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Counting the Eggs – Why this has been another outstanding season ... 27/04/2017

 

 

This blog started back in October by analysing the early problems I quoted the old Hoeness saying “Santa Claus never was the Easter Bunny”. Easter has just passed and the three competitions are almost finished, so here we go. The key games:

 

The Dortmund game (click picture to see big chance count):

 

It is tempting and human to explain unlucky events by narratives. It is also wrong. Bayern dominated this game by all statistical counts in the most dominant fashion in recent history against this opponent. They created better and more chances from the 10th minute on and should have won comfortably.  

 

The Madrid games:

 

Real deserved to go through, at least the way the games have been played out. The circumstances of how the games went are obviously well known. Bayern seemed dominant in the first half at home. Ignore the missed penalty, because it never was handball to start with. The yellow red was fair and the second half started poorly even before the RC and after it the performance was way too poor - even with 10 men. In Madrid it was a great fight but in the first half we conceded many chances, which could and should have killed the tie off. Vidal should have been off earlier and the 2-1 was, like two of the RM goals in Extra Time, offside. Casemiro should have been sent off as well, though. Overall it is extremely tricky to judge the tie and filtering everything out what happened, it was close enough for sure. Caley’s xG for those games have been as in the picture (click it), adding an average of 0.30 for the pen (flawy though, see above) and the OG we would end up around 3.1-2.5 over both legs. I like to refer to https://twitter.com/Caley_graphics because his xG method describes performances much better than results. 

 

 

 

The other big games:

 

I picked a few games which I consider as the other big games this season (and added penalties manually). Overall, there had been outstanding performances since the Leipzig win in all big games and overall the team seemed to be in great shape in March and April. Everything above the orange line is a deserved win and everything by more than one goal is mega impressive. Personally, I didn’t find the performance at BVB in Bundesliga bad either, but I want to keep everything consistent and analyse this season as objectively as possible. Once again, follow the brilliant Michael Caley.

 

 

Bundesliga business:

 

In general, in Bundesliga Bayern have won less points than in the last five seasons after 30 Matchdays, the Goal difference, often a better indicator than points (and much lesser than xG and such) is fairly in line with the points won however. Overall there is a time before the “Finale Dahoam” Season 11/2012, the last time not to win the league, and the Golden era after with the treble, Pep and now Ancelotti. The average age of the starting 11 has become naturally older and older, as pointed out in the last blog “the end of an era”. The end of this era is inevitable with the retirement of Lahm and Alonso and the aging super stars Ribery and Robben. The seemingly decline can be explained by the manager change, or it could be down to the natural decline by age. However, overall the GD indicates there isn't a big difference to the past seasons and obviously Lahm and Co are expected to wrap up the league title very soon.

 

 

Summary:

 

In this context I would personally speak of another very good season within one of the best spells in Bayern’s history. It is only natural that after such a successful spell this interpretation won’t be widely shared. But in fact, until the knockout against Real Madrid, Bayern ranked as the favourite to win the Champions League with all Bookmakers in the betting market. Zinedine Zidane said after the two legs that Real Madrid had “beaten the best team in the competition”. Expectations are not manageable after a certain period of success, mainstream media outlets like Sky Sports News keep saying “nothing but the Treble counts for Bayern”, which indicates that since the foundation in 1900 there had been only one successful season in the Bavarian’s history - obviously is utter rubbish. I feel that this generation, particularly Philipp Lahm, deserved more than one Champions League out of the last seven, but certainly five years. Since 2013 they have been consistently one of the three favourites to win the title and went very close each time, playing the toughest opponents imaginable. Looking forward it will be a hell of a task to replace players like Alonso, Lahm, but also Robben and Ribery. It is not normal to win the league five, six times in a row, but most of us will probably only remember this, when another team wins the Bundesliga and we will look back at seasons like this and think “This was a hell of a team”. 

The end of an era ... 10/02/2017

This blog tried to be optimistic and positive in September and since Bayern have had some decent performance in 2016.A good indicator of performance are Caleys xG stats. Check the graph in the picture for all games since the PSV game, the blog's last game (click pic). Make sure to follow Michael Caley btw. The illustration is far from perfect, an expected draw at Dortmund is an acceptable performance while at Darmstadt or Freiburg it is almost unheard of for recent Bayern teams. But you get the idea. And the trend is not our friend, it’s not even friendly or polite, it is a french waiter you speak English to. Manager Ancelotti can't be spared criticism, he doesn't adjust much (at all) to how the opposition play, which gives our opponents the chance to tighten the obvious gap in quality. Good tactical analysis on those issues can be found at usual on miasanrot.com and further down in old blogs, unfortunately not too much changed.

