The war is over before the battle has begun in earnest.
Remarkably, we have only just reached October – a mere eight games into the Bundesliga season – and the title is all-but headed to the Allianz Arena.
Bayern Munich’s thumping 5-1 win over Borussia Dortmund extended their sizeable lead to seven points, a chasm already looking insurmountable.
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If any team were expected to force Bayern out of second gear it was BVB yet the dominant side were barely out of first throughout the full 90 minutes.
Defensive errors have cost Dortmund in recent Bundesliga matches, with a lack of concentration leading to Darmstadt’s late equaliser while Matthis Ginter gifted Hoffenheim in the preceding game.
On Sunday, however, it was manager Thomas Tuchel’s defensive gambles that cost Dortmund a chance of all three points.
Defensive reshuffle causes imbalance
Tuchel made several bold calls in an effort to out-think and out-manoeuvre the master tactician himself, Pep Guardiola.
In one of the more logical moves, out went Matthis Ginter at right back. The former Freiburg man, a midfielder or central defender by trade, has filled in well but Tuchel avoided a one-on-one battle with skilful winger Douglas Costa, who tops the Bundesliga’s assist charts.
Sokratis replaced Ginter at full-back from his favoured centre-half position, meaning Tuchel filled the heart of defence with Sven Bender. With Marcel Schmelzer out injured, the returning Łukasz Piszczek was deployed at left-back.
With such an imbalanced back line, Tuchel’s problems began.
The talent both sides have in midfield was negated by narrow, tight formations, meaning more time on the ball for central defenders and a more direct tactic of long balls was to be more effective.
And it was via this route that did for Dortmund on two occasions – both targeted at stand-in defender.
Jerome Boateng’s pinpoint ball split BVB’s defence and Thomas Müller snuck in behind the Bender to open the scoring, aided by some hesitant goalkeeping by Roman Bürki.
Another long ball in the second half, this time finished by Robert Lewandowski again via some poor goalkeeping, set Bayern on their way to a destructive victory.
Was a solution sat on the bench?
For all Tuchel’s intentions to tactically outclass Guardiola, would more traditional thinking have given his side a better chance of at least a point?
New recruit Joo-Ho Park, a left-back, remained on the bench for the full 90 minutes but his introduction could have provided a more balanced setup.
It would have allowed Piszczek to resume at right-back and Sokratis to once again partner Mats Hummels at the heart of defence.
As it transpired, Douglas Costa was a peripheral figure and Ginter may well have coped with the Brazilian – hindsight is a wonderful thing.
But Dortmund are now adrift of the leaders and are already concentrating on a top-four finish this season.
Whether a more positive result at the Allianz Arena could have resulted in higher ambitions remains to be seen, though it proved one thing that few people doubted – Bayern will once again win the Bundesliga.
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