Bas Dost: Vfl Wolfsburg’s unlikely goalscoring machine

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If you’re watching a Wolfsburg game then you will probably hear the phrase ‘Dost scores’ more frequently. The Dutch strikers form has been incredible lately as he managed to score 11 goals in his last seven league games, 13 overall this season and third in the goalscoring leaderboard behind Alexander Meier and Arjen Robben.

Most notable of his performances was against Bayer Leverkusen when he found the net on four occasions to help his team grab all three points with a hard fought 5-4 win at the Bay Arena. The player who started the season as a third choice striker is now one of the high flying attackers in Europe. Born on the 31st of May in 1989 in Deventer, Netherlands, Dost started his footballing career in the youth team of CVV Germanicus and then moved to with FC Emmen. Before the start of the 2007-08 season he was offered a chance to play for the senior squad of FC Emmen which he took and put in to good use with a remarkable performance. And in the summer, he moved to Heracles Almelo.

And about two and a half years later he moved to SC Heerenveen. In his first season for his new team, he finished as their top scorer with 13 goals. On the 10th of December 2011, Dost scored all five goals in Heerenveen’s 5–0 win away to SBV Excelsior, taking his tally to 14 goals in 16 Eredivisie games and subsequently finished as the top-scorer in the Eredivisie with 32 league goals in 34 matches.

Dost joined Vfl Wolfsburg on the 1st of June, 2012. He made his Bundesliga debut on the 25th of August 2012, scoring the winner against VfB Stuttgart. On the 18th of November of that year Dost netted Wolfsburg’s second, and the eventual winner, in a 3–1 defeat of Hoffenheim , lifting die Wölfe out of the bottom three.

Despite proving himself as a top mark finisher on several occasions, Dost has just recently started to regain his golden touch in front of the goal with the German side grabbing the attention of the media in the process. Well, at least with Wolfsburg. His ability to put almost every ball along his path at the back of the net has played a crucial part in his team’s good run of form.

Despite a disappointing 1-0 loss to Augsburg in the weekend, Wolfsburg still sit comfortably in second 11 points behind Bayern with Dost having firmly established himself as the first choice striker to lead the front line of Dieter Hecking’s side.


Written by Brook Genene

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Franco Di Santo: The Man Behind Bremen’s Revival

The Argentine striker Franco Matías Di Santo has been a key contributor to Werder Bremen’s impressive run of form. He has been injured at the end of the first part of the season, but he made his mark immediately after getting back on the pitch with two incredible goals against Hertha Berlin helping his team go on a four game unbeaten streak in the process.

Di Santo who was born on the 7th of April 1989 first started his career with Chilean club Audax Italiano. He moved to Chelsea in 2008. He was handed a first team start shortly after impressing with the reserves. Following a season-long loan at Blackburn Rovers he made a move to Wigan where he won the FA Cup in 2013 but was released after that because of the team’s relegation.

After that mixed season, Di Santo signed a three year contract with Germany’s Werder Bremen on the 14th of August 2013. He scored his first goal for the club on November 14 in a 3-2 loss against Mainz and then went on to finish the season with 4 goals in 23 appearances. This season however he has been the main goal-getter for his side bagging 11 goals so far this season in the Bundesliga, a record that makes him tied in fourth place with Bayern star Robert Lewandowski on the goalscoring leaderboard.

His link up with youngster Davie Selke at the front of the pack has been crucial for Bremen, who are now in the top half of the table and out of the relegation zone. He also scored a goal in his side’s recent loss to high flying Vfl Wolfsburg in an eight goal thriller which ended 3-5.

Di Santo’s clinical finishing has been remarkable. His positioning and control of the ball, his ability to dismantle defenses with his pace and skill are some of the impressive qualities Di Santo possesses in his locker. The Bremen fans always have something to be optimistic about whenever he is in the line-up.

Di Santo was handed his international debut on the 31st of October 2012 and was also included in the provisional 26 man squad for the 2014 World Cup, despite not being able to make it to Brazil. His national career may not have been that impressive, but given his recent performances it would only be a matter of time before he gets another chance to represent his country.


Written by Brook Genene

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Roberto Firmino: A Brazilian talent on the rise

Roberto Firmino Barbosa de Oliveira was born on October 2, 1991. The Hoffenheim attacking midfielder has proven himself as one of the most talented players in the Bundesliga and in the world. He made his move to the Blues from Figueirense on December of 2010. Firmino is a genuine playmaker who also has an eye for goal.

