Bayern Munich vs. Wolfsburg: 6 Things We Learned
Saturday afternoon played host to the recent hurdle in which Bayern Munich found themselves jumping over as Wolfsburg came to town and offered a rare opportunity of genuine opposition in front of the Munich faithful.
A solitary goal from Thomas Muller proved vital in this 1-0 victory, yet the breakthrough didn't come until the 63rd minute and only after coach Pep Guardiola was forced to reshape his squad with vital substitutes due to the visitors constant threat.
The win of course keeps the current champions on level points with Dortmund at the top of the table, despite Jurgen Klopp's side holding a much stronger goal difference, yet the general consensus following full time wasn't one of jubilation or relief. Wolfsburg supporters will have left the Allianz Arena the happier of the two groups of fans despite none of the points.
Here are six things we learned from the game.
Bayern Started Slowly Again
Although Bayern rarely have any problems scoring goals throughout the season, of late the team have struggled to start games with the same proficiency that they tend to finish them.
Against Wolfsburg the Bavarian champions didn't manage to create a shot on the Wolves' goal until the 28th minute, when Thomas Muller managed to force a save from Diego Benaglio. A pattern all too similar to last weekend's game against Schalke in which the hosts had already troubled Manuel Neuer four times before Bayern were able to stump up a chance of their own.
Knoche Proving Necessary in Wolfsburg Defence
Although the win was ultimately Bayern's, Wolfsburg did well to compete with the Bavarians over the course of the match, offering themselves as a handful for the Munich side's defence as well as keeping things tight in front of their own goal.
This latter point is one that was only possible thanks to the discovery of young defender Robin Knoche and what he's brought to the Wolves' defence this season. The 21-year-old central defender has played his part on all six of Wolfsburg's Bundesliga games this season and a notable reason as to why they're conceding fewer goals than they were this time last season.
Thomas Muller Key to Bayern Win
Although the German international has had to play his fair share of the season on the bench this season Thomas Muller didn't waste any time in proving himself as one of the club's most important players this weekend with a goal in the 63rd minute which proved vital to the win.
Aside from the goal, the lanky forward also created more shots on goal than any other Bayern midfield player with a constant emphasis on attack in a game in which the likes of Bastian Schweinsteiger and Arjen Robben struggled to offer anything.
Shaqiri Makes Instant Impact
Although Xherdan Shaqiri has yet to truly find himself a consistent spot in the squad, Pep Guardiola has made no qualms about confirming the young prodigy as a notable part of his long-term plans and regularly brings the winger on to either chase or cement a lead.
Of course, Saturday's win over Wolfsburg was no different as it was the 21-year-old's key pass that found Franck Ribery in space and gave the Frenchman the time to pick out his insightful cross for Thomas Muller to casually knock home for all three points. A perfect play and excellent example of the young Swiss super sub.
Wolfsburg Did Well Despite Defeat
Prior to Saturday's encounter between Bayern and Wolfsburg, the Volkswagen club had lost each of the previous six games between the sides with a goal difference of plus 14 in favour of the Bavarian club.
As such, a tight affair in which the Wolves troubled Bayern up until the final whistle will come as welcoming news to the club's supporters as they enjoy a strong start under new coach Dieter Hecking. Although the club are yet to pick up a single point away from home this season, they will be hopeful that the squad can continue marching on up the table.
Bayern Continued Winning Streak
Saturday's win over Wolfsburg was the sides sixth consecutive win for Pep Guardiola as his side continue their quest for Bundesliga and European silverware with only two points dropped over both the Bundesliga and Champions League group stages.
In fact when we take all competitions into consideration, the victory over the Wolves comes in as Bayern Munich's 14th undefeated game since their opening loss to Dortmund in the pre-season Super Cup final, a statistic that is worth remembering when we begin criticising certain aspects of the team's performances.