Munich - The Bundesliga’s 2013/14 grand opening got the campaign off with a bang as titleholders FC Bayern Munich went a 26th consecutive league game unbeaten courtesy of a 3-1 win over Borussia Mönchengladbach.
Good going forwards, concerns at the back
"Obviously we're satisfied with the win,” said Pep Guardiola, whose body language on the sidelines suggested otherwise at times. The Spaniard was at his animated best, rarely taking a seat and constantly issuing instructions to his players, but underlined the importance of the result. “We need results like this to build up our confidence because some of our players are still short of match practice.”
Two goals to the good after just 15 minutes and it looked like Bayern were going to ease their way to another comfortable victory as they did so often last season. “We played really well, especially during the opening exchanges,” Toni Kroos told reporters after the game. “When you look at how we played on the ball it was very good.”
However, for all of Bayern’s visible dominance there remained, at times, an element of unease in the record title-holders' performance. This was most noticeable in the backline, which under Jupp Heynckes had provided the foundation for their record-breaking exploits last season. “We wanted to prevent them from being able to hit us on the counter. We didn’t do that very well,” admitted Jerome Boateng. “At times we got our positioning wrong.”
Ribery: "We're getting there"
Much of the summer had been spent guessing the changes Guardiola was going to exact on a side billed as the ‘best in the world’, and the players did not shy away from the fact they were still getting to grips with the nuances of the master tactician’s philosophy. “We ran too much in the first half,” said Franck Ribery, who was at his inspired best having recently been nominated for the 2012/13 UEFA European Best Player award.
“We attacked a lot, created plenty of chances and pressed very hard, but you can’t do that for the full 90 minutes,” continued the Frenchman referring to Bayern taking their foot off the pedal after the break. “We still played well in the second half, but this is, to an extent, all new to us and we’re not quite 100%. We’re getting there though, and we’re happy with that.”
Heading in the right direction
Though perhaps not the well-oiled machine from last season, Bayern still have a motor capable of outstripping most clubs, as proven against Gladbach, who despite occasionally forcing Friday’s hosts onto the back foot, rarely responded to their ability to relieve pressure in the blink of an eye. “We’re getting stronger as a team and it’s gradually getting easier for us because we’re playing with a sense of freedom,” concluded Ribery.
Friday’s performance may not have matched Guardiola’s perfectionist standards, yet club captain Philipp Lahm was equally confident in the ability of this “phenomenal squad” to cope with the changes. “It’s little details, from our pressing game to how we shift as a unit, which have been adjusted.” But asked whether the alterations would be a step forward for Bayern, Lahm was unequivocal in his response: “I’m 100% convinced they will be.”
James Thorogood reporting from the Allianz Arena