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2 Guys and a MIKE – Weekly Roundup Podcast November 20th

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Courtesy of Fanny Schertzer

This week on 2 Guys and a Mike, Tyrrell Meertins and Hugo V breakdown World Cup qualifying playoffs, Ballon d’Or and they touch on Southampton and David Moyes.

 
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Posted by on November 20, 2013 in Podcasts

 

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Manchester City 1-3 Bayern Munich

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Bayern Munich decimated Manchester City at the Ethiad Stadium.

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Pep Guardiola made one change to the side that defeated Wolfsburg this weekend. Toni Kroos returned to partner Bastian Schweinsteiger in midfield, while Thomas Muller led the line in Bayern’s 4-1-4-1. Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery kept their spots on the flanks, while Phillip Lahm started as the sole holding midfielder.

Manuel Pellegrini made four changes to his starting eleven that fell to Aston Villa on Saturday. Edin Dzeko led the line in Pellegrini’s 4-2-3-1, ahead of Sergio Aguero, Jesus Navas and Samir Nasri. Gael Clichy and Micah Richards returned to the City back four, while Yaya Toure and Fernandinho played in the double-pivot.

Bayern produced a magnificent away performance, which saw Guardiola’s men press efficiently and dominate the midfield from the opening whistle.

Pressing

It was always going to be interesting to see how City coped with Bayern’s pressure. Guardiola’s men pegged City into their third of the pitch – getting numbers around the ball carrier, thus forcing Pellegrini’s men to concede possession. Frankly this pressure led to Bayern’s dominance, as City was unable to sustain possession for the entirety of the first half.

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It all started with Robben and Ribery closing down the City fullbacks – Muller charged down the centre backs, Bayern’s fullbacks pressed City’s wingers, while the European champions had a distinct numerical advantage in midfield. Bayern repetitively won the ball in City’s third which led to the European champions dominance for majority of the match.

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City without the ball

With Bayern maintaining a large portion of possession, City’s aim to maintain a solid shape in midfield was logical. City dropped into a narrow 4-4-2 when Bayern was in possession and there were many factors in their shape that led to Bayern’s superiority.

First off the duo of Navas and Richards were unable to cope with Alaba and Ribery’s attacking threat. The Frenchman constantly got the better of the Manchester City fullback, and Navas struggled to track Alaba, who was persistent on surging forward. The Bayern duo’s persistence to get forward led to Ribery’s opener, as Alaba’s overlapping run confused Navas and Richards, thus leading to Ribery cutting inside and unleashing a powerful shot from distance that slipped past Joe Hart at the near post.

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Yet, on the opposite side, Nasri played narrow attempting to maintain a compact shape, but this urged Guardiola’s men to penetrate on the right flank. Rafinha constantly scampered down the right side on several occasions attacking space and aiming to create overloads with Robben. Schweinsteiger also ventured over to the right side when Nasri protected Clichy to help Bayern overload the right flank. Clichy was an isolated figure at left back, and Guardiola instructed his men to penetrate the space available – and to no surprise, Bayern’s goals in the second half came down that flank.

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City’s shape without the ball was questionable – as Guardiola instructed his men to penetrate wide areas.

Bayern dominate midfield

Another key element in City’s shape was their numerical disadvantage in midfield. The Bayern trio of Schweinsteiger, Phillip Lahm and Kroos dominated Fernandinho and Yaya Toure for large portions of the match. Also, the intelligent movement of Robben, Ribery and Muller into central areas presented Bayern with several passing options in midfield.

More so, Pellegrini’s idea to play two strikers was logical – due to Dzeko’s height and ability to hold up the ball, while Aguero’s pace to run behind defenders – but it allowed Guardiola’s men to dictate possession. Aguero wasn’t instructed to press Lahm – who was often the spare man in midfield – and the German international was allowed to control the tempo of the match.

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Each member of Bayern’s midfield trio had a pass completion rate over 90%, but it was Kroos who shined brightest. Kroos possesses a wonderful gift of finding pockets of space in midfield to receive the ball – frankly there aren’t many in the world better than him at doing this.

And despite being pressed by Yaya Toure and Fernandinho, the German midfielder still managed to stamp his authority on the match – specifically in the final third. But despite Kroos’ positive impact going forward, he played a key role in Bayern’s high-press – relentlessly working hard to win the ball in City’s third. Kroos cleverly dispossessed Fernandinho in City’s third and played in Robben, who danced past Nemanja Nastasic and beat Hart at the near post.

