Telekom Cup: What Pep Guardiola Learned About His Bayern Munich Squad
Bayern Munich won the Telekom Cup on Sunday, beating Wolfsburg 3-0 in the 60-minute final of the pre-season tournament. The result came one day after the Bundesliga titleholders edged Borussia Moenchengladbach in penalties; earlier Sunday, Hamburg beat the Fohlen 3-1 to finish third.
Saturday's performance was not always convincing from Bayern, who had the brilliant Robert Lewandowski to thank for eliminating some early pressure his club faced. But Bayern threw away a two-goal lead by conceding a pair of penalties.
On Sunday, Bayern were much more dominant throughout. And accordingly, there were some new lessons to take home.
Read on for a full analysis of the biggest talking points from Sunday's match.
Ribery Has Something Left to Prove
Franck Ribery was as ordinary in the second half of the 2013-14 season as he was extraordinary in the first half. Considering Ribery's advanced years, some may have thought that the 31-year-old had reached his limit and was on the decline. But he's put his best foot forward during the pre-season, suggesting he still has the ability to make an impression on Bayern's 2014-15 campaign.
Speaking at a press conference on Thursday (h/t Goal.com), Pep Guardiola praised Ribery for his quality in training. And surely enough, the Frenchman scored a peach of a goal against Gladbach on Saturday before assisting Lewandowski's opener against Wolfsburg.
Some speculated that after being denied what would have been a deserved Ballon d'Or in January, Ribery had lost some motivation. But if his pre-season form is any indicator, the Frenchman is back and ready to deliver.
That can only be good news for Bayern.
Sebastian Rode Has No Intention of Being the Next Jan Kirchhoff
When Sebastian Rode joined Bayern Munich on a free transfer, it was a bit of a head-scratching situation. Whether he could possibly expect to fit into the team in any capacity was highly questionable, and many suggested that he might follow in the footsteps of Jan Kirchhoff and ride the bench for six months before being sent away on loan.
Rode instead played quite well on Saturday and almost put a goal past Gladbach keeper Jan Sommer. Then on Sunday, he made amends in a brilliant way, playing a one-two with Claudio Pizarro and, as he received the return pass, firing into the net.
Rode has an enormous amount of competition for playing time, with Bastian Schweinsteiger, Javi Martinez, Thiago Alcantara, Pierre Hojbjerg, Philipp Lahm, David Alaba and more as potential candidates for the positions in central midfield. But judging upon his performances this weekend, he is ready to put his best foot forward.
3-4-3 May Be a Viable Option
Bayern used a four-man back line on Saturday and conceded several chances to Gladbach, as well as two goals. On Sunday, Pep Guardiola switched to a three-man defense as part of a 3-4-3 formation, and the Bavarian giants fared much better.
Wolfsburg rarely found space between the midfield and defensive lines. When they did, they struggled to find a window to shoot on goal. Three center-backs left less space than two.
The 3-4-3 formation is one that in recent years has rarely been used due to its susceptibility to play in wide areas. And it would be a mistake for Bayern to assume that it would work in any case, considering that Wolfsburg played without a recognized, professional center forward.
But a team can only beat the opponents they meet, and the contrast between Saturday's and Sunday's performances can only lead one to believe that the 3-4-3 is worth another look.