opinions | 2015-04-06
The Pep Episodes (II)
Chelsea-esque football exasperates Borussia Dortmund
They call it “Der Klassiker” in Germany, named after – of course – the famous El Clásico in Spain. If you are fond of the real Clásico, the German version indeed was a pale imitation. Even more so on this occasion. Borussia Dortmund vs Bayern Munich was on paper the duel between the first-placed team against the tenth-placed – both had nothing to lose point-wise, there shouldn’t have been any boundaries at all in the way of us getting to enjoy an emotional partidazo, but it had happened to be as dull and uneventful as you just couldn’t have imagined. Clásico? More like an Aburrasico. After the game, which Bayern won 1-0, people thought about whom to blame for this horrible, eventless game: Jürgen Klopps’ uninspired team or Pep Guardiola’s tactics?
Arjen Robben, David Alaba, and Franck Ribery were injured. Mario Götze, who was whistled strongly when he came in later, began on the bench. Guardiola chose an unaccustomed reactive and defensive side and played a 3-5-2 with two wing-backs in midfield. Rafinha and Juan Bernat turned the lineup to a 5-3-2 at times, and the three players in the center of the pitch were Xabi Alonso, Philipp Lahm, and Bastian Schweinsteiger – a rather rigid trio, only Lahm made some runs to the right from time to time.
Two shots on goal, none in the second half
Safety first was Guardiola’s guideline, an unattractive game evolved, with a poacher’s goal from Robert Lewandowski (36’) – yes, he of all people – as the only real highlight of the match, besides a strong save from Manuel Neuer after a Marco Reus freekick and an effort to the side of the net from the BVB ace. The rest of the 90 minutes? There were some rather nasty fouls, players hoofing the ball out or keeping possession at all costs to avoid danger in their own penalty area. Was this Stoke against West Brom?
Bayern had just 50 percent of possession and didn’t manage a single shot on goal in the second half (!), but they defended vigorously, thanks to an insurmountable back three of Mehdi Benatia, Dante, and Jerome Boateng. Dortmund disappointed again and didn’t have any ideas or creativity at all. The Bavarians played like you haven’t seen them play since seven, eight years or so. Back then, and for a large part of the last decades, they often did just as much as they had to, especially in away games. Just like on Saturday.
But a Guardiola team playing some kind of Chelsea-esque football? I know how strange that sounds, but it was like that – and even worse. “We had problems, we didn’t play good”, Guardiola admitted after the win at the Signal-Iduna-Park. Captain Lahm stated the team had changed its approach to compensate for the injuries in offense.
Media praises Guardiola’s plan
“It was a sensible strategy and it worked,” declared a thin-lipped Klopp, Dortmund’s head coach. The media outlets aren’t used to this kind of football presented by Guardiola – still they surprisingly hailed him. “In the personnel misery, Pep Guardiola unfolds his tactical ingenuity,” said Kicker sports magazine of the defensive approach of the champions. Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung even called it a “master stroke of Guardiola”. And Süddeutsche Zeitung stated with an eye toward tough opponents in the final stages of the Champions League: “Guardiola proves that he’s capable of a plan B.”
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The Pep Episodes are a weekly column about the adventures of Pep Guardiola in Munich contributed by Alex Truica. You can follow him on twitter: @kicker_atr
WRITTEN BY: Alex Truica
Creator of The Pep Episodes. Has a Bachelor degree in journalism and works as a freelance sports journalist and editor, covering international football.