Following the return of the Bundesliga, Vincent Ralph takes a closer look at Bayern's opening game.
Just three months after Bayern Munich overcame all before them, they strode out at the Allianz Arena with memories of their outstanding treble win no doubt fresh in their minds.
Alongside them was the man tasked with inspiring the impossible – Pep Guardiola.
When he took the job, he couldn’t for one moment have thought his debut season would involve trying to match the trilogy of successes inspired by his predecessor Jupp Heynckes.
As much as Bayern are now feared, they are also a trophy sought by the great and the good of the game.
Last night’s opening match of the new Bundesliga campaign was one of mixed messages for those sides looking to overcome the German juggernaut this year.
There was hope, in their defensive fallibility. And yet there was also a sense of fear-tinged inevitability.
Bayern’s 3-1 win over Borussia Monchengladbach was achieved without either Mario Gotze or Thiago Alcantara – both of whom were injured; while the outstanding Javi Martinez was only introduced in the 85th minute.
Early goals from Arjen Robben and Mario Mandzukic suggested a rout was on the cards, before an own-goal from Dante halved the deficit going into half-time.
Two penalties in a minute – both for handball – saw Thomas Muller miss the first and David Alaba score the second. But not before their opponents had spurned chances to equalise.
It was the host’s defensive frailties that prompted much of the post-match talk, and will offer rivals both domestic and abroad a hope (however slim) that this Bayern side can be “got at”.
Speaking after the match, former Manchester City defender Jerome Boateng revealed that at times the back-line got their positions wrong, and observers have already questioned the wisdom in removing linchpin Martinez in favour of the more attack-minded Thiago.
Guardiola has already spoken of his desire to play the game a certain way.
“I love to attack,” he said, “That is how I think football should be played.”
It is an admirable belief, and one that paid huge dividends at the Nou Camp. And yet it will be interesting to see if Bayern are strengthened or weakened by such a philosophy.
There is a time to attack, and the better you are the more you can do it. But there is also a time to soak up pressure. For every goal scored, a goal prevented can be just as important. A fact this side will know well given their outstanding defensive showing last season.
With the new campaign only just begun, for now success is all that matters. The dazzling football and fine form can come later.
But even with two of Europe’s brightest young stars added to an already impressive roster, the question remains as to whether Bayern have been weakened simply by the arrival of a new boss; a man who is seeking to change what seemed to be working perfectly before.
And yet if it does pay off, if Guardiola can keep everyone happy and mould the new and the old into a team even better than the one he inherited, Bayern could be on the verge of invincibility.
image: © gowestphoto