In the 2013-14 Bundesliga season, he finished joint fourth top goal scorer with 16 goals. He also made 12 assists making him joint- second best assist maker. This season is no different as he has scored 6 and assisted 7 goals in 23 appearances in the Bundesliga for his team.

The Brazilian has proven to be very crucial for his side in recent years. Because of this reason the big teams in Europe have shown interest in acquiring the service of the 23 year old. Most recently reports have been circulating that manager Arsene Wenger has made him his top priority to replace Santi Cazorla, who has been linked with a summer move to Spanish club Atletico Madrid.

Firmino is a versatile player who can also play on the wings or as a second striker. His formidable partnership with striker Kevin Volland has been the reason behind Hoffenheim’s amazing goal scoring glut in recent seasons.

On the 23rd October 2014, Firmino received his first call up to Brazil national football team for the friendly matches against Turkey and Austria. He made his debut in a 4–0 win over Turkey on November 12 from the bench, playing the last 17 minutes. And in his second game, Firmino scored his first goal on 23 October 2014.

It’s unlikely that Firmino will stay for a long time in Hoffenheim. His growing ability and immense potential haven’t gone unnoticed by Europe’s big teams and the recent price tag of 30 million Euros given by his team shows how valuable the player is. He is another talented Brazilian looking to make an impact on the big stage for both club and country.

We may or may not see him in the Bundesliga next season but one thing is for sure: he has a bright future ahead of him and he just might be the answer to the problems of Brazil’s national team.


Written by Brook Genene

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Lars Bender: Is the Leverkusen star the answer to Arsenal’s holding midfield dilemma?

Arsenal have long been searching for a defensive midfielder and recent rumors suggest that they are in pole position to sign Bayer Leverkusen’s Lars Bender.

The 25 year old German international and twin brother of Borussia Dortmund’s star Sven Bender has been enjoying a good spell at the Bay Arena attracting attention from major sides like Barcelona. But because of the transfer ban the Catalan side is facing, the Emirates seem to be the ideal destination for Leverkusen’s co-captain.

Lars Bender joined Bayer Leverkusen on August 18, 2009 from 1860 München. This season he has made 24 appearances in all competitions for Leverkusen scoring one goal and assisting two more, which is not bad for a defensive midfielder.

He has also helped his team progress to the last 16 stage of the UEFA Champions League in which they will face last year’s finalists Atletico Madrid and they are also fighting for a Champions League spot in the Bundesliga. Lars’ form and rise grabbed the attention of Germany’s national team manager Joachim Loew who handed him his international debut on September 6, 2021 and has since made 19 appearances, scoring four goals in the process.

Bender is a key player at the center of the pack for his team. His ability to drop back and help his central defenders alongside his amazing skill and composure with the ball makes him a good candidate for Arsene Wenger, who had to rely on youngster Francis Coquelin recently after Mathieu Flamini’s unreliable performances. It’s rumored that Wenger is willing to pay 22 million Euros in the summer for Bender.

Besides his ability with the ball, Bender is also a good team leader and never seems shy of making important decisions on the pitch. Also, his aggressive play and neat tackles can only help him settle into the Premier League quickly. That is probably why he is wanted by Arsenal and why he just might be the right signing for the North London club.


Written by Brook Genene

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Marco Reus: What does his new contract with Dortmund suggest?

The biggest news in Germany during the course of last week was the renewal of Marco Reus’ contract until 2019. The attacking midfielder has been sought out by almost every big team in Europe in the last couple of months and given the current position of Dortmund in the league and recent history of the club’s transfer deals, many thought that it was a matter of time before he bids farewell to ‘Die Schwarzgelben’. But no, he surprised everyone by extending his contract.

There are a lot of indications to the new deal though and among them here are a few:

  • Loyalty

What makes Marco Reus different from former team mates Robert Lewandowski and Mario Götze (who has Bavarian roots) is his high level of emotional attachment with the city and the club. Reus was a Dortmund born player who grew up playing for the club until being sold when he was 17 because of his ‘physical weakness’. But after impressing in lower division club Rot Weiss Ahlen and helping Borussia Mönchengladbach finish 4th in the 2011-12 season after helping them avoid relegation a year before, Reus returned to Dortmund choosing them over Bayern. And the fact that he has remained true to his team under difficult circumstances goes to show his love for BVB.

