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Bundesliga News

Bundesliga Tactics Talk: Round 22

By Peter Vice

A Dortmund win combined with a Bayern loss means that the FCB's lead at the top of the Bundesliga table is back down to six points.

Of course, that's not the only thing that happened in Europe's most exciting football league over the weekend, and we're pleased to keep everyone up to date with our comprehensive weekend recap column that covers all nine fixtures.

This week's edition of "Tactics Talk" contains draw ups for Leipzig, Dortmund, and Stuttgart.

The focus section takes the deep dive into that Bayern loss over on the Castropher Straße. Bochum's sensational win gets the fully detailed tratment.

Thomas Reis.
Thomas Reis.

Bundesliga Tactical Banter: Round 22


The Predictable Parlays

Before getting into the surprises, there were--to the irritation of the writer--a couple of predictions from last week's column that turned out to be true. Yes, that's correct. Those in the sports prognostication business enjoy being thrilled by the unexpected far more than they do having things work out precisely as they did in their own mind. When a deduction regarding Hoffenheim proves correct, it's all the less fun. The Kraichgauer engine purred along nicely in the TSG's 2-0 defeat of Bielefeld in the Sunday capper.


With Florian Grillitsch and Diadie Samassekou back in the XI, Sebastian Hoeneß' latest 3-4-2-1 bore no resemblance to the team on a four-game-losing streak. The kept the ball away from the DSC like leisurely weekenders engaging in a kick about on the beach. Everything was under control, Udo Lindenberg style. Munus Dabbur, Christoph Baumgartner, and captain Benjamin Hübner all missed chances to double the advantage in the opening 45. Eventually, captain Hübner put the outclassed Teutoburgs out of their misery.

One notes with a slightly lighter heart that Borussia Mönchengladbach's predicted upswing also materialized. It did prove somewhat uplifting to see individual radiance from German internationals Jonas Hofmann and Florian Neuhaus. Adi Hütter's 3-4-3 sprung back into life again for one match. Wingbacks Ramy Bensebaini and Stefan Lainer played as well as they had all season. Lastly, Swiss national team hero Yann Sommer played the hero for his club side again. Okay. Some spot-on predictions aren't all that bad.
Breisgauer Buckling

Perhaps some more sad news before moving onto the next section. We'll have to address Freiburg-Mainz, of course. In so doing, it gives the columnist no pleasure to report that Christian Streich tried to inject some life into his sliding side with what looked like an unorthodox multi-lvel "split stagger" constellation; not unlike the one often seen in Stuttgart. Christian Günter played well ahead of the back-four, with winger Roland Sallai presumably meant to be his staggered axial partner way up on the second line.

Maximilian Eggestein and Niclas Höfler also played staggered in the midfield. Woo-Yeong Jeong was somewhere between a service striker and a ten. Vincenzo Grifo was all over the map. Sigh. A Mainzer goal that falsely withstood a VAR check (match official Deniz Aytekin even straight up admitted after the match that the 1-0 shouldn't have counted) didn't exactly offset the fact that Freiburg's structural passing game completely collapsed. A 1-1 draw was barely a fair result for a team so incompetent in the build up play.

Double sigh. Looks like things are truly falling apart for the southern-border Badeners. No magical European club tournament football campaign next year for the SCF; at least not when Streich has them playing in a 3-1-1-1-1-2-1 or whatever the hell that was. Hopefully, Germany's favorite top tier football trainer exercised better judgement when selecting the Bundesrepublik's next federal president on Sunday. He could have scarcely done a worst job with the pitch crew this weekend.

The "Spiegel Specials": Round 22


Leipzig-Köln (1:1, 3:1)

Back when we were discussing the reverse fixture, we were talking about an insane game that could have finished 3-3 were it not for multiple VAR interventions. We were also discussing Jesse Marsch's struggles to transition the German Red Bulls into his type of squad. Marsch had the Saxons lined up in an odd 4-4-2 at the time. Dani Olmo worked as the service striker slanted left behind André Silva. Christopher Nkunku and Dominik Szoboszlai served on the wings.

How far we've come.


Lineup—RB Leipzig—Match 22 (3-5-2)



Domenico Tedesco did a splendid job lining his personnel up in a spread formation that kept Köln off the ball with quick one-touch passing. Although it is true that the Saxons sometimes sleepwalked through Friday night's encounter, the possession game maintained a crisp feel about it throughout. Some sloppiness from both Angelino and Benjamin Henrichs in the final third, but otherwise dominant stuff from virtually all of the actors here.

After some difficulties finishing from open play, Nkunku opened the scoring with a beautiful bending shot off a dead-ball situation 18 meters out in the 25th. Olmo reliably and gradually shook off his rust until emerging as the real star of the show early in the second half. The Spaniard scored one and assisted on another during a two-tally span between the 54th and 57th.

The defensive set-up also deserves praise. With the two sixes stationed further back and Willi Orban working deep on an inverted pivot, Steffen Baumgart's Geißböcke couldn't do much of anything with their midfield ball wins. The Effzeh invariably ran into a white wall that collapsed quickly in front of keeper Peter Gulacsi. Köln failed to produce danger all night.
Prognosis: A top-four finish

With RB into the Champions' League places for the first time this season, it looks as if the table effectively corrects itself. German football's wise old-hand Lothar Matthäus had it right all along when talking about the imbalances in the standings during the winter break. All the early surprises of the season notwithstanding, the 2022/23 German UCL representatives shall likely be Bayern, Dortmund, Leverkusen, and Leipzig. The other contenders can't find the consistency.

