Bayern Munich failed to put away a resilient VfL Wolfsburg Saturday evening as “Lord” Nicklas Bendtner led the club to an early piece of silverware, scoring the equalizing goal late in the game and then knocking in the deciding penalty kick to earn a trophy for the Wolves after the game was deadlocked 1-1 at 90 minutes. .
There aren’t many things one can truly take away from these “league winners vs. domestic cup champions” matches, as they’re usually just early fitness tests for players days before the regular season begins. However, some aspects of how this season shall go for these two clubs were made evident. Here are five things that caught the eye:
1) Bayern need Robben
It’s been clear who’s been the best player at Bayern for the last two years. A goal scoring machine, pacey winger, and adept dribbler: few can truly match Arjen Robben’s sometimes magical displays of brilliance. But Bayern’s play style is beginning to slow down, and as they do, the play really begins once Robben gets the ball.
It would be foolish to say Robben is saving Bayern: they are always going to be title contenders. But the differences between Bayern with Robben and Bayern without Robben are growing (see: Champions League vs. Barcelona & last several matches of last season). Some may even worry that the Bavarians are becoming over-reliant on the Dutch winger.
2) Wolfsburg are out for blood
Wolfsburg’s story of success started last season when they defeated Bayern in the worst way 4-2 to begin the second half of the season. It only seems fair to start where they left off with Bayern; another defeat.
Surging talents such as Kevin De Bruyne, Bas Dost and Ricardo Rodriguez are adding flair and clinical attacking ability that few in the league can contain. Wolfsburg will surely be closer to winning the title this season than they have since winning it six years ago.
3) Costa & Vidal made strong impressions, both for opposite reasons.
Douglas Costa was simply exciting to watch Saturday night. Sparking creative plays from the back of the pitch to the edge of it, the former Shakhtar Donetsk man has shown early on that he plans to play hard to earn a spot in Bayern’s crowded starting XI.
Arturo Vidal also made a strong impression, for the wrong reasons. Vidal may not have had much time to do so, but it sure didn’t take him long to earn his name on the record sheet: for a clumsy yellow card-worthy challenge.
It seems he’s returned to the Bundesliga with the same lack of patience he displayed when he broke records with his red cards during his early stint at Bayer Leverkusen years ago.
4) Guardiola plans on sticking to his guns next season
One of the truly outstanding managers of his generation, Pep Guardiola loves his Tiki-Taka football. It was a brilliant play style that worked for most of last season, but clubs are getting the idea: play deep, then counter swiftly and goals will fly into Bayern’s net.
Bayern’s play style against Wolfsburg was no different: play hard until you score, then stay possessive. This is when Wolfsburg are at their most lethal, waiting for that perfect mistake to pounce on. It was through this that De Bruyne was able to run down the left and cross to a patient Bendtner — suddenly, Bayern weren’t in the driver’s seat any longer.
This could be a common place situation when Bayern face higher quality league teams such as Schalke, Leverkusen, Dortmund and Mönchengladbach this season.
5) The Bundesliga was the biggest winner Saturday night
For years, it was Bayern’s game. The “Bayernsliga” was simply boring for others in the world who saw Bayern as the only high quality, European-competitive team from Germany.
However, with the Bundesliga having earned four spots in the Champions League a few years back, those paying attention realize that Germany is far from a one-team league. Bayern has set the Bundesliga standard in Europe, but although performances from the other Bundesliga clubs in Europe have been uneven, there have been enough good displays from Dortmund, Schalke and Leverkusen to emphasize that, while Bayern are the tops, there are other German clubs close to catching up. The DFB SuperCup was a fine cap to that notion: this season will be the Bundesliga’s most exciting season in years.
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