October 24, 2017

Bayern Munich On Top of the World

Bayern Munich completed a historic quintuple with their win in the Club World Cup final.  Pep Guardiola’s team beat Raja Casablanca in the final in Marrakech to complete what has been an incredible calendar year for the Bavarian club.  Following the treble last season, Bayern added the UEFA Super Cup and now the FIFA Club World Cup to their impressive haul.  An early goal from Dante and another from Thiago halfway through the first half all but sealed another cerebral win for what is undeniably the best side in world football.

Rotate and win

Guardiola made three changes from their win against Guangzhou, starting Dante, Shaqiri and Müller instead of Van Buyten, Götze and Mandzukic.  It has been a standard policy under Guardiola since the season began and it hasn’t seemed to have affected their performance in any noticeable way.  As expected, Bayern were the dominant side, having as much as 80% throughout the first half and putting the hosts under pressure every time they ventured forward.

Because of Casablanca’s deep lying defense Bayern tested them from distance until they slowly but surely began finding cracks.Their first came off a corner in which one of Casablanca’s players failed to read the offside trap and let in Dante free on goal but the confusion came after a flurry of combined and clever Bayern attacks. The second after a run down the left from Alaba from which he penetrated the box and laid off a perfect ball for Thiago.

Tiki Taka Thiago

Ribery and Lahm aside, who continued their fine form, it was Thiago who was arguably the standout player on the day.  The Spaniard had a match high 131 touches on the ball and completed 90% of his 110 passes.  Playing just ahead of Philipp Lahm and alongside Kroos, Thiago was the perfect “in between” player. His role may seem unclear on the surface but Thiago functions as a great outlet for everyone around him.

He is comfortable filling in for Lahm when he goes out wide or starts at right back, he can play further ahead like Kroos or Martinez have this season or he can play just off the forward.  Thiago’s versatility make him the perfect product of Guardiola’s football ideology, a player who is adept at carrying out his coach’s instructions and clever enough to adjust to evolving circumstances in matches.

What next?

Five trophies and counting but that is the question for a club that has won virtually everything there is to win.  It’s not one that seems to be bothering Bayern much as Guardiola has successfully taken the reigns from Jupp Heynckes and built on it in even more impressive fashion.  Bayern are still hungry for success, still show great desire to win on the field and are in constant search to improve in every area of the game.

Guardiola too, who has won the World Club Cup for a record third time, is constantly trying to improve the team in his characteristic meticulous fashion.  He has played a big part in keeping his players minds focused on the task and ready to put in the hard work despite having won everything there is to win.  It’s a similar situation Guardiola faced at Barcelona after winning five trophies in his first season.  The challenge for Bayern now will be to continue to battle the inevitable self-satisfaction that comes with such dominant success and strive to not just become the best team in the world but the best team of all time.

Reactions

Pep Guardiola: “Five trophies in one year is an incredible success for FC Bayern. I’m very happy for the club and very proud of my players and the fans. We have a two-week break ahead of us, and we’ll come back to tackle the challenges that lie ahead. We’re very happy with our achievements, but we have to look forward. My players knew they had to play their best to win this tournament. We did very well in the first 25 minutes, but after that we failed to pile on the pressure and didn’t make enough chances.”

Philipp Lahm: ”Being able to add another trophy, especially this one, at the end of the year is amazing. We made it hard for ourselves today. The good part was that we went on to the pitch focused, wanted to score early and succeeded. We then failed to follow up, and let up on the pressure a bit. When we totally dominate our opponents for 35 minutes like we did today, it doesn’t make it easy for us players. We were aiming to play better than we did in the second half.”

Thomas Müller: ”Our opponents did what they could to make it a tough match. We would have liked to score another goal or two, but Casablanca didn’t make it easy, even in the second half. We won 2-0 and that’s what counts. We’re happy to be Club World Cup champions. It’s a fairytale ending, the well-earned reward for the excellent year we’ve had. It’s nearly impossible to play at the level we’ve done in this calendar year. After this win, we can go into a relaxing holiday with a clear conscience.”

For full stats from the game check out Bayern Munich’s official match report.

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Cristian Nyari

Cristian is a football writer and analyst living in New York City, fascinated with the history and study of the beautiful game and all it entails. Follow Cristian on twitter @Cnyari

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