Mario Mandzukic stole the headlines with a brace against his former club, but Xherdan Shaqiri put in a performance to remember at the Allianz Arena.
Despite fielding a strong squad, Felix Magath watched his team go down without a whimper. This loss leaves Wolfsburg winless in 4 games, not tasting the sweetness of victory since the opening day 1-0 away win over fellow strugglers Stuttgart. You would think Magath is likely starting to feel the pressure.
Meanwhile, the result sees Bayern Munich continue their wonderful start to the season. 5 wins out of 5 see them remain as the only Bundesliga club with a perfect record to date. Jupp Heynckes continues to get the best out of a side that was good enough for only second-best last season.
The good thing is that no one player in particular is responsible for such a fine start to the campaign. Toni Kroos, Mario Mandzukic, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Luiz Gustavo, Thomas Muller, Arjen Robben, and Franck Ribery all played big parts in Bayern’s preceding victories. On this day, however, Heynckes had new recruit Xherdan Shaqiri to thank.
Let’s look at how the game unfolded for the Switzerland international.
Shaqiri started the game in the hole behind the in-form Mario Mandzukic. He is known to be a winger and played there predominantly at his old club FC Basel in his homeland, but the formidable presence of Franck Ribery and Arjen Robben on either flank makes a starting berth in Shaqiri’s primary position virtually impossible, unless either gets injured at some point. So Shaqiri in a central position is something that will become a theme throughout the Swiss’ Bayern career, at least for the foreseeable future. But he didn’t look at all out of place on this day.
In addition to dropping deep from his central position, Shaqiri drifted to the left and right flanks in order to get on the ball.
His efforts to get on the ball were rewarded for not only his movement into space, but also his willingness to get stuck in. He made 2 tackles during this game. One example of his work off the ball was seen in the 33rd minute, when he took the ball off Emanuel Pogatetz following a poor touch and sprinted towards goal, where only a subsequent poor final ball robbed Mandzukic of a wonderful opportunity to score earlier than he ultimately did. He was also reliable with the ball, giving it away and being dispossessed just once.
Xherdan Shaqiri’s movement was also complemented by his quick feet and box of tricks. This was seen on several occasions (7 times on this day — bettered only by Ribery, who completed 11 dribbles), including around the 20th minute when he skipped away from a handful of challenges in the middle of the pitch before laying the ball off to continue Bayern’s build up play, which ended with Arjen Robben’s knee colliding with Diego Benaglio’s head, causing a delay in proceedings.
These 2 attributes were also on show for Mandzukic’s first goal in the 57th minute. Pulling out to the left flank, he completed a sublime run by using a few tricks to send the experienced center back Naldo sliding on his backside before whipping in a pin-point cross for the big Croatian to nod home his first of the game.
It was a fine solo effort by Xherdan Shaqiri. It was timely, too, given he wasn’t involved that much up to this point, even though Bayern were still dominating Wolfsburg. That fine run was his first real contribution after the break and the goal-scoring opportunity was 1 of 3 he created on the day — 2 of which were from open play.
When Toni Kroos came on in the 68th minute for Arjen Robben, Shaqiri took up a more familiar position on the right flank in order to accommodate the German, who slotted in where Shaqiri started the game.
From there, he cut inside and fired a long range effort at goal 3 minutes later, only for Benaglio, who had a very fine game despite being beaten 3 times, to save it. It was 1 of 3 efforts Shaqiri attempted and his only shot in the second half as Bayern went on to out shoot Wolfsburg 25 to 4. Shaqiri’s other 2 efforts were also from long range — 1 was blocked; the other was saved by Benaglio.
It was a fantastic performance by Xherdan Shaqiri, though it would have been even better had he grabbed a goal of his own — his first for his new club. If he continues to perform this well, however, the goals will surely come.
As for Jupp Heynckes, the versatility Shaqiri offers will give him some useful options. That, combined with the great performance, will also give Thomas Muller and Toni Kroos — even Franck Ribery and Arjen Robben — ample reason to stay on their toes.
**Stats courtesy of Whoscored
**Heat map courtesy of ESPN FC