Berlin - FC Bayern München's workmanlike 1-0 win over Hertha Berlin wasn't the gala performance of recent weeks, but there were still plenty of positives to go with the time-honoured call for improvement on Matchday 13.
'The second half wasn't great'
Goalscorer Arjen Robben, for one, underlined his credentials to lift the 2014 FIFA Ballon d'Or with yet another electric display that helped the unbeaten Bundesliga frontrunners to their tenth league win of an outwardly trailblazing campaign.
"It was really hard work," admitted the Bayern winger. "We showed how flexible we are today. I played a little bit more in from the flank. Sometimes you have to make do with just the one goal. We can't always play a brilliant game. The second half wasn't great. We've got three points - that'll do!"
Robben's trademark strike came in the 27th minute, with the visitors having already passed up, by the their golden standards, two gilt-edged opportunities to wrap up the contest. Although former Bayern custodian Thomas Kraft was made to work after the restart, it was arguably Hertha who went closest to adding their name to the scoresheet.
"It's pretty simple: we were better in the first half; Hertha were better in the second," recalled Bayern head coach Pep Guardiola. "We created a lot of chances before the break, so I'm happy with that, but 1-0 leads are always dangerous. Maybe we were a bit tired after playing with ten men against Manchester City FC for 70 minutes [in the UEFA Champions League in midweek]. We were a bit slow."
There were in fact two such instances indicative of the defending champions' tired legs in either half, but on both occasions the linesman's flag came to the Bundesliga leaders' rescue. Like anyone else, the Bavarians are entitled to the occasional 'satisfactory' performance, least of all at the end of a six-fixture calendar month. What sets them apart, however, is their incomparable ability to adapt and overcome.
'We can still improve'
"We didn't just want Franck [Ribery] and Arjen [Robben] to get in one-on-one positions on the wings," Guardiola said, explaining his match plan. "We have five forwards in the team, so they can't all play in the same position, but they're flexible. I saw that today […] We can still improve, it's only November after all. There are many, many things to improve on."
Familiar evaluatory words, then, from the self-professed Catalan perfectionist who, approaching the halfway point of his contracted three-year tenure behind the wheel of the red machine, remains as faithful as ever to his inimitable policy of week-on-week betterment. Ominously for the rest of the competition, project impeccability is anything but complete.