Pep’s Luxury Problems

It had been positively hosing down rain in Munich all day. But this did little to dampen the spirits of another expectant sell-out home crowd, who had turned up to witness Bayern’s opening joust in the 51st Bundesliga season against Borussia Mönchengladbach. Unless you have been living on the moon, you will have heard there is a new sheriff in town, Pep Guardiola, set for his Bundesliga debut.

Many had mused over Pep’s tinkering with potential playing systems and formations, given the embarrassment of riches at his disposal. However, the Bayern line-up was still very much Jupp Heynckes’s treble-winning team with ten of the Wembley starting eleven. Injury and illness had spared him any real head-scratching decisions of note.

Bayern’s most recent star acquisition, Thiago, had already succumbed to a bout of man flu. “I need Thiago,” claimed a besotted Pep prior to his move from Barcelona. This is a player who was only a bit part player in La Liga, but a €20m fee secured his signature, and of course certain sages have suggested that the fact the player is represented by his brother, Pere, might have eased his passage to Bavaria.

The record German champions also had to make do without another expensive signing in Mario Götze, bought from bitter rivals Borussia Dortmund in April to much fanfare or disdain, depending on your allegiance. €37m … thank you very much for the injury-prone “Super Mario.”

After winning the title by 25 points last year, what can possibly go wrong this year for FCB in the Bundesliga? Yes, the slate has been wiped clean and we start afresh, yet Dortmund are the only realistic challengers. And BVB will have to improve to merely keep in Bayern’s slipstream.

For the record, Bayern emerged 3-1 victors against a gallant Gladbach side. The floodgates opened early with Arjen Robben and Mario Mandzukic notching in the opening quarter. Leading 2-0 with 70 minutes to play last season would normally have been game over under Heynckes, but there is already a certain vulnerability to this Bayern side (as we saw in the Super Cup defeat against Dortmund).

Goalkeeper Manuel Neuer was at his smartest throughout to deny the visitors from their eleven shots at goal. However, a question remained for the stattos: is there an occasion in recent memory when an away side amassed a double figure of shots on goal at the Allianz Arena?

Bayern were sloppy and sluggish in their defensive work. The daydreaming Dante’s own-goal was typical of this malaise and gave the Foals a deserved lifeline just before the break.

Just when the match was getting interesting and the home fans were silent, or very pensive, enter Borussia defender Alvaro Dominguez, who can consider himself either very foolish or very unlucky. Either way, the hapless Spaniard conceded two penalties in a minute, spelling double-trouble for his side. Gladbach keeper Ter Stegen remarkably saved the first spot-kick from Thomas Müller, but the Spaniard handled the rebound under pressure from Robben. David Alaba took over penalty-taking duties, restoring Bayern’s two goal cushion and ultimately the three points for Pep on his much-awaited Bundesliga debut.

Bayern were equally slick going forward (26 shots on goal) as they were under Heynckes. There was no perceptible change of style, especially in the opening twenty minutes when the machine was in full flow. But the fact that a modest Gladbach side were able to pick off Bayern seemingly at will does not bode well for stiffer challenges ahead.

Teething problems for Pep to get his teeth into.

Personally, I was surprised to see Javier Martinez languishing on the bench. The Spaniard had been instrumental in Bayern’s solidity under Heynckes since his much-heralded €40m winter signing. Perhaps Pep wanted to be seen showing no favours to his compatriot?

Meanwhile in Westphalia, Herr Klopp was making mental notes of the current fragility of this Bayern backline …

Article originally published at marklovell.de

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Mark Lovell

Mark is an English freelance bilingual writer, living and working in Germany since the fall of the Berlin Wall. Interact via Email or follow me on twitter @LovellLowdown and check out my site at www.lovelllowdown.com

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