Borussia Dortmund’s Sporting Director Michael Zorc even compared him to Steven Gerard. And Reus himself said, ‘I am very happy with my decision. Dortmund is my home city and Borussia is simply my club.’ This has sparked a light at the Signal Iduna Park. Marco Reus has become the symbol of loyalty and was even applauded in the dressing room by the players.

Besides putting hope in the hearts of the fans, Reus’s decision will also set an example for other team mates, which was seen in the recent news that Ilkay Gundogan will also hold talks with the club for furthering his contract.


  • Season rescued?

The news couldn’t have come at a better time than after a thumping 3-0 victory over fellow strugglers SC Freiburg, first win of the year and the biggest margin of victory of their league campaign so far. These two factors seemed to have a great effect in the whole morale of the team.

And on Friday BVB showed real character and determination to come back from behind, for the first time this season, to beat Mainz on Friday. Reus got a goal in the match and set up Aubameyang beautifully for the third goal.

He was the best player on the pitch and he helped his team move clear off of the bottom three and level on points with their opponents. It looks as if the Borussia Dortmund we all know is back.


  • Higher release clause

If Dortmund get relegated no one would be surprised to see Reus leave after all, as did players like Gareth Bale and Luis Suarez after renewing their contract. But the club will be relieved to know that the highly rated and probably the most wanted player in Europe will be sold for a deserving price.

If there’s anything Dortmund have learned from the recent departure of Striker Robert Lewandowski is that if you can’t keep your top players you should at least benefit from the transfer money and the club seem to have not repeated that mistake.

And considering how Reus has developed in the last couple of years, a large sum of money is expected from anyone interested in signing the 25 year old and this will enable the club to reinforce and acquire world class players.


Written by Brook Genene

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Kevin De Bruyne: Wolfsburg’s Man of the Moment

Deciding to return to the Bundesliga and at the back of a decent World Cup campaign, the 23 year old Belgian is helping his team surge forward to the top of the Bundesliga table and he is making sure that finishing in a Champions league spot is very much in the cards.

De Bruyne has the most assists in the league this season and is having a remarkable Rückrunde in which he managed to find the back of the net on five occasions in no more than three games.

The presence of Kevin De Bruyne in midfield and his stunning partnership with his team mates, most notably with Ivan Perišić, is what makes Wolfsburg such an attacking threat. The 4-1 win against Bayern Munich on Matchday 18 was a full proof of what De Bruyne is capable of.

Besides setting up Bas Dost for the opener, he also grabbed two stunning goals in the match and was named player of the week by Bundesliga fans. This eye catching performance was followed by a crucial late goal against Eintracht Frankfurt to secure a much needed point for Dieter Hecking’s side.

KVV Drongen was where it all started for the 23 year old. And after playing his thread in Belgium with Gent and Genk, it was Chelsea who snubbed the young talent on the winter of 2012. After finishing the season with Genk he moved to London but only to be sent back on another loan deal, this time to Bundesliga side Werder Bremen, where he had a successful season.

And on July 2013, he returned to Chelsea with a promise from manager Jose Mourinho that he was a part of his plans. But his stay at the Stamford Bridge only lasted until January 18 and De Bruyne put pen to paper on a permanent move to Vfl Wolfsburg. He then made his debut in a 3-1 win against Hannover 96 and became an integral part of the team after that.

This season however has been special for Kevin. He is enjoying time at the Wolfswagen Arena with his team currently sitting in 2nd place 8 points behind leader’s Bayern also being in the the knock-out stages of the Europa League. The assist-master De Bruyne is heaping praise all around Europe and it wouldn’t be far away before the bigger teams start fighting to secure his services.

The recent acquisition of André Schürrle seems to have added a little bit of something extra to the team and it would be exciting to see what the two former Chelsea team mates can do together. They are off to a good start with the 3-0 home win against Hoffenheim last Saturday, and a lot is hopefully yet to come from the duo.

Finishing the season on a high note is what both Wolfsburg and Kevin De Bruyne are striving to accomplish and thus far all looks well for the Bundesliga’s most exciting player.


Written by Brook Genene

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Football Betting Tips: The 85th minute bet

If you place a correct score bet in the 85th minute of a football match, you’ll typically receive odds of 1 to 2. Let’s say that Chelsea are playing Manchester United. With 85 minutes gone, the score’s still 0-0. If you bet £10 on the score remaining 0-0 and you’re right, you’ll receive your £10 stake back plus £5.