Such a finish to the campaign will elicit a "meh" from many German football watchers. Hopes were high that Eintracht Frankfurt, SC Freiburg, or even 1. FC Union Berlin could make a push. We craved some novelty in that regard. Football lovers across the Bundesrepublik crave novelty in general. Hence, the big debate this week about possibly instituting post-season playoffs in the Bundesliga. Radical re-organization appears the only way to stop Bayern.

In the opinion of the column, the German footballing public should probably be grateful that the stronger teams rise to the top as the season winds down. After the absolute disaster that was Germany in the Champions' League this season, we might as well admit that we want our best representing us next year. As long as this will take to sink in, it remains the truth.

Incidentally, this is as good a time as any to report upon German expectations for this year's Europa League campaign. Between the two initial UEL participants (Leverkusen, Frankfurt) and the two UCL teams relegated to the lower tier (Dortmund, Leipzig) we essentially insist that a German club takes the Europa League crown this year. Call us demanding if you must, but that's the requirement. We don't stop to ask it it's fair.

A country 80 million strong must exert its influence on this stage. 
Fürth-Hertha (1:2, 2:1)

A perfect mirror! Hertha were pulling their socks up under Pal Dardai. Now the capital city's Charlottenburger side have dropped their pants under Tayfun Korkut. Absolutely terrible performance from the visiting "alte Dame". Linus Gechter just couldn't cut it in place of the COVID afflicted Marc Oliver Kempf in central defense. We found that out seconds after kickoff.

Though Gechter and the rest of the team did awake from their early slumber lapse, but not much about their game suggested that they truly deserved to win this weekend encounter. By all accounts, this should have been a much improved XI from the one we saw last week. Suat Serdar and Lucas Tousart were back in the lineup. Stevan Jovetic was once again fit.

Still precious little from everyone in response to Branimir Hrgota's opening 1st minute goal. After about twelve minutes or so in search of the equalizer, Korkut's Hertha faded away like an old man kicked in the shins. Marco Richter's introduction at the half supplied about a four-minute spurt of activity. After a bunch of disjointed, overly complex play, a Maximilian Mittelstädt handball (why is he still starting?) effectively sealed the game twenty minutes from time.
Prognosis: The "February Promise"

Since we lambasted Gechter for his 1st minute lapse, we might as well congratulate the 17-year-old on scoring his first Bundesliga goal in the 82nd. That pull back came against the run of play. Hertha threatened to collapse after the second goal. Instead, they rallied and actually finished the match quite strongly. There is some life left in this team, as much labored breathing as they put their fans through.

Much to the chagrin of our capital city brethren, it is time for German footballing enthusiasts to make our obligatory "February Promise". Hertha will flirt with the relegation race, but should have enough quality to avoid the fatal date. As much as the writer ragged on Korkut's crew for this loss to the last-placed team, there were passages in which just a little less overthinking in the final third would have made a big difference.

They can get there. Korkut also has more quality on the bench that he hasn't introduced yet...for whatever reason. It's a tough schedule over the next five rounds. The team can still pull three to eight points off of Leipzig, Freiburg, Eintracht, Gladbach, and Hoffenheim. Then comes a favorable final spurt in which they face either other relegation race clubs or those with nothing left to play for. Looks to be business as usual for "die alte Dame".

The Burning Questions: Round 22


What does Dortmund's win mean?

Naturally, it means that the BVB climb within six points of the league leaders. Whether or not Bayern will drop still more points in the final twelve rounds remains to be seen. Plenty of positives to take from what was a great all around performance. Those of us foolish enough to declare the title race back on two weeks ago still find ourselves in no mood to go resurrecting our previous ebullience.

One unequivocal positive one can report upon from the 3-0 blanking of Union Berlin involves the fact that Marco Rose, Rene Maric, and staff can build a decent XI even when fraught with injury concerns. One has to hand it to them there. At least they learned from their mistakes and got a little bit creative. They may have jettisoned the 4-1-4-1 a week too late. At least they did so.

Lineup—Borussia Dortmund—Match 22 (4-2-3-1)



In the absence of the likes of Erling Haaland and Emré Can, this team at least least needs a nice, tidy spine in order to be able to function properly. Some job Manuel Akanji did in his unfamiliar right-back role. He, Raphaël Guerreiro, and the two sixes were instrumental in shutting down Union Berlin's switching game early.

Once the BVB could seize control of possession, they proved capable of tiring Union out with an excellent short passing game. The 4-2-3-1 is far more capable that the 4-1-4-1 in getting that type of strategy rolling. Honestly, it felt as if die Schwarzgelben were on cruise control after captain Marco Reus completed his brace in the 25th. Donyell Malen was unlucky not to have a scored a brace himself before the first half was out.

Not much compelling offensively from the Köpenickers in the second half. As the match report appearing on this website accurately points out, the BVB really snapped shut on the rearward axes in what was a great collective defensive display. Sigh. One really wishes this meant more going forward. Sadly, Europa League football returns to Signal Iduna this Thursday.

Seeing what we've seen from this team in short weeks....well...heaven help us all.
Can Stuttgart take flight?

