It’s more than understandable to say no one was in the mood for a soccer game Friday night following the horrific events in Connecticut earlier that day. And while Bayern Munich have been in excellent form throughout the league campaign thus far, there was certainly a sombre mood during their game against Borussia Monchengladbach.
Bayern’s position now is such that they’re fully expected to go on and win the Bundesliga title. The team are currently atop the league table and have won the ‘winter title,’ but was their 1-1 draw a matter of nerves hitting the squad?
Let’s not get away from the fact that Gladbach are a good team who are on a very promising run of form. Their slow start now seems to be a thing of the past and Lucian Favre’s side are steadily rising up the league table. But shouldn’t Bayern be expected to beat them at the Allianz Arena?
Once again manager Jupp Heynckes opted to start Mario Mandzukic over Mario Gomez, and once again the Croatian striker failed to make any noticeable contribution to the game. There’s a logical theory flying around that suggests Mandzukic’s lack of form is related to Gomez’s presence on the bench, whereas his early season scoring form was due largely to the fact he was the undoubted starter at that stage. If Bayern as a club are not feeling the pressure of expectation, Mandzukic certainly is.
But even the star-filled line up on the day couldn’t muster more than one goal against Gladbach. Javi Martinez was relieved of his duty midway through the first-half as a result of a cut to the eye, but there was enough quality to break down an opposition who taken the lead through a penalty by Thorben Marx.
Thomas Muller as always was excellent in his movement around the box, attacking the centre of the penalty area from his wide position and providing another target for Franck Ribery to aim for. And that’s another important point: Ribery was once again outstanding and was comfortably Bayern’s most dangerous attacker. The injury to Arjen Robben is a disappointment for the team when another option is needed, but Ribery is playing exceptionally well on his flank and taking much of the responsibility.
But then it was a quiet game from the other main figures in the Bayern team: Bastian Schweinsteiger didn’t have his usual impact on the game, and Toni Kroos certainly didn’t provide enough of a creative spark in the final third. Nevertheless, the team as a whole played well enough for them to come away with all three-points.
Perhaps that’s being too short-sighted. Perhaps the bigger point to make is that Gladbach’s goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen was excellent throughout, pulling off a number of monumental saves to restrict Bayern to just Xherdan Shaqiri’s goal.
Gladbach on the whole were disciplined and played well. Eventually it was going to come to one of those games where the opposition were simply too good to completely overcome, rather than it being a direct result of Bayern’s lack of cutting edge.
As Usual, Heynckes threw Gomez into the game to replace Mandzukic in the second-half, but not even he could provide another goal for the Bavarians.
There’s no doubt that Bayern have a squad good enough to compete until the end of the league season and in the other competitions. Luiz Gustavo and Holdgar Badstuber have and will continue to be missed, but the former’s return will provide a good boost for the team to kick on and maintain their dominant lead at the top.
However, there’s no question that should Bayern fail to lift the league title come May, it will be a colossal blow to the club, one which could be even more damaging than the Champions League final loss last season.