Bookies aren’t stupid and the reason that you get these odds is because you’ll typically win and lose often enough to wind up losing more than you win if you place a correct score bet in the 85th minute. However, with a little bit of nous and initiative, you can quite easily beat the odds and make this a highly profitable strategy.

Score draws are amongst the safest games to try this strategy out on. If a game is tied 2-2 in the 85th minute, chances are that both teams will be content to pick up a point and won’t bother going all out for the winner.

The Manchester United v Chelsea example is actually one of the worst to place a bet on. The English Premier League is the most watched football competition on the planet for a reason - it’s wildly exciting and unpredictable, and there’s far more likely to be a last minute winner, or even several goals in the dying minutes, in the EPL than in most football leagues. Typically the lower the prestige of a league, the less likely teams are to be gung-ho about grabbing a last gasp winner. The strategy is generally a lot more likely to succeed in, say, the Danish second division than it is in the English Premier League.

If a team’s scored early on and have been going all out to protect that lead since the early part of the game, the 85th minute correct score bet becomes an especially attractive proposition. If their opponents haven’t managed to overturn the advantage by the 85th minute, are they really likely to pull it off in the dying moments?

There are extenuating circumstances which should ward you off placing one of these bets. If a red card’s recently been issued, or if some other major event has upset the balance of the game, you’ll probably be better off leaving it. If a team scores an equalizer around the 80th minute, they’ll probably be more likely to be pushing for a winner at the tail-end of a game than if a draw had looked a likely outcome since the start.

Of course, there are plenty of exceptions to the rule about not using this strategy for English Premier League games, especially when it concerns games like Manchester United v Chelsea. Top of the table teams are often happy to grind out a draw against each other rather than risk an important loss.

When Manchester City hosted their derby rivals United earlier in the 2010/11 season, Roberto Mancini never looked concerned with doing anything more than stopping United getting the full three points, while Alex Ferguson equally seemed to deem not losing to their fiercest rivals of far greater importance than going all out for a winner. In cases like this, when a game’s got draw written all over it, if nobody’s scored by the 85th minute, a 0-0 correct score bet is probably a fairly safe punt.

The key to making this strategy work is thinking it through. The most important thing is not to bet if you sense there may be more goals left in the game. The best way of using this strategy successfully is picking a low-scoring or fairly even game and then hoping that nothing dramatic occurs in the last few minutes.


Written by Tom Wilkins

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Borussia Dortmund: The 3 main reasons behind their struggles this season

At the beginning of the season, it was no secret that it would be difficult for Dortmund to fill the Lewandowski shaped hole left by the Polish striker’s departure to the mighty Bavarians. However, predicting that the Black and Yellows would be second from bottom in the table languishing in the relegation zone was beyond comprehension.

No one would’ve thought that the 2012 German champions and 2013 Champions league finalists would be joint bottom at the end of matchday 17 having lost 10 league matches already; 5 of them in succession.

But how did that come to be? What are the main reasons behind the poor form of Jurgen Klopp’s side?

1) Injuries to key players                                

This has been a problem since December of last season and hasn’t gotten any better this time around. The injuries last season were so awful that Klopp was forced to convince Manuel Friedrich out of retirement. This season Klopp had better squad depth than last year’s and wasn’t obliged to make desperate decisions. That being said he didn’t have the opportunity to use his best 11 at a time either. And this is without mentioning the series set of injuries the key player Marco Reus had to endure, who at one time recovers sooner than expected and sustains an injury almost as instantly as has happened in the match against Paderborn.

In spite of having other creative players among the mix, the side never looked the same without the 25 year old German superstar. Also, the recurrent injury to captain Matts Hummels also left the side without a leader in defense and this was clearly seen in the majority of the side’s defeats.


2) Poor Finishing    

Lewandowski was the story behind most of the trophies Dortmund won in the last couple of years. Extremely reliable in front of goal and never hesitating to shine in the big matches, he scored over 100 goals for his side in his short tenure of four years at the Signal Iduna forever remaining in the hearts of the Dortmund faithful.

The arrivals of last year’s Serie A top scorer Ciro Immobile and Hertha Berlin’s Adrian Ramos were thought to have enough ability to ease the burden of matching the Polish star’s amazing record. But that hasn’t really been the case so far. The new strikers only managed to find the net a couple of times and weren’t there to deliver when the side really needed them.


