Bayern force Europe’s changing of the guard
Wednesday morning’s UEFA Champions League semi-final provided one of the most special club performances of modern times and has signalled a shift of power among European heavyweights.
Not even the most tragic Bayern Munich fan would have predicted such an outcome, with a 4-0 victory at Allianz Arena all but clinching the tie and leaving many commentators speechless.
Bayern provided an incredible demonstration of football at its finest, as well as a fine tutorial on how to beat the modern day powerhouse in Barcelona.
You would be hard-pressed to find any games over the last decade which have seen Barca dominated in such a manner, rendering the world’s best player, Lionel Messi, relatively ineffective.
Bayern’s non-stop pressure off the ball had a significant impact on Barcelona’s usually high quality and effective passing game, halting Barca’s ability to build any real momentum or pressure on goal.
Often in football, such a score-line is somewhat associated with a relative split in possession rates. However, Barcelona still managed to hold 63% of the match possession, not significantly less than their tournament average of 68%.
Such is Bayern’s fitness, ability and discipline off the ball, they forced Barcelona to play the majority of the match in their own half. The constant pressure also forced Barcelona to lose possession in their own half on a number of occasions, not a common occurrence in any Barca-featured football match.
Barca was simply not allowed to play their usual attacking brand of football. They could only muster four goal attempts through the match, a shadow of their season average (14.55).
Incredibly, their delivery and runs into the attacking third was cut down by 23% compared to their season average, with the same statistic into the penalty area reduced by 66% to only six individual occurrences.
Many European teams will be sitting down and watching exactly what Bayern Munich did, and they should be taking notes.
Of course, not to take away from Bayern’s attacking prowess, where ‘clinical’ is surely the best word to describe Bayern with the ball.
Even with only 37% possession of the ball, with 32% less passes attempted than their season average, Bayern were still able to muster 14 attempts on goals (nine on target), netting four of them against the team widely considered to be the best in the world for the last decade.
The work of Bastian Schweinsteiger and Javi Martinez in the midfield was of the highest class, and was central to Bayern’s key tactics. Ribery and Robben provided the ability to break with speed, with their ability to provide for the likes of Gomez and Muller second to none.
Supported by the incredibly solid central defensive pairing of Jerome Boateng and Dante, with Philipp Lahm and David Alaba providing support out wide in both defence and attack, there does not seem to be a noticeable weakness in the Germans.
So with such a significant win, have Bayern toppled Barca as the new European heavyweights?
In the space of a month, they have claimed the fastest ever Bundesliga title, produced a dominant four-nil aggregate (quarter-finals) win over the Italian champions and have now produced a history defining 4-0 win over Barcelona.
Thus, you would be hard-pressed to deny them their right as the new European heavyweight.
Of course, Barcelona have not been in the greatest run of form, with Messi’s ongoing injuries providing a constant problem.
By no means does the result signal the end in any manner for Barcelona, as they will bounce back and continue to press for domestic and European titles for years to come.
They simply have too much class not to.
However, after watching Bayern’s performances of late, they have demonstrated a brand of football that one rarely has the privilege to watch.
I cannot see anyone stopping them this season and they would have to be up there among the favourites for the UEFA Champions League title for the next few years.
Looking ahead, I am unsure if Pep Guardiola will be excited or daunted at the task ahead, given the unbelievable talent yet equally matched expectations that he will face in his maiden Bundesliga season.
Either way, I will be renewing my Setanta subscription and setting the alarm for each Champions league match to watch Europe’s newest powerhouse of football.
Follow Nick on Twitter @NicGiannetta
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