Possibly. One can fairly say that we're getting somewhere. Two weeks ago, the main talking point centered around the VfB's embarrassing goal drought. Now, despite two more losses, the Swabians deserve some credit for scoring four goals in the last two fixtures. The 2-4 defeat to Leverkusen in Saturday night's "Top-Spiel" wasn't exactly a gem, but one could detect a faint heartbeat emanating from the Swabians.

Things of interest are afoot tactically

Lineup—VfB Stuttgart—Match 22 (4-1-4-1)



The release of the team sheet left one cursing. The ongoing narrative of Stuttgart throwing youngsters into horrifying pressure-filled situations well before their time persists. Less than two weeks after he was brought in, 19-year-old Portuguese attacker Tiago Tomas found himself charged with spearheading this team's attack after Sasa Kalajdzic suffered another injury blow.

As frustrating as this was to witness, trainer Pellegrino Matarazzo at least maintained the good sense to build a supportive constellation behind the teenager. Moving versatile captain Wataru Endo up to the third axis guaranteed the youngster some support. A stricter horizontal lock with Orel Mangala also helped. Silas and Chris Führich were actually able to work their flank rotations well. Atakan Karazor held out as an effective sweeper for as long as he could.

In three instances before the match reached the half-hour mark, Stuttgart came very close to opening the scoring themselves. While the NRW hosts undeniably produced the much better chances during the opening 45, Matarazzo's men played with a pep not seen in several months. Führich and Borna Sosa did extremely well to set up Tomas for his maiden Bundesliga goal four minutes after the restart. The often praised Alexis Tibidi turned in another good shift off the bench, ultimately setting up Tomas for the brace in the 88th.

Overall, Stuttgart-Leverkusen ended up being much more entertaining than many of us anticipated. The Württembergers faced the Bundesliga's hottest team with a discernible amount of courage and grit. There's still holes all up and through this team. VfB-B04 featured many barren stretches during which the BaWü guests could come up with no ideas whatsoever. The NRW hosts took up a defensive posture after going up 2-1 in the 52nd. Bayer trainer Gerardo Seoane practically invited the VfB to come at his team. Predictably, they managed nothing.

Assuming things continue along the current trajectory, Stuttgart could nevertheless serve as worthy opponents for Bochum next week. The schedule then gets a little more favorable through March and the beginning of April. Gladbach, Union, Augsburg, and Bielefeld might translate to seven points or more. Envision a 4-1-4-1 with Kalajdzic up top, Tibidi on the left flank, and Tomas and Führich occupying the spots of Endo and Mangala. Endo then moves back to sweeper.

We'd really be getting somewhere with that.
Were Wolfsburg any better?

Given that now we're discussing a team on a two-game-winning streak, the topic of improved play may be something of a moot point. Two victories for a team desperately attempting to claw its way out of the relegation race may be all that matters. One should nevertheless note that Florian Kohfeldt's "Wölfe" didn't truly play any better. Opponents Eintracht Frankfurt failed to take advantage of Wolfsburg's multiple defensive lapses in the early going. A match that should have been decided early wasn't.

SGE head-coach Oliver Glasner summed it up aptly. His side was simply too profligate in front of goal. Wingbacks Christopher Lenz (still in for Filip Kostic) and Danny da Costa (as it turned out, a very poor choice over Timothy Chandler) both turned in very poor performances. In stark contrast to last week, Lenz was downright awful. The former FC Union man sent five distance efforts in that were miles off target. Each try seemed worse than the last, yet the 27-year-old kept firing off shots well over the bar.

Da Costa proved ill-equipped to handle WOB charges initiated by John Anthony Brooks and Jerome Roussillon on his side. It's also a shame to report that SGE attackers Daichi Kamada and Jesper Lindstrøm had great difficulty coordinating in their return to working together. Lindstrøm, in particular, tried to do too much on his own. The Dane missed wide open teammates on several promising attack rushes.

Add to this the fact that Martin Hinteregger--filling in for Makoto Hasebe after what we've now learned was actually a collapsed lung--had a nightmare match, and it becomes clear that we're talking more of a Frankfurt self-inflicted defeat than a Wolfsburg win. Hinteregger's egregious foul on Max Kruse enabled the Lower Saxons to take the lead from the spot in the 28th. The SGE's Austrian cult defender also messed up on Wolfsburg's second goal at 90+3.

We shall see if this win enables Germany's green company team to pick up some confidence in the coming weeks. The Autostädter certainly didn't look confident this weekend. Newly-acquired WOB striker Jonas Wind continues to look way out of his depth in his new assignment. Kruse and Maximilian Philipp supplied far too many broken builds behind the Danish forward. The German Wolves still haven't exactly broken out of their rut with respect to more fluid and creative builds.

This team could still lose or draw its next five matches against Hoffenheim, Gladbach, Union Berlin, Freiburg, and Leverkusen if there isn't some form of radical improvement in the overall style of play. The riddle of Wolfsburg shall make for interesting viewing down the stretch. We remain a ways away from stability and safety. WOB enthusiasts should keep a bottle of antacids at the ready.

Weekly Tactical Focus: Savor the Flavor


Well, well, well. What have we here? A footballing earthquake took place among the Saturday 15:30 kickoffs. The proud traditional club of VfL Bochum played host to the German record champions this weekend for the first time in 13 years. These two teams have quite the history. Another exciting chapter got penned this weekend. So many great scenes. The 1848 faithful pumping their underdog side full of energy, all against the backdrop of the Westphalian version of the "can-can" and a healthy dose of home-town hero Herbert Grönemeyer songs.