3) Predictability

The last problem, among a few others, that might be raised from this woeful season is predictability. The so called ‘full-throttle’ football has been around for a couple of years now and despite enabling Dortmund to dominate matches and shock some of the big names in Europe it has become  well known by most of the sides in the Bundesliga.

The game plan requires a lot of energy and pace and the longer the game goes on the less intense the pressing and the more the weariness, especially if the side who is pressing hasn’t scored within those dominant stages of the game the opposition can salvage something at some point and this happened more than once this season to BVB.

Also, the high line defending has been exposing the team to quick counters making them suffer from goals scored against the run of play.



So can Dortmund save their season?  It’s a possibility. If they can get their key players fit for a good part of the season, if they can find the net more often than not and if they can come up with a plan B for their tactical problems, then the whole poor half of the season will all be forgotten in May.


Written by Brook Genene

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FC Augsburg: The Fuggerstädter can dream big for the rest of the season

After escaping the drop against all the odds in the club’s debut top-flight season, many believed there is a long way to go for Jos Luhukay at Augsburg. But before the start of the sophomore season, there comes the unpredictable – the Bavarians replaced the veteran Dutch coach with someone whose highlight of his career involves a promotion to the second-tier with minnows SSV Jahn Regensburg.

To make matters worse, his start to the season solidifies pre-season predictions, as they only won one matches over the course of the first half of the season. Fast forward to two years from then, Augsburg are now flying high in the table under the same man - Markus Weinzierl.

It may took a bizarre brace from Sascha Mölders against Fortuna Düsseldorf to change their season for better in the start of the second half of the season back in 2012-13, but once they get back on their feet, and introduced with the new managers’ philosophy, there is no stopping of them from emerging as a mid-table side.

In only their fourth season in the Bundesliga, Augsburg sit in sixth place midway the season, two places further up from where they finished last term. There were no huge expectations, once again, but they have a huge shot of making it into Europe for the first time in the club’s history going by the solid Hinrunde they were having, and some shrewed business taking off-the-pitch in the ongoing winter transfer market.

Most of the time, the fact there are no particular star players in a side means the coach will be taking more credit for making the best out of the squad at his disposal.

The story at Augsburg is no different, and the 40-years-old Weinzierl attracts lots of interests from big clubs after taking the regular relegation candidates to the potential European football faithfuls. He is mainly admired for staying focus under circumstances, and demanding more from his players, an attribute that draws comparisons with the certain Pep Guardiola.

There are a lot of games in the current season that Augsburg could have easily dropped points off, but a patient football bares its fruits, as six of their nine wins comes courtesy of second half strikes. You might hear the fans of Hertha Berlin, Hamburg and Stuttgart fans complaining about controversial penalty-kick decisions that directly affects the results in their respective matches against Augsburg, but at the end, like their skipper Paul Verhaegh’s perfection from six yards out, the Fuggerstädter grasp each and every opportunity to stay among the mix at the top of the standings.

The season started with back-to-back defeats, despite a promising late comeback display against Borussia Dortmund in the first home match. But it was the Yellow-and-Blacks who stayed in the wrong end of the table for the remaining good part of the year. As for the Weinzierl’s troops, they are well on course to avoid any relegation scare when half of the league clubs seems to be in danger of slipping to the bottom of the table.


Hitting the jackpot with transfers

The off-season departures of regulars Kevin Vogt (FC Köln) and Andre Hahn (Borussia M’gladbach) are easily forgotten, as the squad depth is getting stronger than ever. Hahn enjoyed a breakaway season last term, with his attacking prowess were at the center stage, but Argentinian Raúl Bobadilla stepped up with a new role to fill in the gap, and has enjoyed a tremendous season so far, summed up by scoring a winning goal against his old club Mönchengladbach in the final match of the year.

Bayer Leverkusen-loanee Dominik Kohr produced solid performances alongside the ever-present Daniel Baier in the middle of the park, but with his tendencies of picking up too many cards for reckless challenges, fellow summer acquisition Markus Feulner takes the role in latter stages to great effect.

But the veteran could not expect to be named the club’s best signing, as the late arrival Abdul Rahman Baba excelled in left fullback position, so much so many pundits thinks he is the best performer in his position this season. The former Greuther Fürth youngster will be in action for Ghana in the AFCON, which will probably leave his club to deal without him for a little longer when the league resumes in February.