 

 

I don't agree however that all criticism should go to the manager and usually in life there is more than one reason for a problem. An obvious change this season and even few months before is the absence of former sports director Matthias Sammer. Some think he was useless and just there to give interviews, others think he was close to the team and was crucial in guaranteeing nobody would slip. We won't ever know, but we shouldn't forget that he took over after two consecutive championships of Borussia Dortmund, two title less years. Hard to imagine nowadays that the world kept spinning after that, isn't it? He took over in search of “the extra three percent” and the four years under him have been rather successful. It might be coincidence, the squad had been massively strengthened in depth, there was the Finale dahoam pain and the reaction etc, etc, but his record wasn't bad at all.

 

The second obvious "change" is that life has been going on and people aged since and so do footballers, the golden generation of Bayern as well. Ribery was arguably the best player in the world in 2013 (see this statsbomb article), Lahm, Schweinsteiger and Robben were other vital key elements in this year's.

Most people forget this, but the last half year under Pep Guardiola has not been great for Bayern, at least performances haven't. Not even talking mainstream media, who say one day Guardiola was a failure and the next that every game under him was a revelation. But we all need to remember that there were already few great performances in his last Rückrunde. And this time, unlike the first two years, there weren't any injury problems. Most of that gets forgotten because the performance in the second leg versus Atletico Madrid deserved nothing else but a final versus Real, possibly the best game in the Pep era. But the Bundesliga data in the picture gives you some indication, don't forget also that in the UCL we just about survived the last round of 16 versus Juventus thanks to a last minute goal, cup performances versus Werder Bremen and Darmstadt weren't convincing, neither the first leg in Madrid nor the games versus Benfica. Sammer was leaving about that time already, the team was aging (or it was just random, or Pep's leaving...).

 

Still optimistic? The performance versus Leipzig gives some hope the aging side can do it in the big games, but the development under Carlo Ancelotti didn't go as I hoped for previously, the trend is worrying to say the least. Personally, I don't mind a more exciting Bundesliga season for sure, and nothing is lost yet, but in the long term performances need to be on a consistent high level to be successful (this was even for Guardiola a problem as the second halfs of each season weren't as good as the first for different reasons).

Much more important than the short term success in this season will be the future though. With Lahm retiring, the end of an era is all but official. The Comans and Costas (let's not even mention THAT interview) are nowhere near as good as Robben and Ribery in their respectively first seasons (but they were older). One of the biggest mistakes in the last few decades was surely to let go Toni Kroos, a player who could have taken this team to the next era. This job seems to be on the fragile shoulder of Thiago Alcantara now, who also seems, like Javi Martinez and unlike the wingers above, to bring some kind of identification with the club and city into the mix. Süle is a clever transfer for the future but replacing Robbery, Lahm and Schweinsteiger (now Xabi Alonso, and even Toni Kroos if you want) will be an insanely tough task. Nobody from the youth academy seems strong enough for a Lahm/Schweini/Kroos succession, neither do we have the time the players to develop. It will be players like Gnabry and Brandt (potentially Henrichs as right back) Bayern must not lose to the Premier League (as we did with KDB and Sane already) in order to rebuild, and even then it's a tough task. It was a hell of an era after all.


Summary

  • Bayern are obviously more inconsistent this season than in the last four years
  • Ancelotti has to take some of the blame but not all
  • Bayern possibly miss Matthias Sammer
  • The Bayern squad is undoubtedly aging, possibly the downtrend already began under Pep Guardiola, but definitely Bayern have a mountain to climb with their rebuild in replacing the “Golden Generation”
  • The hope for this season is that the aging Bayern team can show up in the big games, as against Leipzig

Not perfect but ... 06/11/2016


Since the Frankfurt game, in which Bayern only managed 1 more shot than the opposition (13:14) and had only 30 passes more in the final third, the Bavarians dominated all key stats in utter convincingly fashion. Especially the PSV away game was nowhere near as bad as widely recognized, actually opta stats have been as dominant as they get in Europe. It’s worth going through http://www.fourfourtwo.com/statszone/results/22-2016 Statzone of fourfourtwo to get a clearer picture of the recent dominance. 

 

Robben has been subbed off against PSV and Hoffenheim and looked about as thrilled as Donald Trump at a Mosque opening in Texas. Some twitter people didn’t agree with the gaffer’s sub too, but in both games Bayern stepped their game up after the flying Dutchman came off and created their best chances after.


On that subject, each time our Wembley hero got subbed the game was tied and Carlo Ancelotti changed the system to a 4-4-2, the first times this season he made alternations from the usual 4-3-3 system (even though he switched back Bayern took the lead v PSV). Mueller looked much more dangerous in that formation next to Lewandowski, being involved in many dangerous situations. Unfortunately, he’s got “shit on the shoe right now”, as he accurately analysed after his last min Hoff-miss, but he will score again, I promise. Soon.