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Furthermore, City’s shape without the ball allowed Bayern’s midfield to dictate the tempo of the match, as the numerical advantage in midfield allowed Guardiola’s trio to thrive.

Muller

However, the most interesting talking point pre-match was the role of Muller. The German midfielder rarely receives the plaudits he deserves, but once again he performed exceptionally on a monumental European night.

Muller closed down defenders efficiently and ran the channels superbly, aiming to find cracks in City’s high line – but his ability to win 50/50 challenges from direct balls was pivotal. Despite Bayern’s constant passing in central areas, the Bavarian’s did mix up their play, spraying a few long balls towards goal that Muller nodded down to his teammates.

And Bayern’s winner stemmed off a similar play. Muller drifted to the right flank and made a run behind Clichy – who was caught ball-watching – controlling a well-weighed Dante long ball, and his second touch was magnificent, which guided the German past Hart to tap the ball into the net. Muller’s movement in the second half was great – he constantly rotated with both wide men, taking up their positions when they drifted centrally, and the City back line was unable to cope.

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Muller produced a mature performance as the lone striker – he allowed his teammates to get into better positions by linking play, provided them with forward passing options, his energy and will to close down defenders was vital, and he scored a great goal that highlighted his wonderful movement and tactical intelligence.

Second half

Bayern continued to flex their muscle and out pass City in the second half and it was surprising to see Pellegrini stick with Dzeko and Aguero upfront. It was strange considering he had James Milner – a hardworking utility player – on the bench, while Javi Garcia was also available to add numbers in midfield. But Pellegrini stuck with his shape, and replaced Dzeko with Alvaro Negredo.

Aguero began to stick closer to Lahm, but as the game wore on, the Argentine tired. David Silva and Milner then replaced Aguero and Nasri – and life was restored in the match when Jerome Boateng took down Yaya Toure who was clear on goal, thus resulting in a red card. City’s shift to a 4-2-3-1 did mount a positive end to the match – Negredo scored a well-taken goal as Bayern failed to press efficiently when they lost the ball, Milner began to trouble Rafinha, and Silva was lively in the final third after Boateng’s sending off.

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Zonalmarking.net editor, Michael Cox makes a great point on Bayern’s performance in the final 15 minutes of the match. Guardiola’s men began to tire, resulting in a decline in their pressing. Like the game at the Emirates in 2010 – when Guardiola was Barcelona manager – Arsene Wenger’s substitutions were pivotal to their monumental win, as Barcelona’s energy levels dipped after pressing for majority of the match.

This, along with Bayern’s tie against Freiburg – earlier this year – are examples of Guardiola sides fading after pressing for large portions of the match, leaving them likely to concede in in the final quarter of matches. It’s an issue the Spaniard will need to sort out, as Heynckes was able to find a balance between pressing and an organized shape – whether he decides to do so will be pivotal in the latter stages of this competition.

Bayern continued to dominate for majority of the second half, yet Pellegrini’s changes did harm the European champions in the final minutes of the match.

Conclusion

Bayern Munich blitzed City for majority of the match, yet Pellegrini’s approach needs to be questioned.

Pellegrini’s decision to play with two strikers wasn’t absurd, but his inability to alter the problematic issue was irrational. The Chilean failed to change his sides shape or add numbers in midfield – as Bayern’s midfield and constant pressing, pegged City in their third for large portions of the match. 

“We pressured them well when we weren’t in possession and thus forced City to play long balls, which we were able to win. We moved the ball around well. Ever since Philipp Lahm started playing further up the pitch, we have started to create more chances,” Guardiola said. 

“We now need to show the same presence and dominance in the return game, but until then we won’t stop working hard and trying to improve,” he said. 

Guardiola’s men were superb on the night, and we’re beginning to see his philosophy reap rewards, as they produced one of the better European away performances we’ve seen in sometime.

 
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Posted by on October 2, 2013 in Match Recaps, Published Work

 

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Bundesliga Matchday 1 Recap: Pep Guardiola’s Bayern Successful But a Work in Progress

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It was refreshing to see Pep Guardiola smiling in his Bundesliga debut, after a 15-month hiatus from the touchline. The Spaniard was filled with hand gestures, confidence and a load of emotion, as he earned his first competitive win as Bayern manager.