They will be hoping to get same quality service from the recent arrivals as well. Bayern Munich prospect Pierre Emile Højbjerg is expecting to see more playing time after his loan deal completes, and there is also a player at the ranks of Borussia Dortmund who joins Augsburg during the winter transfer window. His time at Sunderland and Dortmund might involve a lot of warming the bench, more than anything, but the name Ji Dong-Won is hugely popular at the SGL Arena.

In his two stints at the club, he was a regular fixture for the Bundesliga side, and formed a memorable partnership with fellow South Korean Koo Ja-Cheol, who is now plying his trade at Mainz. For Ji and Augsburg. It’s the third time calling this winter, and he will be keen to continue where he left off when the season resumes.


Familiar faces

One would find it hard to come up with a better Bundesliga player than Tobias Werner to define the term underrated. He is fast with the ball, a good finisher, and, above all, a team player who runs his socks off every other week. And with Halil Altıntop still at his best in orchestrating attacking plays, Augsburg possess one of the most underestimated offensive sides in the league.

The late resurgence in the rather disappointing career of Alexander Esswein will also be vital in the second half of the season. One thing missing from the previous Augsburg Bundesliga seasons, though, is the lack of a distinguished striker upfront. Sascha Mölders was pretty much the face of Augsburg for a couple of years since their maiden season, but with successive injuries and a drop in form played its role, he is no longer making an impacts in the side. New signings Tim Matavž and Nikola Đurđić have had their share at times, but still lacks the sharp edge to be a reliable sources of goals.

On the other side of the pitch, the pairing of Ragnar Klavan and Callsen-Bracker still continues at center-back, and with Paul Verhaegh a regular at the right-back, three of the four defenders have been the mainstay since Weinzierl’s first day at helm. In fact, the only change of personnel at the back - Matthias Ostrzolek by Rahman Baba - is regarded by many as a huge step up.

Of course, there is another familiar figure in the form of Daniel Baier at the middle, as the wizard continues to be the heartbeat of the side.


What’s next

Of all the nine wins Augsburg registered this season, the one that comes right at the end against ‘Gladbach, not least coming from a goal behind, stands out for the right reasons. After a drubbing at the hands of Bayern Munich and another defeat in the bounce at Hannover, it would have been far from ideal to end the year with three defeats in the row, but they stood their own to stun their high flying guests. Eventually, the win also makes sure their draw-less season continues, as they’ve lost the remaining eight league games.

And if there is a lesson to take from the late rough patch, it’s the fact there is little between the sides in the league (Bayern Munich, notwithstanding, obviously), and a run of results would totally change the complexion of the standings. For further evidence, just look back at Eintracht Frankfurt’s 2010-11 season , as the Eagles eventually relegated after finishing the first half of the season in seventh place with 26 points (only one point shy off Augsburg’s tally this season).

But at the same time, the sight of a European place is looming for the low-budget side, and with experience last season coming handy, where they eventually lost out to Mainz for a Europa League berth, Augsburg can dream big for the rest of the season.


Written by Eskender Tamrat

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Bayern Munich: The Bavarians demolish Roma to move onto road to perfection

In Marti Perarnau’s new book “Pep”, which accounts Pep Guardiola’s first year in charge of Bayern Munich, there is an enlightening extract which highlights just how obsessive the coach is. After a win over Hannover last September, Guardiola hides away from his family for several hours, going over and over videos of the match before finally cracking a tactical solution.

It is an instance of the attention to detail and the quest for perfection that drives Guardiola, leaving no stone unturned as he prepares his team for an upcoming opponent. “All I do is look at opponents and try to demolish them” is how Guardiola describes his passion for analysis and preparation, the recipe that has led him to 18 trophies since he first took charge of Barcelona in 2008.

“We were well set up by the coach, he had pin-pointed where the weak points in the Roma side were and they were exactly where he said they would be” said Bayern’s Thomas Muller after Tuesday’s 1-7 rout in Roma that became the latest landmark on Guardiola’s journey to reaching footballing paradise.

Though as the Catalan told Sky Italia his team still had “things to improve on” and bemoaned how Roma were given too many chances at the start of the second half, one senses that he and his team will never quite get to that plateau of sporting mastery. With Guardiola, there will always be another ceiling to smash through.

