1. Bayern show their fallible side
In front of Allianz-Arena guest of honour, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bayern Munich did not exactly look like action heroes in the 1-1 home draw with
Köln on Saturday, the first instance this season of the champions dropping points.
Inspired by talismanic French striker, Anthony Modeste – whose second-half equaliser had more than a hint of a Bruce Lee kung-fu kick – the unbeaten Kölner are a tough nut to crack these days. But the fact remains that Bayern made it all too easy for them, almost completely lacking in creative inspiration and far too slow in their approach work.
Asleep at the wheel some might say. All in all, a disappointing few days for the Bavarian masters, who fared little better in their 1-0 Champions League loss in midweek at Atletico Madrid. New Bayern boss, Carlo Ancelotti will not have appreciated how easily Diego Simeone’s band of warriors totally dominated in midfield, not only proving far more energetic and forceful, but crucially able to carve Bayern open at will, with two or three slick passes all it took to tarmac a four-lane highway.
For the first time since he arrived in the summer, Ancelotti finds himself under pressure and following the Koln draw, he very much was in the post-match press conference dock, forced to defend his decision to rest several leading lights (Lahm, Alaba, Vidal, Müller). ” Storm in a teacup ? Perhaps.
“We’ve 16 points from six games and are still top of the league,” smiled Bayern centre-back, Mats Hummels. “If that’s a crisis, then we can live with that.”
2. Gunfight in the Leverkusen press room
Dortmund coach, Thomas Tuchel, was quick to vehemently protest in the wake of his side’s 2-0 loss at Leverkusen in the clash of the Champions League titans, accusing his opponents of a deliberate strategy of ‘stop the man’. Of bullying and breaking up the play.
“Once again this season we had some 20 fouls committed against us,” bemoaned Tuchel, who side were only sanctioned on seven occasions.
“We had to take off Gonzalo Castro and Sebastian Rode because of injury. They set out to shut down our dribblers and overstepped the mark. Because of the means used and their frequency, they ought not, in normal circumstances, have finished the game with eleven players on the field.”
Inevitably, Leverkusen boss, Roger Schmidt, saw the issue through completely different lenses: “Of course, it could also be a case of Dortmund being very good at drawing fouls. They are very clever at that, I think. It was a fair game without bad incidents.”
The cut and thrust of a distinctly unhealthy debate.
3. Nouri to stay on
Anxious to re-establish a sense of stability at the Weserstadion following several weeks of chaos, Werder Bremen have confirmed that former club Under 23 coach, Alexander Nouri, is to remain in charge of the first team until at least the end of the season.
Originally brought in as a caretaker when Viktor Skripnik was fired in mid-September, the 37-year-old has proved a safe pair of hands indeed, breathing life and purpose into a once-dispirited group and achieving a half-decent set of results: an injury-time loss to Mainz, a home victory over Wolfsburg and 2-2 draw at Darmstadt on Saturday.
Bremen director of sport, Frank Baumann, says he was especially impressed by Nouri’s qualities as a motivator and that no other candidate convinced the board more. A slight rewriting of the facts, however. Bremen probably would have preferred ex-Hoffenheim boss, Markus Gisdol, but had to rethink when the latter recently linked up with northern rivals, Hamburg.
4. Schalke: Back in the black
After five pointless outings, Schalke finally have given their fan-base something to cheer about, hauling themselves off the bottom of the table
courtesy of a 4-0 home turf victory over Mönchengladbach.
A blitz of three goals in six minutes early in the second-half was just the sort of pick-me-up the Gelsenkirchener required and with Gladbach being so poor on their travels – victorious in only one of their last 14 away fixtures – a comeback never was on the cards.
Much-criticised of late for his anonymous performances for Schalke, young Swiss striker, Breel Embolo at last appeared worthy of the 25 million euros the Royal Blues paid FC Basel for him in the off-season, combining intelligent movement, work-rate and two good goals.
“Breel runs and runs and never holds anything back,” gushed Schalke sporting director, Christian Heidel. “I’m really pleased for him that he’s managed to score a couple. I believehe’s going to fit in very well here. No one should forget that he’s still only 19.”
5. Softly softly Hertha
Quietly, without fuss or fanfare, Hertha Berlin are making a name for themselves as Germany’s Cinderella team, the most effective of underdogs.
Thanks to Saturday’s 2-0 home win against free-falling Hamburg, the capital city club are now up to second in the Bundesliga table, just three points adrift of leaders Bayern and for coach Pal Dardai and his merry men, it’s been a triumph of simple, uncomplicated footballing virtues: a solid defensive base, strong running, directness and sharpness on the break.
Their key man ? Undoubtedly Bosnian sharpshooter, Vedad Ibisevic whose brace versus Hamburg was the perfect way to celebrate the birth of his second child.
This is Hertha’s best start to an elite season since 1970-71, when they came an excellent third.