Perhaps it was the seats that made analysing this game so easy; they were top drawer.
The view offered me a perspective you certainly don’t get on the telly, the chance to watch every part of the pitch and see how the game was really being played, as opposed to simply what was happening on the ball. And that was instructive.
Reading our press you would never know we played against a world class team, filled with world class players, coached by a world class manager. Brendan is a top drawer boss, but he doesn’t have these tools at his disposal, and his tactical ideas are not yet fully formed.
From the opening minute three things were clear; Bayern were going to press us whenever we were on the ball, they were going to take advantage of our narrow game plan and spread the play wide and we were making it easy for them by leaving too big a gap between the guys staying up the pitch and those who were defending our penalty box.
Bayern has an interesting, and highly effective, system which I’ve seen other top European teams do in the past; they play football in little triangles.
Whenever one man has the ball the triangle forms; there’s a guy in an advanced position to his left and other to his right.
He has two passing options instead of just one, and that enables them to move the ball fluently, and quickly, up the pitch. Their players also take their time on the ball; you never see, as you saw so much with us, guys desperate to get rid of it the second they receive it.
That means they take a moment to decide what the best option is; move with the ball or make a pass. There’s something else; they play tight, compact, which means a pass is never more than ten yards from one man to another.
The difference in styles is stark; Celtic players getting the ball often rushed to get it to the next man. Invariably there was no next man; our system seemed disjointed. Too often a player with the ball would have no options but to try a risk pass. And because Bayern also defend in a triangle zonal system, with one guy pressing and the other two covering in case the ball gets past him, that resulted in us giving away possession far too often, especially in that first half.
Added to that, when we tried to make a forward pass the distance between the player with the ball and the one trying to receive it was often far too great. That was easy pickings for Bayern’s razor sharp midfielders who intercepted them time and again.
The lone striker role doesn’t suit Griffiths either; I say this time and time again. There are those who believe he’s the best striker at the club; he is the best natural finisher, yes, but he lacks what Dembele has in spades; that physical presence and that exceptional first touch that lets him get the ball under control wherever and however he receives it.
Our long passes to him were mostly wasted; he was being double marked by two of the best central defenders in world football. He was never likely to get much change out of them; they are far too good to make mistakes in a situation like that.
Craig Gordon is not good enough at the top level. There it is, I’ve said it. For the second goal he doesn’t even move; that is dreadful lack of awareness. The guy who gets that header knows Gordon is too far to his left, but in his wildest dreams he never expects, for a second, that our keeper won’t even move except to turn his head as it goes by him.
The third goal is awful. There’s no other word for it. The back-post is completely unguarded; a defensive lapse that must have had Brendan pulling his hair out. I think it’s the keeper’s job to organise the defence in the penalty box at a moment like that. Gordon does not take leadership of that area like he should. He does not demand that the defence cover him, that they cover each other, that they maintain their discipline.
And on a night when we are playing a very narrow system, and one which has allowed world class wingers all the time on the ball they could wish for, why the Hell did the goalkeeper play every kick-out into a wide position where our players would have to chase after it, and theirs could simply stroll on up to it or watch as it sailed harmlessly out?
The manager cannot like what he sees; I know I certainly don’t.
The second half was played in a different fashion. The media thinks they took their feet off the gas; in point of fact what happened is that we narrowed the gap between the midfield and the attack, our players calmed down enough to take that extra second on the ball which makes all the difference when passing it to a team-mate and the manager made the right substitutions. Griffiths was toiling in that role. Armstrong did nothing of note.
I don’t want to turn this into an Armstrong bashing session, but in all the European games I’ve watched him in this season I have yet to see one where he played particularly well. I hate to say it, but at this moment in time the best thing about him is the song. If a club sticks a million onto the offer in January I would let their fans have it.
During the summer, his agent had convinced him he was a hot property and that English clubs would pay him stupid money. I wonder if it’s still on the table, because he is miles away from being the player his agent and those clubs evidently think he is.
Dembele showed, in his brief time on the pitch, why he remains a hot property and why we don’t stand a chance of keeping this guy into the long term. He oozes class. He can rough it up with good defenders. He can take the ball with his back to the goal and turn and go by them. He has a great eye for where his team-mates are. He is unselfish.
Moussa is a class player, and there’s just no doubt about it.
This was a hard game to judge us on. The media’s nonsense about us being “humbled” suggests that we went into it full of ourselves and making big predictions. We did no such thing. Bayern took Arsenal apart on that ground last season and then went to the Emirates and did exactly the same; a 10-2 aggregate hiding. We won’t suffer that.
But we do have to do the simple things better; goals two and three were absolutely preventable and had we not lost the third so soon after the re-start our more settled style might have given them a fright. There are things about our system which clearly work; we are getting better at a more continental style game under Brendan but there’s a way to go yet.
I am actually looking forward to having Bayern at Celtic Park. If we don’t make the silly mistakes we did here then I do genuinely believe we can give them a game.
This was more frustrating than humbling, but they are an exceptional team with footballers of the highest calibre. It was a pleasure to watch Arjen Robben and Muller on the right, and in Kingsley Corman they have one of the developing stars of the global game; he will be a name on everyone’s lips in the next couple of years. Lewandowski prowled the box like a lion. Their midfield barely did a thing wrong all night. Their style of play is advanced and well-constructed.
They will humble better teams than us. They will soundly thrash better teams than us. Those who doubt they can go all the way are ignoring history; they always do. Their team has barely missed out on the semis in the last ten years. This year will be no exception.