Bayern Munich continued their dominating conquest of all before them Feb. 12 with a commanding 5-0 win over lowly Hamburg SV in the German DFB Pokal Cup Quarter Finals, just one week before their first leg with Arsenal in the Champions League.
This means Pep Guardiola's side now go into the draw for the semi-finals with Borussia Dortmund, Wolfsburg and Kaiserslautern in a competition that will undoubtedly prove just as important as any other to the new coach's intentions in his inaugural year.
For a club like Bayern, the necessity to continue competing for a treble each year is often too much for most coaches, yet in Guardiola the Bavarians now have a manager who seems to implant his own even stricter expectations on the side.
The very nature of Guardiola wouldn't have allowed Feb. 12's game to go unnoticed. That meticulous attention to detail of every game and each play his side run out means that Bayern were never going to be allowed the satisfaction of an easy game or a night off.
The Catalonian coach quite rightfully went for a full-strength squad against Hamburg that essentially meant the same team, give or take one or two midfielders, that have conducted themselves so well this season and effectively dominated every competition they have taken part in.
It was why poor Hamburg, a building block and foundation of the German game, had to endure 90 minutes of utter contempt toward their opponent's constant pursuit of perfect football. Bayern didn't need to play the silky Thiago Alcantara, the skilful Mario Gotze or the goal-hungry Mario Mandzukic; but they did, and it's exactly why they ran out 5-0 winners.
To make things even worse for Bayern's foes, Guardiola was able to welcome back the excellence of Bastian Schweinsteiger in the centre of midfield as Philipp Lahm went off to a hero's welcome from the away fans.
Whilst Javi Martinez—the Spanish, towering jack-of-all-trades—came on for none other than Jerome Boateng in what looked like no more than a simple exercise in exerting the squad's strength in depth. "Look at us!" screamed Bayern from the heart of northern city, "We have the might of Javi Martinez and we're only going to play him in defence."
Of course as we look at Bayern's blistering position in German football and compare it to Arsenal's current woes, it isn't just the manner of Bayern's impressive squad that will bother poor Arsene Wenger—it's the fresh nature of their form too.
Now it would be far from fair to suggest that Arsenal are all but finished for the season, considering their excellent form throughout the campaign thus far, but there is a point to be made for the physical condition of both squads and just why Bayern are pushing on even harder, when the London club look as though they are on the ropes.
The obvious answer is that Bayern had a winter break and Arsenal did not. It may not be the answer that most fans want to hear, but the difference between the form of both of these sides comes down to exactly that.
And it doesn't take a genius to see it. One look at Mesut Ozil in his current run of form is to pray upon an attacking midfielder who looks lost for time and completely out of answers whenever he comes up against most defences in the Premier League. It can't simply be a coincidence that such a drop in form comes in the same season that poses as the first in his career without a break halfway through.
While Bayern's own attacking midfielder, Gotze, grows stronger and more confident by the day. Tonight he took to Hamburg's defence single-handedly like a rookie desperate for his first big break. This is a man who's hungry for success but fueled by proper rest and preparation.
Just don't look too surprised when these two sides meet next Wednesday and Bayern look the more sharper, expansive and on form side out of the two. For the Bavarian champions are the in-form team with the preparation and perfectionist coach to drive them on to victory.
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