As my in depth analysis last time out showed, Santa Claus is not the Easter Bunny, this still is true. Meanwhile Bayern lost 1 game in all competitions and has the best record in the top 5 leagues in Europe. Easter 2017 is on April 16, two days before the second legs of the Champions League quarter finals. So far there is nothing to suggest the season will be over by then, so a bit more calm and happiness with the status quo is easily justified. 

Change takes time 17/10/2016


See no Changes? 

 

 

Pep Guardiola announced at his opening presser that he will make only minor changes, taking over a great side, which just won the treble. Months later we saw inverted fullbacks, triangles, rondos with Neuer on the half field line and flying pigs. Carlo Ancelotti made similiar claims in his presentation and the change in philosophy might be bigger than it has been widely accepted so far..

Here are five huge changes



 


(1) No overloading of ball near areas in possession 


Under Pep: Superiority in numbers in possession was key to his philosophy, assymetric formations were used to have one more player close to the ball. 90 minutes of Rondo, moving slowly up the field, building counterpress opportunities and keeping running distances short.
Spielverlagerung in depth Article(click me)

 

Under Carlo: Clearly formations are symmetric and superiority in numbers, especially in midfield and the center, is not always given. Ideally this allows easier switch of sides, quicker overplaying of the opposition and more counterattacks. 
     
                                                                           

Current problems: It's  a very differnt approach and right now everything is in a transition progress, where nothing looks well drilled > Movement off ball in possession, timing of counterpressing or drop off, solutions in 1v1s and general decision making are just not there (yet) and all directly related with this fundamental change of philosophy. Reminder: It took a bit to get the perfect positional play drills under Pep too.

 

                                                 
 


(2) Total decentralisation

Under Pep: Pep used wingers, sometimes wide and sometimes narrow (fullbacks would be adjusted to the opposite) but the key of his system was to dominate with short passes through the middle (inverted fullbacks, Lahm cm etcetc). The Spaniard liked the utter dominance throught the center, which easily allowed to overload near the ball in possession (see above), and gave little predictability of each attack. 


Under Carlo: Possibly the biggest change, the 4-3-3 leaves huge gaps in central midfield and the build up contains mostly long balls or passes via the fullbacks. It’s an entire different approach. If you want to watch back Mueller's big 6th minute chance v Atletico you can see how the approach can also work through the middle, with a strong low pass and brilliant control ability of Thiago.

 

Current problems: Current problems with this have been well reported in several tatic blogs. However, this is clearly a wanted change by the 4-3-3 formation and it can be played, but the change of style is very significant.

In depth analysis on the topic by the excellent miasanrot:                 http://miasanrot.com/carlo-ancelotti-problematic-zone-14/

 


(3) More long balls 
 

Under Pep:   Almost only against high pressing opponents and diagonal to unmarked players (Boateng/Dortmund!, Xabi Alonso).
 

Under Carlo:   Many more long balls are played, not only diagonal ones but also clearances under pressure aimed at Lewandowski


Current problems:  Bayern are not very strong in winning second balls. There are teams like Leizpig and Leverkusen or Klopp’s Dortmund who were living for second balls and drilled to win  them. As with everything, this needs training and the right type of players, right now it is just not there yet. Decision making is also a problem, it was easier when long balls were (almost) no option, rather than to choose between two drills (different movement for players around the ball and on the ball).


 


(4) More direct approach
 

Under Pep: Counterattacks, shots from distance and crosses from the half field were exceptions at best.
 

Under Carlo: He wants more vertical passes and a more direct game, without losing the strengths in possession and dominating the game in certain periods (easier said than done).
 

Current problems: Players struggle massively with the decision making at this point of time. They far too often try to play more direct and vertical, in situations where there is no benefit from. To find the right balance naturally takes time.

Again, a mix out of two concepts is usual harder to play than having a clear plan.

 

 

 

 

(5) More Freedom

 

Actually, that is covered in point 4 (more freedom, more choice, more problems?) and more a media topic than anything else. I wanted to have this Picture of William Wallace in this blog though. 




 

Summary

 

Already our soon to be again chairman pointed out that Santa isn't the Easter Bunny. Everybody sees the current problems with the Frankfurt game being one of  the worst in recent times. But the team is well positioned in all competitions nevertheless and even under Pep the idea of play improved on a yearly basis. It's too early to call the end of an era, and even if the future will show it was, it certainly has been fun. Following Guardiola is no picknick afterall.

Substitiutions... 16/10/2016

How long does a sub take when Atleti lead Bayern Munich late on?

 

57 seconds

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