Bayern start 2014 like they finished 2013, dominant

by Cristian Nyari

Defending champions Bayern Munich went 10 points clear atop the Bundesliga standings with their 2-0 win at Borussia Mönchengladbach.  Goals from Mario Götze and Thomas Müller gave Gladbach their first home loss of the season and only Bayern’s second league win at Borussia Park in eight years.

With Franck Ribery and Bastian Schweinsteiger still nursing knocks, Pep Guardiola started Thiago in midfield with Philipp Lahm and Toni Kroos.  Xherdan Shaqiri replaced Ribery on the left with Mario Götze starting over Mario Mandzukic, who was left out of the matchday squad entirely after reportedly not training well enough.  Guardiola’s opposite, and well known admirer, Lucien Favre went with Alvaro Dominguez at the back due to Tony Jantschke’s injury.  Otherwise it was the same eleven that has proven so successful for the Foals this season.

Bayern with the upper hand early

Surprisingly, Gladbach started the more timid of the two sides.  So strong at home this season, one would have expected them to push a little more early and perhaps catch Bayern off guard. However, it was the visitors who took the game by the throat and pinned Gladbach back.  Most notably, Müller and Götze’s interchanging runs up top and on the right made it really difficult for Gladbach and the two combined for the first goal.

Whenever Gladbach tried bringing the ball out of the back they were stifled by extremely well position Bayern defenders.  Kroos, Lahm and Thiago in particular formed a wall that repelled just about everything Gladbach threw at them.  Their best chance came at the end of the first half when Kruse’s shot was saved and into the post by Neuer. Otherwise, Bayern held nearly 70% of the possession and were in control.

Gladbach up the tempo but Bayern reign supreme

Favre needed to infuse some semblance of energy in the second half for Gladbach to get back into the game.  To a degree, he did.  And to an extent, it even worked.  Gladbach spread their attacks better and made use of the space left behind by Alaba and Rafinha.  Patrick Herrmann should have equalized when he was set up perfectly in the 66th minute but scoffed his shot while wide open.  Two minutes earlier he hit the post.  Gladbach were creating chances but a combination of Neuer heroics and poor finishing left them wanting.

But not before Bayern made it 2-0 through a Müller penalty after a flurry of Bayern attacks and shots.  Marc-Andre ter Stegen, who may be Barcelona-bound according to many reports, kept Gladbach in the game long enough with several world class saves but not even he could have stopped Müller’s awkward but assured strike.  Gladbach can take consolation that their performance had more urgency and effect in the second half but they took too long to get going and let Bayern dictate the tempo for much of the match.

Götze getting better and better

Guardiola has no made no qualms about using Götze in the “false 9″ position but has played him in a variety of postitions this season.  Against Gladbach Götze was sublime in his interpretation of the role.  He was the best player on the pitch, had 95% passing accuracy, seven shots, won the most duels of any Bayern player and combined brilliantly with his teammates.  In particular, his link up and partnership with Müller was tremendous.  The two understood each other’s runs, passes and always looked for each other.

Götze's combinations against Gladbach (41 passes received, 35 played), in particular with Müler with whom he combined with more than anyone else.

Götze’s combinations against Gladbach (41 passes received, 35 played), in particular with Müler with whom he combined with more than anyone else. (c)

The records keep coming

As if five titles and 30+ records weren’t enough last year, Bayern’s brilliant run keeps coming.  And the numbers are becoming even more impressive. This was Bayern’s 42nd consecutive unbeaten match in the league and the 27th game in a row in which Bayern have not lost away from home. They now sit on 47 points from 17 games, a league record as well, and have scored in 53 consecutive Bundesliga matches,, also a record.  

For many the title race is already decided with Bayern’s imperious form and lead but the storylines should not be the inevitability of the league’s outcome but Bayern’s remarkable and consistently overachieving performances.  Bayern already broke most league records last season that most thought were impossible to rewrite and this year they really seem to be on course to make them absolutely unbreakable.

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Author: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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