Guardiola’s starting line up contained 10 players that started in last season’s Champions League final, with Toni Kroos being the only exception as he was unavailable due to injury. It’s normal to see Guardiola sticking with the same crop of players that were successful last season, as a major upheaval would only cause further set back for the Spaniard. The Bavarians kicked of the season in fine fashion, taking a two-goal lead in the opening 16 minutes.

But all the Guardiola critics proclaiming that the Spaniard’s side is no different to Heynckes’ treble winners would be slightly incorrect. Guardiola’s 4-1-4-1 has been interesting to assess, but it’s slowly coming to fruition.  Robben and Ribery have continued to dazzle on the flanks, and are eager to take players on – but they’ve also been encouraged to overload flanks to isolate their opposing fullbacks.

Kroos continues to play a pivotal role in the side, often drifting from flank to flank to link play with the wide men.  What’s special about Kroos, besides his reliable passing in the final third, is his ability to find space to receive the ball, providing another passing option when teams press Bastian Schweinsteiger. Muller also displayed improvement as the right shuttler, often getting into key areas in the final third to link play. Like Mario Mandzukic, Muller has struggled to get involved in matches, and has often looked confused with his positioning, but there was a significant improvement against Monchengladbach.

However, this was far from a blowout, and Lucien Favre’s men caused the Bavarian’s problems throughout the match.  Max Kruse made constant runs into the channels to receive long balls and retain possession – and in the 30th minute, Kruse also forced Manuel Neuer into making a wonderful save.

As influential as Kruse was, Patrick Herrmann was Favre’s key man, as Gladbach was determined to find the German winger on the right flank. Of the few issues that Bayern suffered, one has been the positioning of their fullbacks. With the Bavarians aiming to press higher up the pitch, Phillip Lahm and David Alaba left a significant amount of space free behind them, which Favre’s men were keen on exposing. Juan Arango and Herrmann constantly got behind the Bayern fullbacks, creating chances for Kruse.

One of the major changes Guardiola has made was the removal of the double pivot, thus playing with one holder in Schweinsteiger. The Bavarians encountered the same issue in the German Super Cup, and once again they were caught on the break numerous times. Favre’s men were unable to take their chances, saving Bayern from conceding more goals and possibly dropping points.

Guardiola’s men put the game out of reach in the 69th minute, when Alvaro Dominguez conceded two penalties in the span of two minutes, allowing Alaba to convert his shot past Marc-Andre ter Stegen.

Bayern start their title defence with three points, but Guardiola’s system will take a few more weeks to flourish – until then, it’ll be fascinating to see how the Bavarians evolve under their new manager.

Aubameyang! Aubameyang! Aubameyang! (Augsburg 0-4 Borussia Dortmund)

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s life in Germany kicked off in fine fashion, as he became the sixth player in Bundesliga history to score a hat trick on his debut. Borussia Dortmund is out to make a statement this season and challenge for domestic honours, and Augsburg was their first victim, as they cruised to a 4-0 victory. Robert Lewandowski added the fourth goal with a thunderous penalty kick.

“I pointed out to my team that our intensity would have to be the same as all other matches before, the Supercup included,” Klopp said.

“Our opponents were extremely strong but in the second half we won the ball more and found more space. We scored great goals and finished the game with confidence,” he added.

One area that Klopp will look to address is getting the best out of Ilkay Gundogan, who has played in the no.10 role and has failed to impress. But Aubameyang was the main man on the night displaying his aerial prowess, quality finishing, and ability to get behind the defence with his pace.

Although Jurgen Klopp sold Mario Gotze to the Bavarians, the German manager looks to have assembled a side that’s potentially better then last season, with the inclusion of Aubameyang, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Sokratis Papastathopoulos.

Sam’s pace guides Leverkusen past Freiburg (Bayer Leverkusen 3-1 SC Freiburg)

Heung Min Son marked his Leverkusen debut with the match winner as Sami Hyypiä’s men easily dispatched of Freiburg at the BayArena. Last season’s Golden boot winner Stefan Kießling opened the scoring, but Mike Hanke leveled the match in the 40th minute, courtesy of a Jonathan Schmid assist.

However, Leverkusen’s wide men had the biggest impact on the match, after both sides found the back of the net in a dull first half. Sidney Sam used his pace to make identical runs behind the Freiburg backline to assist Son’s winner and score Leverkusen’s third goal.

Christian Streich’s men pushed for an equalizer but they struggled to create any opportunities in the final third. Frankly, most of their work came through Hanke, who was constantly moving across the final third linking play, but the creativity and final ball was lacking.

