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Harding’s Hark - The Inside Story: It Ain’t Always Pretty 

A 2-0 win against Bavarian rivals FC Augsburg wasn’t one of the more memorable wins in Bayern Munich’s history but it keeps the double treble alive. Jonathan Harding muses on yet another piece of evidence that Bayern are tactically variably, but also know more than one way to win.

At home against Bayern for a place in the quarterfinal of the German Cup, Augsburg were both aggressive and daring throughout. It is worth mentioning that after a few heart-pounding seasons, their form finally suggests that stability has been discovered. Sporting director Stefan Reuter, who enjoyed an illustrious career including a long spell at Borussia Dortmund under Matthias Sammer, has seemingly instilled a new feeling of value at the club. Adaptations of Bayern’s famous MiaSanMia (We are who we are) identity slogan have come from Reuter and been expanded by his team. And those virtues were once again evident on the pitch on Wednesday evening.

Arjen Robben’s fine form was cut short, quite literally. Photo: DPA

The hosts nibbled away at Bayern and put them under regular spells of pressure. Pivotally though, as has been the case for many that have faced this mighty team, they didn’t score. Arjen Robben did though, and once again it hardly took him any time at all. Sadly, with what appears to be a nasty gash to his right knee, Robben was forced out of the game and Bayern struggled without their in-form winger. Guardiola’s men didn’t zap passes back and forth in their opponent’s half as we have grown accustomed to, opting instead to play on the break. Aided by that early lead, Bayern’s lack of effectivity failed to become an issue in the face of the control and calmness they exuded. Jerome Boateng was once more the stand out, proving just how far he has come from his troublesome time in Manchester. Franck Ribery’s late substitution appearance was also important, if of little note. The heading ability of goalkeeper Manuel Neuer, the theatrics of Rafinha and, eventually, Thomas Müller’s uncanny knack to score awkward goals sufficed on what might be labelled an Arbeitssieg (a working win) for the visitors.

Matthias Sammer said before the game that Bayern cannot be expected to wake up and simply win all the time. “If we have to go to penalties [tonight], then so be it.” It didn’t come to that, but Sammer is acutely aware that the longer this undefeated run continues, the more will be made of its eventual end. And tonight, perhaps for the first time since the beginning of this revolution, Guardiola’s men looked weary. Fear not though, (the) winter (break) is coming.

And yet, the once impossible thought of an undefeated season continues to wriggle its way forward. If Bayern win this weekend away in Bremen, it will not only be their 26th Bundesliga away game without defeat (22 wins), but it would also mean the club will have collected 90 points in the calendar year of 2013, (yet) another league record. Their latest cup win, their 14th consecutive on the road in the competition, proves they can win ugly when it counts too. Memorable or not, they are all relevant pieces of the jigsaw come the big picture at the end of the season.

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