As we begin to unpack precisely what we've got with this result, the writer would first like to mention that Bochum's win nearly enabled him to insert possibly the greatest "Spiegel Special" in the history of this column. Back in round five, Bayern completely obliterated Thomas Reis' team 7-0. Reflecting upon the shellacking in the tactics column from that week, one couldn't help but lump Bochum together with Fürth. Both teams appeared to be hopelessly overmatched in the top flight.

We'll print the juxtaposed score-lines in smaller print.

Bochum-Bayern (0:7, 4-2)

Wow. That's truly something. These Ruhrpotters have really turned their campaign around. They've beaten Freiburg, Frankfurt, Hoffenheim, and now the Bavarian giants. Courtesy off the fact that they've beaten Mainz twice, the 1848ers are now in the quarterfinals of the DFB Pokal. This is amazing. What a story from the recently promoted side! Before going any further, however, we have another page-break to throw in.

xG Bayern--3.1, xG Bochum--1.3

Er.....right. There's that. We're certainly not above admitting that xG sometimes lies in this column. Indeed, we'll be mostly making that case here in the paragraphs to come. It's still something very much worth noting before we delve into precisely how David slew Goliath. Great heart and shown by Bochum this weekend. On the other hand, if anyone's curious as to whether Bayern are beginning to crack...keep that stat in mind.

Some lucky bounces and bad breaks meant that this one could have easily gone the other way. Joshua Kimmich made his comments. His words weren't--strictly speaking--true. We've seen much worse from Bayern this season. The German national team midfielder, being stuck in COVID quarantine, just didn't know too much about it.

Lineup—FC Bayern München—Match 22 (4-1-4-1)



Some may find fault with Julian Nagelsmann for what sometimes seemed like a lazy attempt at a match plan. This approach, jam-packed with mega talents as it was, didn't often exhibit the coherence of something well drilled on the training pitch over the course of the week. It's fair to say that less prep work went into to facing a perceived weak opponent. Honestly, that's not a huge failing for Nagelsmann and staff during a Champions' League week

Neuer's surgery

Come Monday morning, this will serve as the top talking point in all of Germany's footballing media outlets. Why did Manuel Neuer and the club decide that Neuer should undergo surgery for his nagging meniscus problems now? One factor governing the decision directly related to the team's current league position. With the title all but sewn up, it seemed better to take care of the problem now.

Even if other factors (such as the risk of further injury) were at play too, one should expect many German football pundits to point out that the FCB acted hubristically in this case. There's a certain arrogance to the notion that one of the team's top players can extricate himself from a non-urgent title campaign and a week initial Champions' League opponent.

The point isn't exactly true, of course. Many will bring it up for the sole reason of wanting to talk about pretentiousness in a football club that isn't Dortmund. Moreover, Sven Ulreich happens to be a very serviceable replacement. The veteran keeper--who also filed in for Neuer long-term during his metatarsal surgery back in 2017/18--played pretty well in this one too.

Upamecano's problems

Ulreich isn't exactly Germany's famed "sweeper keeper". One could tell that something was missing from the Bayern builds all afternoon. An extra man was missing from the play out of the back. Ulreich did his job stopping shots. What the 33-year-old couldn't do was kick-start the FCB's upfield movement. This occurred irrespective of whether the Bavarians were in a back-four or back-three.

This deficiency in the FCB game wouldn't have mattered at all if Bayern's star offseason acquisition hadn't have turned in another mistake-laden performance. Dayot Upamecano continues to have trouble getting his feet correctly planted with his new club. The errors just keep coming. If Bayern have a legitimate weak point, it's the problematic play of one of their most crucial central defender.

Assume that the German footballing punditry will work this into their Monday analytics as well. The topic itself dovetails almost perfectly with the Neuer one. We find ourselves touching upon Bayern hubris yet again. Did the club commit a serious mistake in letting David Alaba go? What about not showing enough appreciation for Niklas Süle; to the point that the German international opted to leave for the league rivals?

A lot to talk about this week.

How the Bochum engine works

In a rather simple fashion as it turns out. Football can work that way sometimes. All one needs is a straightforward approach. Play the press. Fight hard in the duels. Be prepared to launch the counter. Place the opponent under stress and pressure and hit them hard in the narrow gaps.

Lineup—VfL Bochum—Match 22 (5-4-1)



If one cares to take a look back to where we were the last time we drew it up for Bochum in round 15, one can see that Thomas Reis virtually has us in an identical place. We have the same 5-4-1 with a few organic modifications and adjustments that have taken place over the last seven rounds. There have also been some upgrades.

Positional/Personnel changes

The gifted and resourceful Gerrit Holtmann and Christoper Antwi-Adjei have switched flanks. Wolfsburg loanee Elvis Rexhbecaj has also flipped his slant. Now working together with former Dortmund academy product Patrick Osterhage, the midfield pairing plays noticeably higher above the halfway line.

Reis has his new striker in the form of former Hoffenheim attacker Jürgen Locadia. Germany's Armel Bella Kotchap is also finally on the level to start again in central defense. The same applies to Costa Rican fullback Cristian Gamboa.

