Bayern Munich vs. Stuttgart: 6 Things We Learned
Bayern Munich closed out their 2013-14 Bundesliga season with three points, downing Stuttgart thanks to Claudio Pizarro's winner deep into injury time.
The visitors defended well for 90 minutes, but their hopes of taking a point were spoiled at the death as the Peruvian striker unleashed an unstoppable strike from the edge of the penalty area to secure victory for the German champions, who ended the campaign 19 points ahead of runners-up Dortmund. Stuttgart finish the season in 15th, five points ahead of Hamburg.
Bayern deviated from their usual game plan on Saturday and, accordingly, there were several talking points to take from the action. Click "Begin Slideshow" for analysis of the game's major talking points.
No Ribery, No Gotze, No Creativity
Bayern had some trouble creating clear-cut chances on Saturday, in part due to the lacking a playmaker in the attacking third. In recent years, Franck Ribery has been the man to pull the rabbit out of the proverbial hat and in recent games it's been Mario Gotze.
Both Ribery and Gotze have skill in tight spaces, the dribbling ability to draw defenders out of position and the playmaking vision to find their teammates in scoring positions. Bayern had to resort to crossing or shooting from distance more than their usual style in Saturday's match, a consequence of their starting 11.
Ribery and Gotze were both omitted from Pep Guardiola's squad, but even the fit-again Thiago Alcantara may have been able to provide the creative spark Bayern sorely missed.
Bayern Midfield Is Ready for the Pokal Final
Bayern's overall possession on Saturday was a far cry from its highest on Saturday, but the Bundesliga champions were more sturdy in midfield than they'd been in a long time. The tactical emphasis was on positioning rather than possession, and this change in approach resulted in Bayern being much, much sturdier in midfield.
Stuttgart struggled to create chances on the break, with the very positionally savvy Javi Martinez holding in the centre of the Bayern midfield, keeping space minimal between the deepest two lines of the Bayern defence.
With Bayern set to play a Dortmund team that thrives on the counter-attack next weekend, Pep Guardiola will be pleased to have found a tactical system that eliminated what had been exposed their main weakness over the last month.
Mario Mandzukic Isn't the Bundesliga's Top Scorer in 2013-14
It would have been a huge surprise if Mario Mandzukic had won the Bundesliga's torjagerkanone (top scorer award) this season. The Croatia international was against tough odds and there were long periods of the season in which he was only a substitute. Despite this, he was joint-top scorer with 18 goals to his name entering the final day of the campaign.
Mandzukic failed to score on Saturday and ended the season on 18 goals. His future teammate, Robert Lewandowski, netted a brace for Dortmund and took the torjagerkanone after a truly remarkable season.
To his credit, though, Mandzukic ended the campaign with a goal every 112 minutes.
Crossing Tactic Not Ideal for Bayern
Bayern played 18 crosses against Stuttgart, their highest tally since Round 26. In recent weeks, Pep Guardiola's side have played primarily through the middle with cross figures rarely reaching double digits. In a recent match with Braunschweig, for example, they crossed the ball just four times despite winning the game by a comfortable, 2-0 margin.
As previously mentioned, the Bavarians struggled to create chances in the final third on Saturday and would have been held to a draw if not for Claudio Pizarro's last-gasp winner. They were forced to resort to a crossing tactic against both Manchester United and Real Madrid in the Champions League earlier this season, in neither instance having particularly great success. But that perhaps is to be expected with just one main target man.
The good news for Bayern is that they can plan on having a "Plan B" in attack next season. The addition of Robert Lewandowski will leave them with two physical forwards with have complementary attributes and can both win aerial duels. Adding Thomas Muller to the mix, they should have a very adept game in the air—if Guardiola opts to employ it.
Stuttgart Are Bundesliga-Worthy but Will Need Youngsters to Step Up in 2014-15
Stuttgart narrowly avoided relegation this season and on Saturday proved they are worthy of their position. They fought hard despite having little to play for other than pride, and the Swabians are indeed a proud Bundesliga team with a rich history.
Still, their flirtation with disaster is evidence that Stuttgart will have to be more careful next season and may need big performances from some of their rising talents. They have Moritz Leitner, Timo Werner, Rani Khedira, Robin Yalcin, Carlos Gruezo and Antonio Rudiger in their ranks, but, as of yet, only Gruezo and Rudiger have truly stepped up.
There is plenty of reason to be excited about this Stuttgart team, but if they are to survive in the Bundesliga for another season, they'll need more of their youngsters to make the next step in their development.
Form Is Temporary, Class Is Permanent for Pizarro
Claudio Pizarro in all likelihood played his last Bundesliga game for Bayern on Saturday. The 35-year-old is out of contract this summer and although he has yet to make an agreement with Bayern or any other club, the impending arrival of Robert Lewandowski may force him out of the squad.
If the Stuttgart match was indeed Pizarro's final outing for Bayern in the Bundesliga or overall, it was a good way to go out. The striker came on for the final 26 minutes and, in the second minute of injury time, scored the winning goal from the edge of the penalty area.
He may be past his best and nearing the end of his career, but Pizarro has played like a true professional this season. Despite being a benchwarmer, he's scored 10 goals—the last of which was a real peach.