After their impressive midweek win against Manchester City in the Champions League Bayern looked visibly fatigued and dropped points for the first time in ten games against a spirited and resolute Hoffenheim. Holger Stanislawski’s men put in an energetic and aggressive performance that was too much for Bayern to overcome as the hosts displayed their attacking prowess against an opponent still reeling from their European campaign. Despite outplaying Bayern for much of the match, Hoffenheim were not able to capitalize on their chances and had to accept a draw in the end but it was the first time this season that a side had put Bayern under the proverbial knife like that, an impressive feat in itself by what is looking like one of the better teams in the league this year.
Stanislawski made only two changes after his side lost in Köln last week, starting Williams and Obasi for Kaiser and Mlapa. Firmino occupied the “false 9” role with Babel and Obasi flanking him and Williams and Sigurdsson playing off him, a clear intent that Stanislawski wanted all three points against Bayern. Heynckes also only made two changes, starting Tymoshchuk in place of Gustavo and Badstuber returning to the line up after Rafinha pulled out due to an injury during warm up.
Under Heynckes, Bayern have elevated and refined their passing game to a great degree. So much so that dominating possession and outpassing the opponent has become a formality in matches. Especially evident this season has been the team’s ability to control the outcome of a game using that passing, whether it is to close out matches, dictate the tempo or to create chances. Against Hoffenheim however, there was a clear drop off in that aspect of their game. No doubt a byproduct of their lassitude, Bayern made a total of 377 passes on the day, a familiar number, but uncharacteristically misplaced 89 of them. That is 20% of their total distribution, a relatively high number given their standards.
Moreover, their central midfielders, usually so eloquent and precise in their distribution, and really the fulcrum of their passing game, were quite obviously off their game. Schweinsteiger in particular had a poor outing and misplaced 15 passes, a match high while Kroos, Tymoshchuk, Van Buyten and Badstuber, the spine of the team, gave the ball away a combined 30 times. Schweinsteiger had a season low 80 touches on the ball and completed only 75% of his passes, also a season low. Their inability to hold on to the ball and continuous misplacing of passes had a domino effect up and down the field. For one, it put tremendous pressure on Bayern’s defense, who were effectively without a screen in front of them and vulnerable against the quick Hoffenheim forwards. Second, it isolated Bayern’s attack with Ribery, Müller and Gomez rarely getting the ball in the first half. Ribery and Gomez were especially absent with just 42 touches between them. Most of all, it perpetuated Hoffenheim’s momentum who always got the ball and were able to push forward.
Hoffenheim’s “Kreisel” and intense pressing
Like the famed Schalke side of the 1930’s, Hoffenheim’s attack resembled a Kreisel (Spinning top) with its short man-to-man passing, interchangeability and speed. Coupled with their aggression and intense pressing, it explains how they were able to get the best of a Bayern side accustomed to doing the overwhelming rather than being the recipients of it. Stanislawski set out with a 4-3-3 with no real center forward but instead an interchangeable attack that utilized five players to put the pressure on and pin back Bayern. Always moving and always willing to take on players, Hoffenheim’s attack all but neutralized Bayern’s wide play and strong presence in the center. For once, it was not the Bayern players that drew the most fouls as they visitors were always on the back foot and chasing the game.
As previously mentioned, Bayern’s fatigue was quite evident from start to finish as Hoffenheim outran them by 8.8 km to 6.7 km. But hat was only half the story as Hoffenheim also created 18 shots on goal to Bayern’s 6. That threat came from all angles. Babel and Obasi were very lively and kept Lahm and Boateng busy and from getting forward themselves. Neither were beyond coming centrally though and both were happy to cut in. Babel was especially active and played an even more open ended role in the second half. Meanwhile, in the middle Firmino, Williams and Sigurdsson were constantly moving. It was difficult to discern which of the three played where but that fluidity and mobility is what caused Bayern such problems. Firmino’s tendency to drop deep and out wide confused Van Buyten and Badstuber who were dragged out of their zones constantly, which in turn opened the channels for Williams, Sigurdsson, Obasi and Babel.