A total of four personnel changes from Reis after last week's 1-1 draw away at Hertha BSC. The return of talismanic captain Anthony Losilla from COVID quarantine meant that the Frenchman could take over for Robert Tesche at sweeper. The loss of first-choice keeper Manuel Riemann to COVID quarantine forced Michael Esser to step up.

Reis initially raised an eyebrow with his choice to sit both Takuma Asano and Milos Pantovic. Someone obviously had to make way for the speedier Atwi-Adjei to operate on the right flank. It still came as a surprise to see two of the squad's more experienced offensive weapons begin the encounter on the bench.

Reis nevertheless clearly knew what he wanted in terms of the direct duels and prepared his players well to take on the Bayern press. The gaffer made the right selections on this glorious day on the Castropher Straße. Let's crank up the Herbert Grönemeyer and dive into this match, shall we?

Match Flow: 1st to 9th minute

Even if the mighty Bavarians jumped out to an early lead, there existed plenty of signs in the opening phase that this wouldn't be a normal day at the office for the record champions. Bochum came out with a combative posture, reducing the FCB to tit-for-tat street-fight football in the opening two minutes. Serge Gnabry found himself completely stymied by blue shirts on a carry down the right in the 2nd. One minute later, the 1848ers forced him into a hopeless pass just outside the penalty area.

In between the two plays involving Gnabry, the Westphalian hosts pulled off a nice bow-arc build in the second. Süle and Kingsley Coman were throughly hassled once Bayern won the ball back. Holtmann broke through in the 4th, humiliating Upamecano with a skillful dribble past. The German-Filipino tore the Frenchman up before making Ulreich work with a sharp snapshot effort. Gnabry and Benjamin Pavard cycled out on the FCB right in the 5th. The eventual long switch over to Coman reached its target, but Gamboa wrestled the ball away with a nice tackle.

Towards the end of the very same minute, the tenacious hosts kept after the ball on the right after Süle won an aerial duel and bumped Antwi-Adjei off the ball. The VfL refused to give up, cycling twice until they got the ball back to Antwi-Adjei. The former SC Paderborn attacker then fired in a low drive across the face of goal;. While no one was there to meet it, Ulreich had to scamper somewhat desperately in pursuit of it. Bayern looked shaky.

Ulreich didn't have too many options after collecting the ball. Within seconds, Bochum had the ball again following a turnover. Holtmann and Locadia split the defense and were free on a 2-vs-1 against Upamecano in the 6th. The Dutch striker unfortunately took too heavy a touch after Holtmann shuffled off to him. In the end, Locadia's delayed finish went wide.

Bochum had to the ball again in the 7th following an Upamecano turnover. Holtmann pierced the ranks before Pavard saved with a tackle away. Osterhage had a brief chance on the second ball, but Upamecano recovered in time to dispossess. Bochum retained the ball until Bayern could get a calmer build going in the 8th. This too resulted in nothing. Süle carried the ball too far. Pavard quickly got stripped by Antwi-Adjei. Süle ran back for the stop.

Süle, Leroy Sané, and Lucas Hernandez managed a back-cycle triangulation to keep the ball on Bavarian boots. Eventually they forwarded for Kimmich, who telegraphed a long ball in Coman's direction in the 9th. This counted as the very first Bayern attack; on which they would happen to score. Coman hit Müller with a cross. Müller tapped over Gnabry, who sent the ball back to him. Müller then returned for Coman. The Frenchman's flying first-touch header went straight to Lewandowsli, who supplied a jaw-dropping finish in the tightest of spaces. Marvelous stuff.

Match Flow: 9th to 14th minute

So it goes with Bayern. A great deal of hard work can be immediately rendered irrelevant by a breathtaking team goal. The 9th minute tally happened to be one of the best we've seen from the league leaders all season. Gorgeous passing punctuated by a seemingly impossible finish from the world's best striker. It all came against the run of play, but that didn't amount to anything. Few (if any) of us watching anticipated a response from the home team. Such a development usually deflates.

The response nevertheless came. After a delay of a couple of minutes whilst the VAR team checked for offside, the Westphalians were threatening again. Atwi-Adjei took the ball off Sané in the 12th, regrettably over cooking a pass for an open Locadia on the break. Bella Kotchap put the brakes on a Bayern charge in the same minute by cutting out a Hernandez vertical.

Bayern tried out a variety of ideas during charges between the 12th and 14th. The blue-clad Bochumers stood strong and tall throughout all of it. One doesn't often see the likes of Gnabry, Sané, and Coman retreating with the ball. That's nonetheless what's frequently on display during those two minutes. Some nice defending from Gamboa and Bella Kotchap ended up paying off on a counter near the end of the 14th.

Locadia threaded through for Holtmann up the left once Bochum got the ball over to the other side. Holtmann again completely toasted Upamecano before sending in a square down the middle. Süle--distracted or simply not too concerned about his marker--was way too far off Antwi-Adjei. The Hagen-native didn't hesitate. An emphatic finish from Antwi-Adjei into the far left corner left Ulreich helpless even at full-stretch.

1-1 on the Castroper Straße.

Match Flow: 14th to 36th minute

Very interesting phase here. The Bavarian guests, feeling themselves suddenly vulnerable, moved in for the kill once the celebrations died down. Meanwhile, the Westphalian hosts fought for every ball and executed some wonderful counters. Gamboa bravely headed away a switch intended for Coman in the 15th. Bochum nearly unleashed Holtmann on the ensuing counter. Hernandez needed pinpoint accuracy to shut the pacey VfL winger down.

