

7. Europe Ahoy!

On the plus side, this uber-defensive style should see Bayern make a serious run in Europe, where defense wins.