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German Football Column: Bayern Munich’s 3-4-3, Jurgen Klopp’s error & more

A brand new feature on this website is the introduction of weekly & fortnightly columns focusing on various leagues, countries and regions across the World. Mustafa Tousif analyses and gives his opinion here on the latest events in German football.

German Football Column

Bayern Munich at the top has become a regular phenomenon in the Bundesliga for the last few seasons. However the rest of the teams are battling out in the table with only three points separating the next five after the leaders.

Dortmund’s poor run continued with another shock defeat, this time against Koln. Bayern rocked by Thiago’s injury finally had a reason to smile with a 6 goal victory. Elsewhere Roberto di Matteo made his Bundesliga debut with an impressive display.

3-4-3 working for Bayern

Guardiola’s new formation, the 3-4-3, seems to be running at a full swing even without Bastian Schweinsteiger, Javi Martinez and Thiago Alcantara. In absence of these three players, Philipp Lahm and Xabi Alonso are playing as the central midfielders and even scored three of the six goals in the comfortable 6-0 victory over Werder Bremen. It was important for Bayern to ensure a win as early as possible as they face a crucial Champions League game against Roma this Tuesday. The game was settled in the first half as Bayern took a four goal advantage and Pep had the luxury of taking off some key personnel early in the second half.

It will be interesting whether to see whether Pep continues to use this 3-4-3 formation against Roma as Bayern will definitely be exposed to more attacking threats this coming Tuesday in Italy. The use of a 3 man back line could certainly be exposed with Roma’s quick attacks down the wings with over-lapping full-backs and the impressive Gervinho.

Guardiola recently claimed his inability to alter approaches to contend with Real Madrid last season as the reason for their embarrassing loss, so it’s fair to assume he won’t go in with the 3-4-3 unless he’s entirely sure it can contain the opposition in Rome and not just benefit his side.

Injured stars return but Klopp throws them all in too soon

Nothing seems to be going right for Borussia Dortmund at the moment. While the team is plagued by injuries at the moment, they are losing games that they should comfortably be winning if they are to finish in the top 4 of the German Bundesliga.

Dortmund starting eleven looked very well on paper as they welcomed back Marco Reus, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Sebastian Kehl for the first time in several weeks. Also Klopp opted to start with Ilkay Gundogan, playing his first competitive match since August 2013 (an astounding 430 days since his previous appearance).

Both Sven Bender and Matthias Ginter were available for Dortmund but Jurgen Klopp decided to start with Kehl and Gundogan in the central midfield zone. In hindsight, it was certainly too early to include so many players coming back from injury in the starting eleven, and was particularly shocking to see Gundogan starting and playing almost the entire game after such a lengthy absence.  It wasn’t surprising though, to see Gundogan lose possession on some occasions in the game as he lacked regular match practice.

Dortmund are currently a point clear of the relegation zone at the 14th spot in the table. Putting up a title challenge already seems impossible now and they have to turn things around immediately if they want to see themselves in the Champions League next season.

Champions League under-dogs taking advantage

Borussia Mönchengladbach, Mainz and Hoffenheim all continue their unbeaten Bundesliga starts with 10 wins and 14 draws between them after 8 game-weeks separating the trio by just two points.

Leverkusen’s fragile defense have again cost them 2 points, even though the match looked like an easy win at the half time when they were cruising 3-0, before surrendering the three goal advantage against Stuttgart. Leverkusen may have a strong side on paper, but their commitment to the attacking phase continues to leave them vulnerable at the back. With this draw, Leverkusen have conceded 14 goals in their 8 games, more than any other team in the top half of the table at the moment.

Leverkusen & Dortmund’s loss has allowed the potential Champions League hopefuls further raise the gap between the traditional top 3 sides. Hoffenheim drew, Monchengladbach got a comfortable victory and Mainz again relied on their solid defensive work to grind a 2-1 victory. Though Leverkusen are still there or there about, they risk falling further behind with Schalke & Dortmund if that gap continues to increase.

Given the usually competitive nature of the Bundesliga, it wouldn’t be a complete surprise if one of these under-dog sides manage to take advantage of the transitioning and slow starts from the bigger teams.

Di Matteo in charge of the Blues

He guided Chelsea to their maiden and miraculous Champions League triumph in 2012. Now he is in charge of the Royal Blues in Germany, Schalke 04. As many would agree Schalke’s coaching job is not the easiest in Bundesliga, with supporters and the media always demanding more than what they deliever, perhaps influenced by their semi-final appearance in the Champions League a couple of season’s back. Di Matteo though, started with an impressive 2-0 victory against Hertha Berlin. There is optimism at the moment, but fans & media alike have constantly pointed out how Jens Keller was infact holding the side back from progress; this same pressure may well be directed at the new boss soon as well.

Schalke’s defensive improvements were evident in Di Matteo’s first game in charge, something he received praise for both at Chelsea and at West Brom. Though they created limited goal scoring opportunities they converted two chances as they took all three points. It was a very important win for Schalke as this can set the tone for the remaining games before the winter break. Overall the Royal Blues looked like a very confident side and with a Champions League winning coach, the club will certainly hope to take all three points against Sporting Lisbon in the Champions’League group stage match this mid week.

Talent Radar Player of the week

Borussia Monchengladbach’s Granit Xhaka takes this week’s Talent Radar Player of the Week in the Bundesliga. The Swiss midfielder scored from a beautiful free-kick while also serving as an important component in Gladbach’s midfield, constantly reading the game well, breaking up play, and seeing his side through to a dominating 3-0 victory. Xhaka’s good performance come as no surprise as he has managed to grow in strength with every game he’s played since his arrival from Basel.

Written by Mustafa Tousif

Muhammad Mustafa Tousif

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