Bayern Munich win end-to-end battle against challenging Schalke

MUNICH, GERMANY - FEBRUARY 10: (L-R) Joshua Kimmich of Bayern Munchen, Leon Goretzka of Schalke 04 during the German Bundesliga match between Bayern Munchen v Schalke 04 at the Allianz Arena on February 10, 2018 in Munich Germany (Photo by Jeroen Meuwsen/Soccrates/Getty Images)
MUNICH, GERMANY - FEBRUARY 10: (L-R) Joshua Kimmich of Bayern Munchen, Leon Goretzka of Schalke 04 during the German Bundesliga match between Bayern Munchen v Schalke 04 at the Allianz Arena on February 10, 2018 in Munich Germany (Photo by Jeroen Meuwsen/Soccrates/Getty Images) /

A very even match-up featuring imminent Bayern Munich arrival Leon Goretzka ended with a victory for die Roten after goals from Robert Lewandowski and Thomas Muller. The victory is one step closer to a sixth successive Bundesliga title.

A Change of Plans

Notable absences from the match lineup were Sebastian Rudy, Juan Bernat and, in a bizarre management decision, Jupp Heynckes. Bayern’s manager was out ill. However, Rudy and Bernat were missing simply after being judged surplus to Bayern Munich squad requirements.

With Arturo Vidal putting in a stellar performance that screamed ‘box-to-box’ in front of his potential replacement, there is every chance that it could be Rudy sold with Leon Goretzka’s arrival in mind.

Christian Falk recently reported that the initial plan this summer was for Bayern to sell one of Thiago or Vidal, with all signs pointing to the Chilean leaving. Considering his talent and the fact that he is not one to shy away from getting heavily involved in every game he plays in, any top club would be willing to spend whatever it takes for his services. Today’s match, though, should be an indication that he is still a player that can add something important to Bayern’s squad.

Playing for his position against Thiago, Javi Martinez, Corentin Tolisso, Sebastian Rudy and also in a more literal sense today Leon Goretzka, Vidal’s game-plan was to nullify the midfield duo of Goretzka and Max Meyer.

The Bayern board need to take notice of Vidal’s recent impressive displays and realize that deciding his future so rashly could be up there with selling Toni Kroos to Real Madrid as a short-sighted and poorly judged move.

With Sebastian Rudy sitting in the stands for today’s game (and not through suspension or injury), there is every possibility that those in charge are having a change of heart. Selling a nearly 28-year-old fringe player who is yet to make a solid impact this season would make infinitely more sense than selling someone who, though declining, is declining from such a huge peak that he is still capable of putting in stellar performances such as he did today.

Earning Extensions

On the subject of decline, the questions over Franck Ribéry and Arjen Robben’s current ability are something that are becoming closer to being answered. Today showed a polar difference between the two players. While nearly identical, they are declining at noticeably different rates.

Today’s performance from Franck Ribéry highlighted that his brain is still there but his legs don’t work at the same rate they used to. An attempted dribble past three players, incidentally, led to Schalke’s goal.

A brilliant counter-attack harkening back to the days of the ’12-13 season was broken down by Ribéry’s reluctance to release the ball. As a firm believer that he can still play a part in Bayern games, Kingsley Coman’s introduction injected a pace and drive that had been lacking in the game.

Arjen Robben, on the opposite flank, is experiencing a decline but is adjusting his approach accordingly. Using his blistering pace sparingly and acting more as a wide-playmaker — reducing the amount he cuts inside on his left foot, he has been involved in many of Bayern’s goals recently, scoring two against Paderborn and registering the assist for Thomas Müller’s goal today.

A great partnership with Joshua Kimmich has also highlighted his defensive talent. While in previous years he would have waited for the ball to be launched, Robben is risking his body for the team and — especially against a tough team like Schalke — it is paying dividends.

Although somewhat of a package deal, the dynamic duo has taken to their twilight in very contrasting manners and the idea of extending either or both is a very divisive issue between fans.

James and Müller

Yet another 90 minutes of playmaking brilliance from James and Thomas Müller. The two attacking individuals are an idyllic pairing, brilliantly combining all-around intelligence and an eye for goal. Both players have experienced great highs but also lackluster lows in recent years, but now both seem to have shaken that off. Müller’s time under Carlo Ancelotti was underwhelming but he has since proven the doubters wrong, scoring a trademark Müller goal: it came from out of nowhere and could really only have been scored by him.

James’ addition to the squad has been the biggest hit of the year. A playmaker who can travel forward, drift wide and also get stuck in with winning the ball back, his link-up play with David Alaba, Franck Ribéry and just about any other player around him is astonishing.

He has the intelligence of Xabi Alonso with the same casual tenacity as Bastian Schweinsteiger. By no means a like-for-like replacement for either, what he brings to matches is a very welcome addition.

Having both of them in the squad is a joy that we can only hope is something we can witness for years to come. All signs are pointing to James wanting to stay in Munich and, if that is the case, there will be few Bavarians complaining.

Next: Bayern Munich see out sloppy Schalke win -- Player grades


Today’s match was one of the most evenly contested matches Bayern have played this season. Not in the sense that a team took advantage of Bayern’s complacency like in previous matches, this was a very strong Bayern team who played very well from the beginning. Schalke attacked Bayern with speed and energy, though, and their goal was fully deserved. In the end, however, Bayern ended the match with all three points and took one step closer to yet another Bundesliga title.