Lewandowski got dispossessed on a deep collect in the 16th in another intrepid interruption of the FCB attack. Gamboa rose fearlessly to win another aerial duel over Coman off another Upamecano switch in the 17th. After some combinations just outside the box central, however, Bayern were sill able to work a ball in to Lewandowski. Bella Kotchap dispatched the Polish superstar with ease. Wonderful body-block from the German U21.

Rexhbecaj had Holtmann through on the next counter chance in the 18th. The out swinger proved just a tad too wide. Gnabry and Sané worked a build well in the 19th, ultimately sending the ball Coman's way. Again, it was Gamboa with the valiant stop. The 32-year-old World Cup veteran ensured that the French superstar couldn't assert himself at all.

Nothing much doing during a pair of corners in the 20th and 21st. Kimmich took from both sides, in both cases hoping to reach Upamecano. The service and the target seemed unfocused. Bochum earned their own corner in the 21st when Antwi-Adjei ran to the touchline on another quick counter. Luckily for the FCB, Süle was on hand to clear away Antwi-Adjei's cutback for Osterhage.

The short taken corner came to nothing. In point of fact, a dual foul from Holtmann and Osterhage on Kimmich sent traffic back the other way. Loads of possession changes between the 22nd and 24th as the two sides went flying into the challenges. A turnover from Maxim Leitsch in the 23rd almost gave Bayern a chance in space. Losilla rushed back to the rescue.

At the other end, Rexhbecaj put Locadia through and the Dutch striker forced Ulreich into an acrobatic save in the 24th. The offside flag meant that this particular piece of finery from Bayern's back-up keeper wouldn't be counted as official. Bochum continued to look dangerous on the counter. Osterhage made it through again in the 24th before being bumped off the ball.

After some nice triangulation to keep the play alive, Rexhbecaj reached Antwi-Adjei with a cross, but the ball slipped off the attacker's foot. One minute later, it was Coman's turn to slip at the other end. The Frenchman shanked an effort well wide in the 26th. Locadia held the ball up well on a counter in the 27th before Süle intervened.

More wild football with plenty of possession changes between the 28th and the half-hour mark. The Bayern builds were really headed nowhere. A mixture of stalwart defending and some passing miscues saw the FCB repeatedly frustrated, particularly on the right. Süle finally carried the ball out well in the 29th and Kimmich rifled off a knuckling, bending effort that didn't miss by much.

Upamecano employed the tactical foul on Locadia once Esser got the play started back the other way. The VfL were awarded a free kick in a dangerous position. Rexhbecaj served up a charging Losilla on the set-piece. Bochum's captain, too, didn't miss by much. In a couple of desperate charges, both Süle and Upamecano tried to carry the ball out of the back again in the 30th and 31st. Bochum's defensive ranks stood tall.

Lewandowski still nearly came close to creating something out of nothing in the 32nd. Sané and Gnabry combined well. The latter sent a cross Lewy's way after fighting off Leitsch in the box. A stunning tricycle kick could have been a fantastic goal. Esser was beaten. Behind the VfL keeper, Gamboa was well positioned to clear off the line.

Kimmich couldn't do much with the subsequent corner. The ball eventually found its way to Sané, who fluffed his lines. Clearly frustrated Kimmich ended up fouling Rexhbecaj on the next play. Bella Kotchap and Locadia got the ball to Holtmann off the set piece in the 33rd. Holtmann produced another fine shot, Ulreich another fine save.

More frustration for Bayern over the next two minutes. Cycling out of both sides, Nagelsmann's men were forced into rarely seen retreats again in the 34th and 35th. Sané got a little penetration on the latter play before getting dispossessed in the box. While several Bayern actors appealed to match official Robert Schröder for a penalty, Holtmann burst through on the left again.

Süle spared his team blushes by clearing Holtmann's square for a lurking Locadia. Müller cleared the danger on the ensuing corner, but the Bavarians still weren't able to control possession. By the start of the 36th, Bochum were marching back into the box again. Space opened up for Rexhbecaj on a chip in. The German Kosovar tried to lift a cut-back into the box. Upamecano's hand got in the way.

Match Flow: 36th minute to half-time

Schröder immediately pointed to the spot. A more blatantly obvious case of a handball penalty it could not have been. Upamecano capped a terrible performance with a play that absolutely flipped this match on its head. Locadia duly converted the penalty in the 38th. Buoyed by the lead and infused with energy by their home supporters, Bochum turned up the heat and tightened the screws.

After beating Bayern back into another humiliating retreat in the 39th, Locadia stripped a completely punch drunk Upamecano of the ball. The Dutch striker raced towards toward goal before pulling back for Rexhbecaj. Ulreich had to clear away again. The wobbly Bavarians could only manage to scramble away for a throw. The next Bochum goal came off that dead ball situation in the 40th.

Gamboa received the ball, then proceeded to make Coman look silly with an offensive action. The Costa Rican easily nutmegged the Frenchman and forwarded for Osterhage. Gamboa would get the ball back promptly via a back heel from Osterhage. Gamboa completely nailed the finish. Ulreich was powerless again as the ball sailed directly into his far corner.

3-1 Bochum...and we're not finished.

