I have never liked Werder Bremen. What else can I lead with? Bayern Munich, the team I have loved and followed since my youth, are just crushing all opponents that stand in their way. After a little bit of luck early in the season, they have settled in and put the screws to their domestic opponents.
But Werder is different. They are what I always viewed as pre-Dortmund, Dortmund. The team that pushed Bayern when all others weren't feeling up to the task. And if you understand that two Bayern regulars, Robert Lewandowski and Mario Gotze, are ex-Dortmund players, you will see the parallel of former Bayern striker and German National Team great, Miroslav Klose. Klose cut his teeth into the goal-scoring greats of his time in the Bundesliga. And before he headed the attack in Munich, he was taking on Munich as a member of Bremen. Anyone who has only had the fortune of being exposed to German football since Bayern and Dortmund rose to the top of Europe will probably think I'm talking about a time much more distant than it truly is.
And there is my old friend, Alex. Alex loves Germany, speaks fluent German, and was the lone brave soul I ever met who supported Werder and not Bayern or Dortmund or Leverkusen or Schalke. Alex supported his team, even when I tried to convert him to the Reds. And they haven't been particularly good, definitely not great, in the last half-decade.
For 45 minutes this weekend, you saw what most newcomers would recognize as a Bayern vs. Bremen match. The possession statistics were comically uneven. Bayern basically played a combination of school-yard keep away and FIFA 16 on semi-pro against Werder.
Werder wasn't without tactics, the coaching plan of Viktor Skrypnyk was actually well designed and if a few of his players were just a bit more skilled it could have been a slightly different story. The first half, those first 45 minutes, were just Bayern dominating all aspects of the game followed by a quick counterattack attempt from Bremen. Werder actually played this chances extremely well, just lacking enough speed to break away from the retreating Bayern line or the killer instinct of a decisive strike when the ball finally ended up in front of the Munich net.
It was a beautiful orchestrated Thiago ball that cut through the defense and landed on the foot of Thomas Muller, mid-perfectly timed run, the resulted in the Bayern goal that everyone knew was coming. The run was so perfectly timed that the Bremen keeping was already taking shape to trap the ball off of the bounce when Muller darted into the frame, needed an extra touch to gain control, then put it low and under the diving keeper who couldn't fully recover from his half-commitment to a ball that never arrived.
And that was the first 45 minutes.
The second half was a different story for Bremen, turning a bit more threatening as the match enter the late stages. Bayern was pushed hard, Skrypnyk having his player absorb pressure for nearly an hour, trailing by just a single goal, so they began high pressing action to pressure Bayern and force them to take chances instead of finding the safe pass and settling into a rhythm of constant ball control.
The final statistics of the match were basically insane, Bayern controlling 80-percent of the possession. But they had just one goal to show for it. Bremen only completed 56-percent of their passes, but were only out-shot 13-8, shots on target were 4-2, the final score being 1-0.
There was never doubt that Bayern would take points at Bremen, but there was a little while in the second half where it seemed like Werder would get at least one point for their troubles. This wasn't the classic Bremen side with the likes of Klose, Klasnic, Frings or the young prospect Ozil, but they put up a better fight against their old nemesis than Bayern's current nemesis. Unfortunately for Werder, they got the same result - a loss.
Bayern is now nine wins in nine games on the season. It has to end sometime, but their streak has been a pleasure to watch. Up next, a mid-week tie in the Champions League with Arsenal.
One other note: if the tackle on Robert Lewandowski by Bremen keeper Felix Wiedwald was not a straight red card, I do not know what is. Keepers have become more and more reckless in recent years and never fall under the scrutiny of the referee. Wiedwald went mid-air, studs up, into the inner thigh of Lewandowski just above the knee. It could have been season or career threatening for Lewa, fortunately he escaped with just a nasty looking boot mark.
by Daniel Coughlin (@xvanwilderx)