"Robbery" Debuts at the Allianz, Turns Game and Bayern Munich Season Around
An hour into Bayern Munich's Saturday match against defending Bundesliga champions VfL Wolfsburg, the score stood 1-0 for the home side, and Wolfsburg was mounting its first rally and biggest threat of the match.
Bayern goalkeeper Hans-Jorg Butt was forced to make a reflex stop on the prolific Edin Dzeko. A couple minutes later, Ashkan Dejagah sent his shot in the side netting.
The season's early setbacks still stinging the memories of the Bayern faithful, a Wolfsburg goal would potentially send Bayern to their third draw in four matches, and the pressure would build on the players, coach, and front office.
On 63 minutes, Bayern Munich head coach Louis Van Gaal introduced talismanic winger Franck Ribery to the match for the Croatian forward Ivica Olic.
Ribery's first minutes of the game injected exactly what Bayern had been missing in the first 330 minutes of Bundesliga season. His speed and agility has sliced through every defense has faced while at Bayern.
But Saturday, there was more.
Ribery partnered with Arjen Robben to give Bayern back control of the game. Just five minutes after Ribery's introduction, the Frenchman picked up his first assist of the season. On the counterattack, he fed Robben, who netted his first goal in Munich. The Netherlands international darted through the Wolfsburg resistance and sent his shot just inside the far post.
The speed and fluidity that the two worked together signaled the end Wolfsburg's chances for anything but defeat. Sure enough, 10 minutes from time, the Dutchman and his French counterpart broke through the Wolfsburg lines again, and Robben knocked home his second goal in a Bayern shirt to complement Ribery's second assist of the season.
The Munich club, front office to training grounds, had been a whirlwind 20 minutes before.
Bayern Munich are consistently one of the best run clubs in Europe, but the transfer dealings had been met with skepticism over the summer. Club idols were replaced with unknown players from the Dutch league who seemed only destined for backups. Even prized captures Mario Gomez and Anatoliy Tymoshchuk had underperformed.
The Bayern management does not typically panic following some small early-season draws to other title contenders. However, a completely atypical move saw over € 20 million spent overnight to bring Robben, the oft injured and former Chelsea and Real Madrid star, to the Bavarian capital.
When the final whistle sounded Saturday on a 3-0 home win, this uneasiness all seemed to fade away. The dominant performance over the champions with the season debut of the squad's two best offensive players showcased the Bayern that Germany and Europe had expected to see this season.
When Ribery came on Saturday, the Bayern season turned around.
Without Ribery, Bayern is a predictable team that cannot fit in the system of their new coach. With Ribery, Bayern is an exciting, attacking team that can compete with anyone in Europe.
Yes, this is still the team which fell to newly promoted Mainz. However, surely eyes in Turin and Bordeaux had taken notice that Juventus and Girondins will not face a mediocre squad.
It took just five minutes of Ribery and Robben to make Bayern the favorite in Group A.
In the even larger scale, Bayern have debuted a complement to Ribery, which he has not had in his two seasons as a Red. No longer will a club's defense against Bayern simply be to stop Ribery, for that leaves Robben to serve as the creative force.
The implementation of Robben and Ribery as “Robbery” will silence critics who say that the Frenchman cannot reach his potential with Munich.
“Robbery” and former European Cup winning manager van Gaal show that Bayern has the ambition to match anyone in the world. The improvement in the squad, along with Robben's personal tales of his time with Ribery's two leading suitors, could very well see Ribery choose to stay in Munich rather than leave for London or Madrid.
After a summer of doubt cast over the ability for Bayern hold on to world class players, this would be the biggest turn around of all.
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