6-goal thriller at the Veltins-Arena (Schalke 3-3 Hamburg)

Adam Szalai’s 72nd minute equalizer saved Jens Keller’s men from a disappointing opening day loss at the Veltins Arena. Klass-Jan Huntelaar once again caused the Hamburg backline trouble, scoring two goals, making it five in two games.

But Schalke had other problems to deal with, starting with the 22nd minute departure of Julian Draxler, who limped off the pitch. Prior to his injury, Draxler was Schalke’s main attacking threat in the final third – spreading incisive passes in key areas, and assisting Huntelaar’s first goal.

Yet, once he departed, Thorsten Fink’s men began to assert their dominance, exposing Schalke’s weakness in wide areas and aerial duels. Maximillian Beister got behind the Schalke defence on numerous occasions with his direct runs, and his 24th minute header gave Hamburg the lead. Meanwhile, Lars Sobiech out jumped Joel Matip in the second half to retake the lead, after Huntelaar leveled the game before half time. Matip and Benedikt Höwedes struggled in the air, and were unable to cope with Jacques Zoua’s intelligent movement, as they were constantly dragged out of position.

Fink decided to switch to a 4-3-3 midway through the second half to preserve their lead, but it allowed youngsters Christian Clemens, Leon Goretzka and substitute Adam Szalai to stamp their authority on the match. They began to find gaps in the Hamburg midfield and looked threatening in the final third. More so, it was Clemens’ shot that Adler spilled and Szalai tapped in the rebound.

We start by conceding three goals at home. That’s way too many. We weren’t in the game at all in the first half, but we did a lot right in the second half,” Keller said.

Schalke fell behind twice, but found the courage to fight back, despite struggling for large portions of the match. Fink’s men were tactically superb, but the Hamburg manager’s decision to preserve their lead, led to their downfall, as the Royal Blues improved in the second half.

Other Results: Hannover 2-0 Wolfsburg, Braunschweig 0-1 Bremen, Hertha 6-1 Frankfurt, Hoffenheim 2-2 Nürnberg, Mainz 3-3 Stuttgart

 
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Posted by on August 13, 2013 in Published Work

 

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Juventus 0-2 Bayern Munich

Bayern Munich put on another excellent away performance to defeat Juventus 2-0 and advance to the semi-finals of the Champions League yet again.

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Antonio Conte stuck with his traditional 3-5-2, but Mirko Vucnic replaced Alessandro Matri, and was partnered with Fabio Quagliarella upfront. Paul Pogba and Simone Padoin featured in the starting lineup for the suspended Stephane Lichsteiner and Arturo Vidal. Kwadwo Asamoah also returned to Conte’s starting lineup, ahead of Federico Peluso.

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It was no surprise that Jupp Heynckes’ men continued to play in a 4-2-3-1, with Mario Mandzukic leading the line. Arjen Robben and Javi Martinez were included in the starting line up for the injured Toni Kroos and Luiz Gustavo.

It was an impressive performance by Heynckes’ men, as they make their third semi-final appearance in the last four seasons. It was a truly breathtaking away performance from the newly crowned German champions, as they thoroughly dominated the Italian champions.

Pressing

Juventus had a bright start to the match – it was a massive improvement compared to what transpired in the first leg. Matri and Vucnic were closing down the centre backs, while Asamoah and Padoin quickly closed down David Alaba and Phillip Lahm when they received the ball. In the opening 30 minutes, the Juventus midfield did a great job on Bastian Schweinsteiger. Claudio Marchisio, Paul Pogba and Vucinic occasionally dropped deeper to press the German midfielder, in which he had the worst passing rate of his career, at 64 percent.

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Unfortunately, Juventus was unable to sustain that pressure, and Bayern were able to impose their authority in the match. Five Bayern players completed more than 50 passes, and they began to assert their dominance as Conte’s men began to tire.

Heynckes’ men pressed intelligently, and once again stopped Juventus from playing. Bayern’s front four pressed the Juventus front three and Andrea Pirlo, but at times they would sit off and let the Juventus defenders have the ball.  There was no surprise that the Juventus defenders had the highest passing combination for the Italian champions, and this is what Bayern wanted. The German side sat off, and picked up the Juventus midfield three, which forced Juventus to play several long balls.

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Bayern’s pressing was effective and they created more chances in today’s match. Juventus’ inability to replicate Bayern’s pressing allowed the Germans to assert their dominance from wide areas and in possession. Schweinsteiger and Martinez were rarely picked up and they dictated the tempo of the match.

