The Reds haven't stopped playing, I haven't stopped watching and, mostly, Bayern hasn't stopped winning. There are several matches to run down since our last update, so no more time to waste...
Bundesliga Matchday 13: Away to Schalke, a 3-1 Victory
Here's a thing that is true in the Bundesliga: two teams that everyone else likes to watch lose are Schalke and Bayern. Sadly for the rest of the league, only one team lost. That team is the oft troubled boys in blue.
Guardiola's constantly changing formations and starting lineup is one of the more amusing things to watch. Benatia, Kimmich and Coman were among the players to start against Stuttgart that were replaced against Schalke. Costa started up front against Stuttgart, supported by Muller and Lewandowski. Against Schalke, Costa moved out to the left wing, Lewandowski moving to the top of the attack. On the back line, Lahm replaced Rafinha and none other than Javi Martinez (!) got the start.
Health is starting to return to the Bayern squad. Robben has experienced a small run of health, Martinez is featuring in the side again, Badstuber hasn't suffered any new setbacks.
Beyond health, we know that Pep always likes to change formations and tactics. Frankly, if I coached a team as loaded and dynamic as Bayern, I'd probably do the same. The change in personnel was accompanied by a change from 4-2-3-1 to 4-1-4-1 and don't be surprised if it all just ends up looking like some combination of 4-3-3 or 10-1 or 11 or 0. Whatever. It looks great, whatever it is.
Champions League Matchday 5: Victory Against Olympiacos, 4-0!
The changes were on again for Pep. This time Rafinha is back in the starting lineup for Alaba, Badstuber in for Martinez, Vidal moves to the holding pivot in place of Alonso, and Costa moves into the supporting more central role under the striker, Lewandowski, with Coman taking duties on the left wing.
Perhaps more surprising than all of the turnover was that Guardiola decided to stick with his 4-1-4-1, running the same scheme as in their prior match.
Bayern put this one away early, Costa scoring in the 8th minute, Lewandowski scoring in the 16th minute, and Thomas Muller scoring in the 20th minute. After that, it was all about control and experimentation. A bit of schade from Badstuber, drawing a red card in the 52nd minute, but Kingsley Coman made it 4-0 in the 69th minute.
Crusing to victory, Kimmich, Benatia and Martinez all made appearances. The only downer - Robben's good streak of health we mentioned earlier is over. He had to be pulled in the 33rd minute due to injury.
Death. Taxes. Robben and Ribery injured. This is life as we know it. Not to end on a down note, this victory guaranteed Bayern first place in their Champions League grouping with a game to spare.
Bundesliga Matchday 14: Bayern Beats Berlin, 2-0!
70 percent possession and 24-4 in shots. This is just standard from Bayern.
Guardiola got bored again and decided to throw out a 4-3-3 with a midfield of Boateng (!), Alonso and Vidal supporting Muller, Lewandowski and Coman. No Robben, no Ribery, no Alaba. I'd guess that Badstuber's red card put him on Pep's bad side which cleared the way for Martinez and Benatia to combine for central defense.
Speaking of Badstuber, he and Rode were the only substitutions used by Pep in this match. Bayern seems to do this thing where they get bored or use real match scenarios as their training. After staking an early lead, they settled in, made some defensive changes and chased the tactics dragon until time expired.
Bundesliga Matchday 15: All Life Ends, Bayern Beaten 3-1.
After a new record start to the Bundesliga season, Bayern finally came up short.
Guardiola opted for the 4-3-3 again and with injuries was really limited in his substitution options. Coman got the start out on the left, Alaba still out, Robben still out. Boateng moved from the midfield to the backline and Martinez moved into the midfield.
The first half was all Bayern and Coman absolutely owned the right back of the Gladbach defense, sending in cross after cross. Fortunately for the Foals, every cross sent in was either to no one or a defender. Had any of those crosses found their way to a red shirt, it would have been in the back of the net.
But Bayern also beat themselves. Hitting a post, missing shots from close range that you simply cannot miss and hope to escape unpunished for such wastefulness.
After a scoreless first half, Gladbach took advantage of a chance early in the second half and then exploited the aggressive, offensive mentality of Bayern who were caught chasing the match and not playing defense or mentally locking in to cover on set pieces.
Bayern still took the most shots and held a 60-40 advantage in possession but the same old things were true about Bayern - when playing a top team in Germany or Europe, they fail to seem decisive under Guardiola (except when playing Arsenal and Man City). Further, Guardiola's various systems are all bizarre in the context that they seem to require an early goal no matter what formation or group of players is on the pitch. Pep's possession machine needs to grab a lead early or they cannot coax their opponent out of their defensive, counter attacking shell.
Weird note: does Neuer have a weakness? Sure, Bayern only allowed four goals over the last four matches, three of them coming against Gladbach in just 14 minutes, only one goal over the course of the other 346 minutes. BUT, the goal from Schalke and the Johnson goal for Gladbach were both low shots to Neuer's left. It is at least interesting that Neuer seems to have trouble extending low and to the left on shots with moderate to high velocity.
Again, there is always an upside to end with. Franck Ribery back in action! Even better, he scored the only Bayern goal on the afternoon. Health seems to be a stumbling block for a lot of teams in a lot of sports around the globe, but Bayern really needs to find a run of luck in that department over the next few months if they hope to hold on to the league title and also push for another Champions League trophy.
And that's that. Hope you could keep up with all four matches that we tried to run through since our last update. The lineups and formations constantly change, Bayern is still dominant and still struggles in the same ways. Up next: the last match of the Champions League group stage. Having locked up the group, I can only imagine which players will start and in what formation.
by Daniel Coughlin (@xvanwilderx)