Bayern Munich chalked up a seventh straight Bundesliga win, but there was cause for concern in their victory against Stuttgart. Where has the ruthless Bayern Munich gone, and will it return?
After plucking home draws from the jaws of victory against Freiburg, Augsburg and Düsseldorf, Bayern should have been well and truly warned after Thiago’s fifth minute opener against Stuttgart. However, the Red Machine has lost that ruthless ability to clinically dispose of weaker sides like in the halcyon days of the Pep Guardiola era. Ten-minute spells of sheer dominance and a comfortable lead are no longer what they used to be. As a result, visits to the Bavarian capital do not fill even relegation-haunted opponents like Stuttgart with the same trepidation.
Sure enough Stuttgart sniffed their chance, with Bayern failing again to heed their lessons from their Autumn of discontent. As Bayern visibly released their collective foots off the throttle, Anastasios Donis equalized with a wonder strike to suddenly turn the tide. The visitors were revitalised and could have even taken the lead but for captain Manuel Neuer's point-blank range save from the lively Donis.
Cue whistles from hundreds of Bayern faithful at the halftime break, such was the incomprehension and dismay at their beloved Bayern unnecessarily letting another lead slip.
Niko Kovac bemoaned his side's first-half display, saying afterwards: "We didn't play for 35 minutes after scoring. We were too slow. If we want to be champions, we have to play for 90 minutes not just for 60, like we also did against Hoffenheim."
Goretzka finally settles nerves
Unlike the slip-ups against the three aforementioned clubs, Bayern had plenty of time to turn it around on home soil and inspired by second half substitute Serge Gnabry, they won the game with plenty to spare. Gnabry made an immediate impact after coming on at the interval for the ineffective Javi Martinez, who continues to look increasingly uneasy against teams concentrating on the counter attack.
Better opponents than Stuttgart might expose Bayern's reluctance and inability to finish teams off. Alarmingly not even Gnabry's goal settled the nerves as Nicolas Gonzalez hit the post ten minutes later after a spot of pin ball in the Bayern box. Not even Robert Lewandowski, Bayern's usually reliable source of goals, could calm things - the Pole fired a penalty onto the post.
It took a header from Leon Goretzka to finally end the contest, although there was also time for Lewandowski to make up for his penalty miss and add a touch of gloss to the scoreline.
Despite clinching those (on paper) magnificent seven wins in succession, Bayern still trail a rejuvenated Dortmund side by six points, which might as well be seven considering BVB's seven-goal advantage over the reigning champions.
There's a lot of football to play before the pair face off again at the start of April, but until then Bayern will be hoping to lose their no lead is safe tag and replace it with something more formidable and familiar. If not, a few more surprises lay ahead, perhaps even next Saturday against an inconsistent Leverkusen.