Bayern Munich trounced Barcelona by a 4-0 margin in the first leg of their Champions League semifinal tie on Tuesday, a result that shocked the football world. Thomas Muller opened the scoring early on and assisted Mario Gomez for a second before the break. After half-time, Arjen Robben struck before Muller added a fourth to complete the humiliation of the four-time European champions
The result does not yet crown Bayern as Europe's best club—that will be decided in the final on May 25—but it certainly does demote Barcelona from their longstanding spot as Europe's "best club." And to an extent, it even calls into question the effectiveness of the Catalan side's patented "Tiki-Taka" possession-based tactics.
This judgment is not for only one game: Throughout the season, Barca's dominance in Europe has slipped. They lost to Celtic in the group stage, they lost to Milan in the round of 16 and only scraped past PSG on away goals after two draws in the quarterfinals. PSG and Milan both had chances to kill off their respective ties against a very vulnerable Barca, but failed. Bayern did not, and the Catalans were put to the sword.
Barca have rarely made major revisions in their tactics in recent years, and certainly not for a single game. Bayern did on Tuesday, and that made the difference: Rarely a team to benefit from set pieces, they took advantage of their height and scored twice from dead-ball situations.
Bayern's pressing and marking of Xavi and Lionel Messi absolutely nullified Barca's attack, and the Blaugrana were held to just four shots. Their possession advantage of nearly 2:1 was made utterly useless: It neither aided their attack nor protected their defense to any appreciable degree.
The bottom line is that Bayern exposed each of Barca's many tactical weaknesses and delivered a hammer blow to the Blaugrana and their style of play. A statue of Jupp Heynckes should be commissioned to put in Munich's Marienplatz to thank the trainer for what he's done for the club this season.
The events of Tuesday night beg the question: If Bayern are decidedly superior to Barcelona, what good is it to sign Pep Guardiola to be their next coach? The trainer, who will replace Heynckes at season's end, is responsible for Barca winning La Liga and Spanish Supercopa three times, the Champions League, Copa del Rey, Uefa Super Cup and Fifa Club World Cup twice apiece in four seasons with Barcelona.
However, Guardiola's tactics are the same vulnerable Tiki-Taka that his former club used in Tuesday evening's humiliation. It will require some time for Bayern to learn to play under the new trainer, and even then, there's no guarantee they will be at the same level at which they played on Tuesday evening. It's hard enough becoming the best; doing so once and learning to repeat the task in a different way is an even greater challenge, but one the Bavarians will have to take on.
Thomas Bertram Lance once famously wrote: "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." In signing Guardiola rather than trying to convince Heynckes to stay, they've certainly made things harder for themselves.
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