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Juventus’ right – Bayern attack down the flanks

Apart from Pirlo’s free-kick, Juventus rarely threatened in the final third. Pogba and Padoin combined well in the first half but they lacked the final ball. Asamoah failed to get the best out of Lahm, and often sprayed passes across the field. Vucinic also aimed to penetrate down that side, but not much came from it, as Bayern defended well.

Bayern’s wide players were nullified in the opening 30 minutes, due to Juventus’ pressure, but once Conte’s men tired, Lahm and Alaba surged forward, mainly down the right. Muller, Schweinsteiger and Franck Ribery helped Lahm and Robben overload that right hand side. Ribery and Alaba also caused havoc on their flank, but with Ribery drifting centrally, the Frenchman often found himself connecting with Lahm and Robben.

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Juventus wingbacks played narrow when Bayern had the ball, and this often left Robben and Ribery going 1v1 with Giorgio Chiellini and Andrea Barzagli. The only worry here was that Mandzukic was left alone with Leonardo Bonucci, but Bayern failed to exploit that area.

Muller

Thomas Muller played behind Mandzukic for the injured Kroos, and the 23-year-old midfielder had a quiet, but decent match. He didn’t do a great job pressing Pirlo in the first half, and casually tracked him. This could have led to Heynckes’ decision to press the midfield and let the Juventus defenders have the ball.

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Offensively, Muller did a great job in linking play with the wingers, and he received the ball several times in between the lines. When Juventus were pressing the German side, Muller was the key outlet in the midfield, and he often picked up the ball in between the lines unmarked. The German was unable to find the back of the net, despite having a few chances, but his all-around play was superb.

Set Pieces

In the first half, Schweinsteiger delivered a splendid ball from a free-kick, and no Juventus player cleared it. Daniel Van Buyten got his head on the ball and it went wide of the net.

Schweinsteiger delivered the same ball in the second half and Juventus once again was unable to cope with the German’s delivery. Martinez attacked the ball this time, and Buffon saved his header, but Mandzukic headed the rebound into the net and ultimately ended the tie.

Considering the aerial presence that Juventus possess, one wouldn’t expect them to be vulnerable from set-pieces. They were fortunate not to concede in the first half, but against an elite side like Bayern Munich, teams can’t afford to make defensive mistakes of this nature.

Second half

Conte’s men failed to press in the second half, and Bayern continued to hold spells of possession for several minutes at a time. Juventus pushed forward and attacked, but left space in behind them for the Germans to capitalize on.

Juventus was unable to retain possession, and the German side strolled through the second half with ease. Heynckes’ side created numerous chances, but only Claudio Pizarro was able to add to Mandzukic’s opener.

Conte’s substitutions had no effect on the Bianconeri’s shape, as they were simply, like-for like changes. Juventus found themselves stretched on numerous occasions and they struggled to create chances in front of goal, due to another great display from Brazilian defender Dante.

Conclusion

Over two legs Bayern displayed that they were the superior side, producing two fantastic performances, against a strong Juventus side. They pressed better, created more chances and were worthy winners in both matches. They head into the semi-finals along with Spanish giants Barcelona and Real Madrid, and their domestic rivals, Borussia Dortmund. Although cup-ties of this magnitude can go either way, if the Bavarians can replicate performances of this quality, they can be considered favourites to do what they couldn’t in Munich last season.

Juventus’ European run has come to an end, and Conte will have learned more about his men through this experience. They were second best over two legs, against an elite European side. It was a successful run considering it was their return to European football, and experiences like this will only strengthen this side going forward. Conte will be disappointed in players such as Pirlo and Marchisio who were unable to showcase their talent on the big stage, against elite midfielders.

“I think that the best team went through, which they proved in both legs. This side has been working together for a long time and always reaches the latter stages. They were created to win, so I don’t think it’s absurd to say this is the best Bayern team of all time,” Conte said.

“When we were paired with Bayern, I said this was an opportunity for us to face an extremely strong side and understand the gap that separated us from the superpowers. This was an opportunity for us and we were basically newcomers to the Champions League after so many years out. We reached the quarter-finals, which in my view was something extraordinary,” he said.

Three Stars

1.    Bastian Schweinsteiger

2.    Javi Martinez

3.    Franck Ribery

 
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Posted by on April 11, 2013 in Match Recaps

 

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