Bayern’s long winning streak came to a close in a 0:0 draw Saturday, proving that they were human rather than newly susceptible to attack. There will be a danger by some to over-analyze the result, citing the failure of Arjen Robben to reintegrate into the team effectively and the resulting issues of team chemistry going forward. But I think this is pretty much a slam-dunk case of tired legs and not much else.
In my match preview, I wrote the following: “This is a team [Hoffenheim] that will “run you out of the gym” so to speak…Bayern can cope with this, but it may become a question of stamina coming off a Champions League match of high importance. Any lack of hustle could be brutally punished.”
So, my today self really has to step up and challenge my Thursday/Friday self and say “What exactly made you think Bayern “can cope with this”? That was probably the question I should have made myself answer before predicting a 3:0 win to Bayern.
I Run So Far Away
But did the narrative really run that way? Did Hoffenheim really outrun Bayern all day long? In a word, yes.
Two points here that are also not surprising: Boateng, the healthiest and most rested component of the defense had the most sprints. And the closest battle, between Vorsah and van Buyten pitted two players of very similar physical make-up against one another. Gustavo only tallied a single sprint in his time on the pitch, so Vorsah still essentially out-sprinted van Buyten 2 to 1.
Tendency Toward Fatigue
The other thing that we can start to see is that a general trend towards fatigue in key players started with some of the slop we saw against Leverkusen last week.
Yesterday’s two best passers by percentage, Lahm & Tymoshchuk mimic the overall team trend, while Kroos and Schweinsteiger continue to decline week on week, and were below the team average for the 2nd straight week. Müller’s case is more unique than the others, but has just as much to do with fatigue.
I think it is no accident that the players least involved in Jupp’s rotation schedule, Schweinsteiger and Müller, show the steepest drop-offs week on week. In Schweinsteiger’s case, he covered the most ground of any Bayern player in each of the last 2 league matches, and his time on the ball multiplies the effects of fatigue more than any other player.
Müller had a lot to cope with, which explains that he has has the steepest drop: he out-sprinted everyone else on the team by a nearly 2 to 1 margin against Hoffenheim, so I guess there wasn’t much left in the tank to apply technique. He also had to contend with the being shuffled around the formation due to the substitution pattern yesterday.
I was pretty surprised to see Tymoshchuk’s trend line, considering that I thought he made some dreadful passing decisions yesterday. The most memorable moments clearly aren’t a guide to seeing the bigger picture in his case. He played about a half less than everyone else in the chart over the 3 matches, but might that not be an endorsement for giving Schweinsteiger 45 minutes of rest?
Of course, pass completion percentage isn’t everything. You can argue Lahm might have followed the trend of Kroos or Schweinsteiger if he had made more of an effort to inject himself into the attack against Hoffenheim. And the one player I found who improved each successive week over the last 3 was Ribery..but no one would argue he was having a strong impact on the match when he was taken off.
What the numbers really don’t tell us is how much error was fatigue and how much credit Hoffenheim really deserves for pressuring Bayern players into what was uncharacteristic slop. But I think the fatigue trend was already there before this match, and to me that’s enough to confirm that what we saw was mainly a tired team getting by with character, individual quality at the moments it was demanded, and superior goalkeeping.
Plus another 18…and counting.
Euro funny money design by Natali
TSG 1899 Hoffenheim 0:0 FC Bayern Munich