It would appear that even the very best are not immune to the occasional off day after FC Bayern München dropped points for the first time this season in Friday’s goalless draw at Eintracht Frankfurt.
Although Frankfurt deserve praise for a doggedly resolute defensive performance, the post-match statistics reveal a surprising lack of customary sharpness from the Bundesliga leaders.
Frankfurt park the bus
Prior to Matchday 11’s opening fixture, Bayern had won all ten of their Bundesliga matches since the start of the campaign: a Bundesliga best-mark. During that red-hot run, they scored a record 33 goals and conceded just four. To most - if not all - it seemed inevitable that the goal glut would continue against a Frankfurt side that had shipped 11 in their last five league outings and suffered a surprise midweek defeat to third tier club FC Erzgebirge Aue in the second round of the DFB Cup.
So what exactly conspired against the defending champions at the Commerzbank-Arena? Bayern’s performances in the lead up to Matchday 11 had been largely blemish-free and defined by an unquenchable thirst for goals.The fact Pep Guardiola opted to send out his 11th different starting formation of the current Bundesliga campaign was hardly a recipe for slipping up.
Frankfurt’s predominantly 11-men-behind-the-ball approach, on the other hand, was. The Eagles swarmed in numbers and reduced their hitherto free-scoring victors to a season-low ten efforts on goal, only two of which forced saves out of Lukas Hradecky. For the first time in a Bundesliga match since last May’s 1-0 home defeat to FC Augsburg, Bayern failed to find the back of the net.
No way through... this time
"Obviously we set out to win, but it was very tough this evening," admitted Bayern goalkeeper Manuel Neuer. "We didn’t create all that many chances. It’s obviously frustrating when you work so hard but fail to create any clear-cut openings. We stuck to the task and we were determined to score, but Frankfurt defended shrewdly."
Feelings of compulsory disappointment aside, the Bayern camp were nevertheless able to glean a number of positives from the game. Like Neuer, Chile international midfielder Arturo Vidal highlighted the attitude levels of the collective, while Guardiola was delighted with his side’s dam-breaking endeavours, fruitless or not: "We did everything we could to win the match. The team tried right up until the final minute."
The rest of the Bundesliga may look at Frankfurt’s strategy as a blueprint for how to ruffle Bayern’s feathers or, better still, take points off the universally acclaimed 'team to beat'. History, however, has proved time and again that no one responds to a challenge quite like Guardiola’s insatiable bevy. Whether it is against Arsenal FC in the UEFA Champions League on Wednesday night or VfB Stuttgart in the Bundesliga next weekend, they can and will go up a gear.