A star added to the Bayern Munich crest. Yes, they were crowned champions domestically and in Europe for the fifth time in the 2012/2013 season. It was coming sooner or later with the disappointments faced in 2010 and 2012. This Bayern Munich team have been resilient and the signing of Pep Guardiola is a mark of intent as to which direction the club is heading. Having said that, one cannot take away credit from an exceptional Borussia Dortmund team who have lost only twice in the tournament overcoming the likes of Manchester City, Malaga and Real Madrid to reach the final. Klopp has built a team which have stood firm following their recent success and although the underdogs for the final, no one could question their display against the German and European champions. Their only weakness was a lack of sharpness in the centre of defence with the pairing of Hummels and Subotic. It cost them dearly and Klopp admitted that the final that may happen in Berlin, two years from now, is a realistic target for Dortmund. Only a brave man, with one of the strongest mentalities could make such a claim straight after a loss in the final. As Lineker said, “football is a game played by 22 men kicking a ball about for 90 minutes and at the end the Germans win.... and lose”. I couldn’t agree more after watching these two teams dominate the biggest names in European football, Real Madrid and Barcelona, to say the least.
It was a night of joy in particular for Arjen Robben who savoured that late goal. This man has endured heartache after his displays in the 2010 world cup and the 2012 champions league finals. He missed several chances against Spain only for Iniesta to capitalise late into the game to crown them world champions in 2010. And against Chelsea, it was a night to forget for Robben. He missed several chances including a penalty into extra time which could have given them the edge over Chelsea. Subsequently, he did not step up to take a penalty after extra time clearly down to his lack of confidence as a result of his missed chances.
However yesterday, there was no better player than Robben in the second half. He took his chances well and was sharp on the ball. He looked threatening cutting in from the wing, trademark Robben, but better. He capitalised well on the lack of concentration from Subotic and Hummels to finish cooly into the corner of the goal getting the better of weidenfeller for only the second time in the game. Bayern Munich deserved that win and Robben’s tears at the end sums up what that trophy and performance meant to him. Jupp Heynckes’ tears in his post match conference against Borussia Mönchengladbach were justified as he is the only manager ever to reach the champions league finals for every team he has managed in the champions league. He leaves with his head held high only to set up the stage for the incoming, Pep Gurdiola.
Nirav Khant (twitter: @nirav_rk)
The transfer merry go round continues as clubs work on strengthening their squads. With four of the top 6 changing managers, expect much more transfer activity to come but let’s see what’s been happening at the mid table clubs.
Emanuele Giaccherini has completed a move to Sunderland from Italian champions Juventus. The 28 year old becomes Paolo Di Canio’s 9th signing this window following a £8.6 million move. Having only made 17 appearances for Juventus last season, the winger was impressive for Italy during the confederations cup and wants to cement his place for the forthcoming world cup in Brazil. He scored 3 times and created 3 assists mostly coming off the bench but he should be a regular starter at the stadium of light and with only 1 yellow card last season, he has fantasy point potential.
Once linked with Arsenal and Barcelona, the much sought after Kenyan defensive midfielder, Victor Wanyama, has put pen to paper with Southampton on a £12.5 million deal. His impressive performances for Celtic particularly against Barcelona in the champions league have earned him a strong reputation. Being a defensive midfielder, his goal to game ratio for Celtic has been is 1 in 6 games and with a high number of passes and pass accuracy, expect a few assists as well from the 22 year old for your UFC team.
Maicon has completed a move to AS Roma from Manchester city where he played a bit part role making only 7 appearances. This loosens competition at the right back spot with only Richards and Zabaleta available. Micah Richards had an injury riddled 2012/13 season but is back fit and in training with the city squad. Expect Richards to play more and 20 appearances is the least you can budget for from the right back. He has solid assist and clean sheet potential and pellegrini has hinted Richards would be getting more game time.
In other news, Stephen Harper has finally called time on his Newcastle United career. Well, discounting his 6 loan spells in that time at least. The 38 year old has completed a move to Hull City on a free transfer and the veteran adds experience to their current squad. Harper will mainly be used as a back-up goal keeper but is worth a second-choice shot stopper for your UFC team.
Dortmund's victory over Arsenal last night is widely seen as a smash and grab raid. Maybe, rightly so given the nature of the winner - an 83rd minute counter attack. However not delving deeper into what enabled the winner would be an insult to Dortmund's philosophy.
The first goal, scored by Henrikh Mkhitaryan is probably the best example of "gegenpressing" that you would find in the game. Losing the ball in the final third, but hounding the opposition to win it high up the pitch, and succeeding when Aaron Ramsey took one touch too many and had a cute vision of how it would end. With Dortmund though, it ends in one of two ways - a goal or a corner. Teams which are set up and sent out with THAT intensity, will not let up - more so in the final third (they'll simply say it makes more sense to win the ball closer to the opposition goal than your own!).
A remarkable feature of the game was that Dortmund outran Arsenal by almost 15km (rumours of this intensity causing injuries, over the course of a season, could hold some water, no?). They have taken Gunter Netzer's quote to heart, "Wenn es nicht läuft, liegt es oft daran, dass die Spieler nicht laufen". It can be translated to, "If things aren't really running for the team, it is because the players aren't running (hard enough)". Against this Dortmund team, there will be no easy games, not for Arsenal and not for anyone else.
A 4-2-3-1 formation, mirrored on either side, seldom leaves much space in the middle of the park and it is here that Dortmund's aggressive ball winning was important. It was important to stop the supply to the full-backs who had swathes of green ahead of them. More often that not, it was Full Back v Full Back on the wings, with limited support/feints provided by overlapping runners. Dortmund shut out the supply route to the wings better - the only area on the pitch with some semblance of space.
Which leads nicely to the winner, assisted by Kevin Großkreutz - a makeshift right back on the night. Space - First touch - Lewandowski - Goal (duh!). It was one of the few occasions on the night when a full back had space and space for Großkreutz was a far more regular feature than space for Sagna or Gibbs (the Arsenal full backs), simply because Dortmund were able to recycle the ball to him fast enough.