Horrible stuff from Bayern for the duration of the half. Nagelsmann's XI were completely on the ropes. Three swarmed to stop a flustered Gnabry in the 41st. Upamecano got chased back again in the 42nd, ultimately forced into a poor random over-the-top launch. Bayern tried to summon up the will forward, yet were met with resolute determination in every last case.

Osterhage stepped forward to knock the ball off Kimmich's foot in the 43rd. A Süle re-collect ended in another embarrassing retreat. Hernandez lost the ball again the beat-back. Osterhage won the ball back and flicked out to Holtmann. The German-Filipino served up Upamecano with more humiliation. A stop-start nutmeg left Bayern's French defender on his backside.

Holtmann then made it look easy with his weaker foot just outside the penalty area in the 44th. Another pile-driven finish into Ulreich's far corner. The FCB #2 could hardly summon up the strength to pick the ball out of the back of the net for the fourth time. In a paltry eight minutes, this game had degenerated into a legitimate trouncing. Unbelievable.

Schröder did take the VAR stoppages into account and order three minutes of first-half stoppage time. The ref actually let it run all the way up to 45+4. The first two minutes featured little other than desperation football from Bayern. They often got away with the ball during some intense midfield trench battles. There was still no way forward.

A huge cheer from the Castrop crowd at 45+2 when Bella Kotchap stabbed away a Hernandez cross. Müller managed an effort on the next charge at 45+3. Losilla skillfully deflected. Finally, Esser toed away from an overwhelmed Gnabry at 45+4. The 1848ers worked hard to make certain that the FCB could snatch one shred of momentum back before the break.

Ahem. Half-time xG stats, anyone?

xG Bayern--1.2, xG Bochum--1.2

We're a long way from a 4-1 scoreline. That notwithstanding, it really felt like a deserved lead. The Westphalians--in stark contrast to the reverse fixture--refused to succumb to intimidation when Bayern leapt out to an early lead. They just kept working, kept fighting hard for those turnovers, and kept finding their spry wingers on the counter.

Quite the thing.

Match Flow: 46th to 50th minute 

No chance one could declare a lid on this match; not when it's FC Bayern München that we're discussing. A three goal deficit means nothing to a team like this. Forty-five minutes was more than enough time for a comeback. To the surprise of no one, Nagelsmann yanked Upamecano and brought on Tolisso.

The FCB reformatted into the familiar 3-4-2-1.

Lineup—FC Bayern München—46th minute (3-4-2-1)



Now we're back in some more familiar territory. Before a ball was even kicked, one sensed that a comeback would be possible. Then came the initial four minutes after the restart. Bochum continued to confound and astound with their play. Holtmann picked Pavard clean in the 46th. Somehow, the VfL winger couldn't locate a wide open Locadia on a break almost certain to produce the 5-1.

Osterhage had the ball in the back of the Bayern net shortly after the ensuing corner in the 47th. This time it wouldn't count, however, as there were numerous Bochum players in an offside position. Holtmann burst through yet again in the 48th, this time connecting with Locadia properly. The Dutch striker lost the ball to Gnabry on a 50-50 that could have just as easily been labelled a foul.

It got more ridiculous. Holtmann drilled in a low ball for Antwi-Adjei in the 49th. The back of the of the net saw a bulge yet again when Antwi-Adjei finished. The 5-1 was denied correctly by the fact that the Bochum goalscorer himself was slightly offside. Bayern shockingly looked even worse in their new, ordinarily strong formation. This was totally bananas.

Match Flow: 50th to 67th minute 

Our first signs of FCB fightback came in the 50th. Kimmich worked a nice ball in and Gnabry supplied a neat tap back for Müller. The VfL defenders ensured that Müller couldn't process the pass. Nagelsmann's side still showed how quickly they could flip a switch with several uninterrupted attacking waves between the 50th and 53rd. Bella Kotchap and Losilla provided the best defending during this phase.

As dominant as they had been, there was a serious heart-in-throat moment for the hosts in the 52nd. Coman played Lewandowski in wonderfully. In a very rare case of poor decision making, the Polish superstar pulled his first touch wide. Bella Kotchap caught up with him to scrape clear for a corner. The German defender then did very well clearing a pair of corners.

Bayern remained on the ball after the second clearance and Süle hit a lob that sailed just a few inches over the crossbar. Soares did very well to stop the next FCB rush in the 54th. The hosts fearlessly rattled off another counter in the 55th despite all of the Bayern pressure. Coman tried to hit Müller with a fine through in the same minute, but the 1848ers closed ranks brilliantly. Holtmann and Locadia were quickly causing trouble at the other end in the 56th.

There was a brief injury timeout in the 57th following a head collision involving Antwi-Adjei and Hernandez. More blocks, stray passes, and physical play over the next hectic minute until Lewandowski charged up central in the 58th. Gamboa took him down with a tactical foul just outside the box. The Costa Rican was rightfully booked. It fell short of a straight red for denial of a goal-scoring opportunity by virtue of the fact that Bella Kotchap was also there.

Sané--in an almost mirror play of the reverse fixture--did a masterful job with the 59th minute free-kick. Frustration filled the German national team attacker's face as the swerving effort shaved the aluminum. Rexhbecaj didn't do a terrible job with his own free-kick opportunity one minute later. Losilla couldn't direct the header. Thomas Reis' side weren't sitting back just yet. There was plenty of spring left in their step.

