Football, and the Bundesliga in particular it seems, has a habit of making fools of us all.
A 7-2 away win over Spurs in midweek and a Hoffenheim side who’d never won at the Allianz Arena arriving on Saturday afternoon short of form and confidence under a new coach yet to convince. About as certain a Bayern home win as it gets, right?
Well, no. A brace from Sargis Adamyan, who before Saturday had played less than an hour of Bundesliga football, condemned the Bavarians to a first league defeat of the season.
Areas of concern
The relentlessness, belief and depth of quality that made the Bayern sides of the recent past appear infallible to their domestic opponents has ebbed away. While they still have far too much most of the time, there are areas of weakness.
On Saturday, the balance of an over-stocked central midfield again looked wrong, with Corentin Tolisso yet to fully convince and Javi Martinez the forgotten man. The absence of David Alaba and the positioning of Joshua Kimmich in midfield meant the fullbacks provided little attacking width. Most damagingly, Jerome Boateng was slow to close Adamyan down for both goals. The seemingly unwanted center back has started the champions’ last four games, but shifting Pavard inside would improve Bayern’s mobility in the center and re-instate one of their biggest offensive threats to the right-hand side.
But Bayern won’t have a Champions League hangover, or key players out, every week, which makes it even more critical that the chasing pack take advantage of these rare slips. While Bayer Leverkusen and RB Leipzig probably won’t be too disheartened by taking a point each from their meeting, it’s another opportunity lost for Dortmund. Worse than that, it’s more points dropped in the same careless manner.
Shooting themselves in the foot
Manuel Akanji’s 89th minute own goal handed high-flying Freiburg a 2-2 draw, Dortmund’s third in a row in the league. In the first of those, it was Thomas Delaney putting through his net late on, in the second Dortmund switched off at a set piece against Werder Bremen. Three leads squandered, six points dropped – the difference between a significant lead at the top and a spot in midtable in a compressed league.
Marco Reus insisted recently that BVB don’t have a mentality problem. Let’s suppose for a minute, he’s right (I’m not sure he is). What else could it be?
Luck? Possibly, but that’s not something the best sides rely on. Dortmund at the moment are slow to move the ball, make poor individual defensive errors on a regular basis and lack an effective focal point when Paco Alcacer is missing. Lucien Favre said Dortmund conceded two “unnecessary goals” that “cost us a lot again.”
It’s a familiar script, one dusted off plenty of times as Dortmund surrendered a dominant position in last season’s Bundesliga. Unfortunately for Lucien Favre, playing well is not the same as winning and, as Marco Reus observed, “we just have to manage at some point to carry our lead over the line.”
That Dortmund consistently fail to achieve that feat allows Bayern the luxury of slip ups like Saturday. They’re rapidly running out of excuses.
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