What We Learned from Bayern Munich's 6-1 Drubbing of Werder Bremen
Bayern Munich steamrolled 10-man Werder Bremen on Saturday, earning a 6-1 win at the Allianz Arena and extending their winning streak to a perfect seven games from as many matches in all competitions to start the 2013 calendar year.
The Bayern that played on Saturday was a very different one from those, which have featured in recent weeks as coach Jupp Heynckes opted to rest several key players and rotate his team.
Even without the likes of Bastian Schweinsteiger, Thomas Mueller and Toni Kroos in the starting XI, Bayern never seemed to have much trouble. Arjen Robben scored the opener on 25 minutes, and Javi Martinez nodded in a second before the half-hour mark. If Sebastian Proedl's sending off before half-time didn't seal the result, an own goal from Gebre Selassie and a Mario Gomez strike within seven minutes of the start of the second half most certainly did.
Especially given all the rotation from Bayern, there are some poignant talking points to take from the match. Click "Begin Slideshow" for a full analysis.
Arjen Robben's Confidence Is Back
Heading into the current season, Arjen Robben was a broken player. Plagued by injuries and after missing two key penalties towards the end of the 2011-12 campaign, he looked a shadow of the superstar that almost single-handedly dragged Bayern to the 2010 Champions League final.
The Dutchman has had little joy in 2012-13 and entered Saturday's match having played just nine Bundesliga games, nearly half of which came as a substitute. Robben turned over a new leaf against Bremen, however.
Granted a rare start on the right flank, the 29-year-old looked hungry as ever for goals and adapted his game to fit more into Bayern's playing style. Although his first real threat on goal was a trademark left-footed strike from distance, his opener came from a volley from inside the six-yard box.
Four minutes later, Robben turned provider as he whipped a perfect free kick into the box for Javi Martinez to nod home. Thanks to Robben's class, Bayern had the result essentially locked up within half an hour. The Dutchman returned to Earth in the second half, but capped off his best performance of the season on a high note as he played a delicate chip to Mario Gomez for a late sixth goal.
Nils Petersen Is at the Right Level at Bremen
Bayern-contracted striker Nils Petersen has impressed since joining Bremen on loan last summer. After hitting the target just twice in nine appearances in his first season at Bayern, the 24-year-old has scored 11 goals. Joint-league leaders Mario Mandzukic and Stefan Kiessling have scored just four more.
It seems that Petersen has found a good fit at Bremen, but performance this season should not be mistaken for development into a player who will be useful to Bayern when his loan deal expires in June.
Petersen was anonymous against Bayern on Saturday and was in no way directly involved in any of Bremen's attempts on goal. He may be prolific against the Bundesliga's more ordinary defenses but is not at the level of being able to reliably provide goals for a team with the ambition of Bayern Munich. For now, Mandzukic and Mario Gomez are decidedly first and second choice (in either order) for the Bavarian giants.
The Rotation Works
Jupp Heynckes made a bold decision in his squad selection as he replaced six of the starters who featured against Arsenal in midweek in his first XI against Bremen.
Daniel van Buyten, David Alaba, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Toni Kroos, Thomas Mueller and Mario Mandzukic were all given a break, as Jerome Boateng, Diego Contento, Luiz Gustavo, Xherdan Shaqiri, Arjen Robben and Mario Gomez were selected to start.
ln many instances, changing half of a winning team could have been a huge mistake. But Bayern never really missed a beat as the reserves made convincing bids for more minutes.
Robben was particularly impressive, but the most telling analysis is a glance at the score line, which speaks volumes. Even with six substitutes, Bayern were able to earn a convincing result with little trouble.
Philipp Lahm Is the World's Best Right-Back Right Now
Philipp Lahm deserves full credit for bouncing back from a disappointing 2011-12 campaign with Bayern and further misery with Germany at Euro 2012. The captain of both his club and country has been a lynchpin in defense all season long and has reached an even higher level since the winter break.
On Saturday, Lahm kept Marko Arnautovic largely quiet when the Austria international played on the right, and bombed forward time and time again to support the attack. In the end, Bremen had very little in attack up their left wing, but Lahm gave two fine assists.
One good performance against a team in the lower half of the Bundesliga is of course not enough to earn a player any superlative title, but especially after his master class in against Arsenal in midweek, Lahm deserves high praise. At the moment, there is no right-back in the world that is showing a combination of leadership, attacking and defensive qualities at his level.
Lahm will turn 30 later this year and surely must know he is running out of time in his peak footballing years. His reaction has been all one could possibly ask from a professional and indeed a captain.