Bayern shrugged off the bad news about Manuel Neuer and extended their streak against Schalke. James Rodríguez turned in a man-of-the-match display. Colombia lost its mind.
James Rodríguez – man of the match
Carlo Ancelotti gave James his first Bundesliga start and boy did he seize the opportunity. The Colombian put in a vintage display, taken from the 2014-15 season. He created the chance that led to Naldo’s handball penalty and capitalised on a brilliant assist by Corentin Tolisso.
During the game, I mentioned to our editor that Ancelotti has the magic touch to get James going. The Italian brings out the best from number 11. James ran back to help in recovery efforts and the build-up. He used his positional freedom to wreak havoc in Schalke’s defence from all sides. When he lost the ball, he quickly placed himself behind its line to prevent the team from being caught off guard.
But perhaps the best summary of his performance came in Bayern’s third goal. James received the ball on the right and lost it after trying to dribble past a defender. Far from walking back, he traced the ball and recovered it on the edge of the box. What followed was a scrumptious chipped assist for an incoming Arturo Vidal. The Chilean volleyed it coolly towards the back of the net.
What a signing. There is something scientifically spectacular about Rudy. His defensive prowess continues to amaze me, but it’s the timing and placement of his contributions that is so fantastic. The midfielder reads the game and figures out whether he should press high or hold his position in front of the defence. When the team is in possession, he is almost invariably well placed, whether it is assisting the attacking effort or marking back to allow the full backs to run upfield.
Rudy even found time to blast another volley at goal. This time it was Ralf Fährmann, rather than the post, that denied Rudy. One of those will go in sooner than later.
This will perhaps be a controversial. Still, I think that Tomás is slowly recovering his form. His problem, I believe, was mental rather than physical.
Although he failed to score, Müller showed much of his joyous style. He was all over the place, as was James. In fact, it was the Colombian who provided Müller with a fantastic cross. Number 25 took the header free of marking, but it banged the upright.
I will issue my second warning that Thomas Müller is coming back. I could be wrong, but the signs are showing themselves.
It may surprise you to be told that Süle was the fourth Bayern player with most touches today. Indeed, the young centre-back was solid, especially in the build-up. He contributed some timely tackles to cancel a couple of attacks by Schalke. More than anything, he made me feel safe as a fan watching. That’s what you want from a centre-back.
Surprise again! Rafinha touched the ball more than anyone in Bayern today. Yes, he is far from spectacular at left-back. However, the Brazilian is a seasoned, level-headed replacement with nothing to prove. That is the best sort of backup player. Today, he did not try to cross the ball as much as in previous games, but still played a crucial part in the build-up on the wings. His decision-making proved important to determine whether attacking motions should start on the left or be switched to the centre or the opposite wing.
Having come inside the pitch with less than 25 minutes to go, Vidal would have normally gone unrated. However, Vidal is not normal. He changes the face of the team immediately, adding bite and momentum. He runs seemingly amok, but there is logic to his chaos. That makes him unpredictable and a nightmare for the opposition. Vidal lurks like a shadow that covers the entire pitch. Whether it is to defend inside the box or one-time a brilliant assist by James past Fährmann, the Chilean is a boost of nitrous oxide for a team that sometimes is too clinical. Today, he showed more of that.
Javi came in after sitting out the game against Mainz. He offered a solid, yet quiet display. No blunders to report, but nothing spectacular to point out either. Carlo Ancelotti remains adamant in his effort to rotate the team, and the centre-backs have seen the most of it. So far, it yields good results.
As with Martínez, Lewy turned in a good display. He was, however, quieter than in other games. Lewy took the penalty that put Bayern ahead, and did so expertly. Still, there wasn’t much more from him. The striker did drag marking to allow other players to run towards the box in space until he made way for Thiago late in the second half.
Bayern’s most expensive signing continues to make progress towards fitting into the team. Playing with Rudy affords the Frenchman some freedom to run upfield. Generally, that was good. However, there were times when Tolisso had to think twice about his positioning and his choice of action when on the ball. Nothing nefarious, but still work to be done.
Today could have been a time for Ulreich to seed doubts. After news broke in that Manuel Neuer will be out through the winter break, a bad performance by the understudy would have sent Bayern fans into depression. However, Ulle delivered. Save for a flop that he easily resolved with an aerial ball, the former Stuttgart man was solid and provided the saves to keep Schalke at bay. He even produced a fantastic save in the second half, off a header. The striker was offside, but the save was nonetheless spectacular.
I was slightly annoyed by Coman today. He often dribbles when he should pass, or passes when he should dribble. However, his sheer speed allows him to be a continuous threat and drive defenders to madness. Eventually, Coman comes into the box with the ball and does something that makes people hold their breaths. It happened today, and even if it ended up in nothing, it’s good to know that he will eventually do something well.
After his masterclass against Mainz, Kimmich fell back into quiet mode. It’s not that he was bad, or that he failed to meet what is expected of him. He was as solid as always, but he didn’t do anything spectacular. It was not the game for that.
Mats Hummels and Thiago Alcântara.