Locadia painted around the box for just a bit too long on an attack in the 61st. As a result, Antwi-Adjei's cross found no takers. Sané and Gnabry cycled out for a counter that met its end in Rexhbecaj. The German Kosovar saw his own advance stopped by Kimmich in the 62nd. Lewandowski spun free for another monster chance in the 63rd. Esser parried the initial effort and Gamboa took care of the second one. Holtmann narrowly missed at the other end before the minute was out.

Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting entered for Müller in the 64th, but there was no real discernible change to the Bayern shape. The 3-4-2-1 kept pressing. Gamboa took care of a Pavard cross in the 66th with a tidy nod back to his keeper. Bella Kotchap hassled away from Coman in the 67th. Around this time, we were finally seeing Reis send his men back a bit.

Match Flow: 67th to 75th minute

Plenty more determined attacks from the FCB during this passage. Leitsch cleared a Coman cross away in the 68th. A pressured Gnabry couldn't find the right ball for Choupo-Moting in the 69th. One could see that Bochum were tiring out a bit when Rexhbecaj totally ran out of gas on the subsequent counter. We were still waiting for Reis' first substitutions of the match. Incredibly audacious how the VfL trainer left his original XI out on the pitch to defend their lead.

Though noticeably moving a few ticks slower, the 1848ers managed to keep the ball away from the Bavarian guests with some keep-away circulation in the 71st and 72nd. Holtmann even went charging up the flank at the tail end of the possession spell. One of the match's irrefutable stars certainly wasn't tired. Reis finally pulled the trigger on his first substitution in the 73rd, sending Konstantinos Stafylidis on for the worn out Gamboa.

A decent build from Bayern in the 74th forced Rexhbecaj into a bad foul on Sané. The German Kosovar earned a booking for the action. Kimmich lifted the free into the penalty area and the ball landed at Lewandowski's feet following two random touches from VfL defenders. Osterhage ended up supplying the final ball back to the FCB striker and Lewandowski finished with a lovely deft scissor-kick.

Bayern had cut the deficit to two.

Match Flow: 75th to 81st minute

Marcel Sabitzer checked in for Coman before play resumed. Sané tried to work in a cross in the 76th, but Danilo Soares cleared. After a minute of throw-ins and hold-ups, Choupo-Moting flashed over in the 77th. Bella Kotchap cleared the next Bayern rush in the 78th. There was a slight delay on the ensuing corner after Osterhage went down with cramps. Kimmich got to take the corner with Osterhage removed from the equation. He still couldn't get the ball to Tolisso in quite the manner he wanted to.

Reis went for the triple change in the 80th. Polter, Pantovic, and Asano came on for Locadia, Antwi-Ajdei and Holtmann. Well played by the VfL gaffer. He didn't order his men back until the 67th. He didn't try to kill the game off with fresh-legged reinforcements until ten minutes from time. We arrive at the match's "lid". Even if Bayern pushed hard until the very end, this was definitely the point at which one sensed that the comeback was no longer possible.

Match Flow: 81st minute to full-time

No shortage of action down the stretch. At first it came from Bochum, with Rexhbecaj and Osterhage still pinning Bayern back on drives in the 82nd and 83rd. After a brief lull, Lewandowski rattled the crossbar with his expertly taken free kick in the 85th. Bochum stood deep but stout on a pair of corners thereafter. Lewandowski missed another chance at a hat trick with an ill-timed header on the latter.

Esser spilled a Kimmich free kick in the 87th. Sané seemed sure to score, but lost the ball to Bella Kotchap at the last moment. Gnabry got the last chance to pad the Bayern xG stats with a close-range strike into the side netting in the 88th. He actually missed a double chance. Through the final minutes of normal time and just two additional minutes added on by Schröder, nothing more of note happened.

We'll bookend with those final xG stats

xG Bayern--3.1, xG Bochum--1.3

Right.

Bochum's gallant and daring performance isn't at all reflected in their side of the numbers. Unfortunately, at least for those hoping that Bayern's hold on the title race is beginning to slip, the quality of the German record champions is. Nagelsmann--who never left the dugout during the entire match--has a couple of things to work on. He needs a stable back-three with Upamecano out of the XI. He needs to drill Ulreich a bit on some Neuer mimicking.

It's safe to assume that both shortcomings can be addressed easily and quickly. Süle can run the back-three along with Hernandez and Pavard (who are, after all, center backs) if need be. Tanguy Nianzou can even fill in. A back-four can even be a possibility again in the near future, provided Alphonso Davies and Josip Stanisic make it back from injury on time. It's all very manageable.

Little else to add other that that we should "savor the flavor" here. What a great match! What a treat to hear Herbert Grönemeyer, the VfL "can-can", and finally the match closing "Du bist so schön" serenade from the Bochum bleachers. As the season begins to draw to a conclusion, one can tell that this will be one of the 2021/22 Bundesliga fixtures that occupies a very special place in the hearts of us German Bundesliga lovers.

Danke schön, Bochum! Tief im Westen...es ist schön das es euch gibt.

Thanks so much for reading!

You can occasionally catch Peter on twitter, @ViceytheSS.

Twitter DMs are open for football conversations, corrections, and (if you truly insist) general abuse. 

All columns debut on Bulinews before appearing on Peter's website later in the week.


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