Oh, wait. I’m exaggerating.
Bayern absolutely thrashed the Blaugrana 4-0 today, suggesting that the dominance of Spanish football has peaked and may wane sooner than my earlier post suggested. Instead, we might be seeing the spearhead of German football’s ascendancy. After all, Bayern came heart-breakingly close to winning the UCL last year and looks bound and determined to win it this year. For all of the talk of an El Clásico/UCL final, we look one-fourth of the way towards having a…wait, there’s not a clever nickname for a Dortmund-Bayern match? That’s ridiculous. Someone should get to work on that. Come up with a Rolltreppenbenutzungshinweise or something like that.
In all seriousness, Bayern’s dismantling of Barcelona on Tuesday offers us tantalizing glimpses of what might be when all of our pieces click. A quick disclaimer: I know full-well that Bayern approached our visit with something approaching complacency, having dispatched us quite tidily 3-1, and they had only to win or draw, or lose by only two goals, in order to advance. At the same time, ever since losing to Chelsea in last year’s UCL, they have seemed nothing less than obsessed with returning to the final this year. To say that they shackled Barcelona understates the situation. Barcelona managed to possess the ball 66% of the time while generating a grand total of one shot on goal. One. Ponder that.
Yes, I know that the first leg differs greatly from a second leg, especially when the first leg goes to the visitor as it did when we played Bayern. However, having said that, we’ve just witnessed a thorough disrobing of Barcelona at the hands of a team that we beat 2-0 in their house. Barcelona’s response remains to be seen, of course, but it’s difficult to see them coming back from such a deficit.
Even as I typed that, I’m hoping that we’re thinking back to our own UCL misadventures last year, when an Ibrahimović-led AC Milan dressed us down at their place before narrowly escaping the trip to the Emirates to advance.
Here, then, is my point. We went through a glorious period there for a while but have stumbled a bit in the last few years. Without grasping at straws, our ability to defeat an obsessed Bayern, who themselves went on to destroy one of the football history’s greatest (if waning) squads, signals that we’re not far off from returning to our rightful position among the world’s elite. One of the key differences between us and the likes of Barcelona, Real Madrid, Man U, Chelsea, or Bayern is that we’re doing so while being handily outspent. This may seem odd to say for one of the Prem League’s biggest clubs, but we’re punching above our weight. That said, for all of our helter-skelter over the last few years, we’re still knocking on the door, threatening to kick the damned thing in.
If we can close out the season as we should, we might just be a signing or two and some enhanced chemistry away from a proper resurrection, the likes of which see us dislodge a Manchester club or two from the top of the table. We might even be able to signal our intent within the week.