The performance in Rome however, more specifically the opening 45 minutes, was exceptional. Last season’s Serie A runners-up, a shrewdly assembled squad under the astute eye of Rudi Garcia, this was no shoddy opponent, yet Bayern were 5 up on 36 minutes, with Mario Gotze, Arjen Robben (who scored twice) and Robert Lewandowski carving through the normally resolute Italians, who have shipped just 4 goals in their opening 7 Serie A games, at will. A Thomas Muller penalty would put the icing on the cake of a scintillating opening half.

Franck Ribery would then come on to toy with the stunned defence, running on to a through-ball from Robben to chip audaciously over a hapless Morgan De Sanctis in the Roma goal, before Xherdan Shaqiri rounded things off. Gervinho’s consolation was a footnote, a blemish on something truly special. The following day, with Bayern making a visit to the Vatican, praise came from the Pope who said the Bavarians “delivered a wonderful game of football”.

As the head of the Catholic Church was presented with a Bayern shirt it added to the surrealism of the occasion, Bayern reaching a level of such importance that they would be gratefully received in audience with the Pope. Guardiola would say the win was “not normal” and called it “a fluke”, though there was an measured and unerring quality to this victory; how Roma couldn’t live with the intense pressing, how Francesco Totti and Gervinho were suffocated by Bayern’s fearlessly high-defensive line, how Ashley Cole was targeted by Robben (both Totti and Cole had to be withdrawn at half-time) and how Lewandowski’s movement simply eluded the helpless centre-back pairing of Kostas Manolas and Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa.

As Robben said, “Roma had no answer to our attacking game and that quickly decided the match”. We really must thank our coaching team because they prepared us outstandingly for this game”.

Guardiola had said before the trip to Rome that it would be “very difficult to win at the Stadio Olimpico without a great performance” and it would be hugely difficult, given Perarnau’s depiction of the maddening footballing obsessive, just how many hours he had invested in conjuring such a lethal game-plan. Though it has been coming, since September 20 Bayern have won all six of their games in all competitions by a combined score of 24-1. Tuesday evening was the crescendo to their mini-period of ruthlessly irresistible form.

Despite winning the domestic double in his first year in Germany, Guardiola’s time with Bayern has been plagued by internal criticism of his style and methods. Club president Franz Beckenbauer would be particularly outspoken after the 0-5 aggregate defeat to Real Madrid in last season’s Champions League semi-finals. “What I feel is we must play with the ball and attack as much as possible” said the German World Cup winner, giving a revealing insight into the dissatisfaction in the club’s higher echelons of the embracement of a slower style, moving away from the direct, overwhelming power of Jupp Heynckes’s team that dominated the European game the season before.

In the post-Hannover extract in Perarnau’s book, Guardiola says this to his squad. “Gentlemen, this is tiki-taka and it is s—. We’re not interested in this type of possession. It’s totally meaningless. It’s about passing for the sake of it. We need our central midfielder and our defenders to move out with an offensive mentality and break the opposition lines in order to push the whole team high up. The U needs to go.” From as early as 14 months ago, the Catalan had been itching to dispense with the style that he had previously become synonymous with during his time at Barcelona.

Paderborn, Hannover and Bremen, the last by a 6-0 score-line in their last league outing, have all recently been brushed aside with consummate ease and there is definitely a clear echo of Heynckes appearing in their play. Long balls can go into Lewandowski, the movement of Gotze can be fed with clever through balls. Robben and Ribery are on hand to burst down the flanks. Juan Bernat, the young Spanish left-back, is wasting no time in being converted to an irrepressibly vibrant winger, while in Xabi Alonso Guardiola signed a conventional all-round midfielder capable of initiating attacks with long-sweeping diagonal balls, the type that did for Bayern last April in that pivotal thrashing at the hands of Madrid.

Following what was likely to be months of fanatical pondering and deliberation, Guardiola has managed to discover a more all-rounded approach that now threatens to take Bayern to the next-level he was initially hired to reach. The performance and result of Rome will now be filed away in the Guardiola archives, bracketed alongside Barcelona’s 2-6 and 5-0 wins over Real Madrid and the 3-1 Champions League final destruction of Manchester United in 2011, as his relentless search for footballing perfection goes on.

“This game is an exception, an incident” said Guardiola, refusing to let the force of his focus slip, “it’s not the difference between the two teams, we will see that in two weeks”. For that return game at the Allianz, it will be business as usual for the Spaniard; extreme detail, tireless and extensive planning and an impassioned devotion to excellence. As we all marvelled at was achieved in Rome, Guardiola will strive for even better.



Written by Adam Gray

Follow Adam on Twitter @AdamGray1250

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