Defensively Hoffenheim were also always up to the task against what little Bayern threw at them. Beck kept Ribery in check (winning a match high 15 tackles) before the Frenchman was substituted with a minor injury while Braafheid did an admirable job against Müller and Robben, the latter yet to look fully fit. Vorsah and Compper in the center of defense played a high line when necessary and played a crucial role in aiding their team’s build up. (Both made more passes than any other Hoffenheim player) Bayern simply could not deal with the energy and pressure Hoffenheim exerted from front to back and neither of the changes made by Heynckes helped his side much in the end.
All things considered this is not a terrible result for Bayern. Teams often stumble after midweek European matches and Bayern played arguably their most exhausting match of the season against Manchester City this past Tuesday. The fact that they still managed to avoid defeat on the road and continued to keep a clean sheet bodes well for the team.
Hoffenheim, while they failed to win, bounced back in admirable fashion after their loss to Köln last week. They may not have converted all their chances but they did what no other side has managed to so far this season, outplay Bayern for most of the match and show that they are in fact beatable.
Other Match Day 8 Results
Hertha Berlin 3 – 0 Köln
Goals: 1:0 Lasogga (14.), 2:0 Lasogga (26.), 3:0 Raffael (34.)
Hertha: Kraft – Janker (72. Franz), Hubnik, Mijatovic, Kobiashvili – Ottl, Niemeyer – Ebert, Raffael, Ben-Hatira (64. Rukavytsya) – Lasogga (78. Lustenberger)
Köln: Rensing – Andrezinho, Sereno (46. Matuschyk), McKenna, Eichner – Riether, Jajalo (67. Lanig) – Chihi (46. Clemens), Peszko – Novakovic, Podolski
Yellow Cards: Lasogga, Franz / Peszko, Lanig
Borussia Dortmund 4 – 0 Augsburg
Tore: 1:0, 2:0, 4:0 Lewandowski (30., 44., 78.), 3:0 Götze (75.)
Dortmund: Weidenfeller – Piszczek, Santana, Hummels, Löwe – S. Bender, Gündogan (68. da Silva) – Blaszczykowski (62. Barrios), Götze (79. Großkreutz), Perisic – Lewandowski
Augsburg: Jentzsch – Hosogai (82. Reinhardt), Möhrle, Sankoh, de Jong (23. Werner) – Brinkmann, Callsen-Bracker – Davids, Baier (71. Langkamp), Bellinghausen – Mölders
Yellow cards: Bender, Götze / Baier, Hosogai
Leverkusen 3 – 1 Wolfsburg
Goals: 1:0 Castro (14.), 1:1 Mandzukic (59.), 2:1 Derdiyok (65.), 3:1 Kießling (85.)
Leverkusen: Leno – Castro, Reinartz, Toprak, Kadlec – L. Bender (66. Rolfes), Ballack (88. Friedrich) – Balitsch, Sam – Derdiyok (72. Schwaab), Kießling
Wolfsburg: Benaglio – Ochs, Madlung, Russ, M. Schäfer – Träsch, Josue (69. Koo) – Jönsson (46. Hasebe), Dejagah – Lakic (46. Helmes), Mandzukic
Yellow Cards: Derdiyok / Josue, Russ
Nürnberg 3 – 3 Mainz
Goals: 1:0 Feulner (5.), 2:0 Mak (19.), 2:1 Bungert (32.), 2:2 Choupo-Moting (45.), 2:3 Ivanschitz (52.), 3:3 Pekhart (82.)
Nürnberg: Stephan – Chandler, Wollscheid, Klose, Pinola – Feulner (84. Kamavuaka), Simons, Cohen (62. Frantz) – Mak, Pekhart, Bunjaku (65. Esswein)
Mainz: H. Müller – Pospech, Bungert, Noveski, Fathi – Kirchhoff, Ivanschitz – Risse (68. Caligiuri), Baumgartlinger, N. Müller (83. Allagui) – Choupo-Moting
Yellow cards: Wollscheid, Klose / –
Freiburg 1 – 0 Gladbach
Goal: 1:0 Flum (19.)
Freiburg: Baumann – Mujdza, Barth (46. Butscher), Krmas, Bastians (81. Nicu) – Flum, Schuster – Putsila, Makiadi, Abdessadki – Cisse
Gladbach: ter Stegen – Jantschke (82. Herrmann), Stranzl, Dante, Wendt – Marx (69. Nordtveit), Neustädter – Reus, Arango – Hanke (62. Bobadilla), de Camargo
Yellow cards: Krmas, Flum / Marx, Bobadilla
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