It has been a while, hasn't it? The luxury of an international "break" has given us some time to pause a reflect on the season. Matcheday 12 has come and gone, now over a third of the way through the 2015-16 season, and Bayern continues to sit at the top of the table. Let's have a look at where we are as the international break comes to an end.
And there it is, Bayern remain five points clear of revitalized Borussia Dortmund. And if you'll notice, their opponent on Matchday 12 moved into the relegation playoff position after their defeat at the hands of Bayern. Things are mostly wide open, even a single loss for Bayern would essentially eliminate all margin for error the rest of the way.
Now, on to the match against Stuttgart.
As I've saidbefore, the deeper we get into the season, the more a picture emerges of just who will solidify their position in the team. In this match, Alaba made his team-leading 18th appearance of the season. He and Boateng (17 appearances) are the backbone of the defense, playing in front of mainstay Manuel Neuer (17 appearances). The midfield has been lead by Arturo Vidal, the player seemingly deemed the glue of the squad. Up front, Costa, Lewandowski and Muller have each made 17 appearances. Granted, some other players are only a match or two behind them, but other players with considerable skill, like Kingsley Coman, have become more frequent, but are still fighting for time behind the leaders of the attack. And then there is Franck Ribery. Ribery has made no appearances and it is unclear if or when he will ever play.
Now that we have a really good idea of which names are going to frequent the starting lineup each week, barring inevitable injuries, what of the match?
Well, Bayern was never troubled for the three points, striking early and often en route to victory. The noteworthy aspect of their win was probably the methods of scoring employed against Stuttgart.
The first goal of the afternoon came just barely 10 minutes into the match. This goal was actually created off of the counterattack, not something particularly common for the Reds. But there it was, after conceding a corner, a deflected ball was laid off perfectly from Costa to Robben, the two tearing upfield while the rest of the squad played catchup. Robben then laid the ball off for Costa who burst through the last line of defense, centered from just inside the endline and put the ball off of the torso of Robben, who had cut back into the middle of the attack after laying off for Costa. Great interaction from the two players, and particularly impressive from Costa to use his blinding speed to break the back line and find a red shirt in the mouth of the goal.
The second goal was scored through a different method. Bayern found some midfield possession and beat the high line of Stuttgart's defense, ultimately resulting in a ball bounding across the box, finding the foot of Costa who drove the ball low and hard into the bottom corner of the opposite side of the net. Costa assists the first goal and scores the second. Perhaps the most difficult conversation at the end of this season will be determining which roster move was the best of the summer. Costa, Coman and Joshua Kimmich have all showed that they fit in quite nicely with the world class squad in Munich. An unbelievably wonderful problem to have for one of the best teams in the world.
Both goals created by Bayern up to this point were produced by beating Stuttgart's left flank. The counterattacking opener could be attributed to fantastic play on the break, but the second goal showed that Bayern was too much for the left of the VfB defense.
Before Bayern could extend their lead, some back and forth play between the sides transpired and Stuttgart came up unlucky just beyond the half-hour mark of the match, a scorcher of a shot that Neuer had no chance at stopping hit the underside of the crossbar and bounced back out.
Shortly after the unlucky crossbar and a missed opportunity for Werner, who dragged his shot high and wide, Bayern made the visitors pay, Lewandowski netting his 14th goal on the season. And this goal, the third in match, was the result of some of the most fantastic interplay you can find. While the first goal was the result of the counterattack, the second beating the high line, the third was just classic attack football.
After a foul stopped play, Bayern played the ball back to Boateng he fired the ball upfield where a combination of Robben and Muller made a series of touch passes back and forth before Muller broke wide, centering the ball onto the foot of a leaping Lewandowski. Third goal of the match, third goal from the left side of the Stuttgart defense.
The fourth and final goal of the affair was also from Bayern and also scored before half-time. This time, the build up come from the middle, a new place for Guardiola to venture his players this season, Costa breaking through and laying off for Coman who had his attempt stopped, but then Muller scored the most Muller type of goal. A saved shot, a cross chipped across the face of the goal, headed off of the bottom of the crossbar and in swooped Muller, using his head to smack the ball into the net.
I'm honestly not going to worry about tactics or result of the second half. Bayern continues to dominate the lesser sides of the Bundesliga, as they should, and do it quite convincingly. Let me leave you with these two images, a comparison of shot charts for the two sides. This will tell you everything else you needed to know about the match.
by Daniel Coughlin (@xvanwilderx)