Importance of Xabi Alonso felt immediately for Bayern
Mark Lovell was in Gelsenkirchen as Bayern Munich dropped their first league points of the season in a hard-fought draw at Schalke.
Arjen Robben is in arguably the best form of his life and recently earned high praise from boss Pep Guardiola. "Robben is one of the best professionals I've ever seen in my career," he said.
The 30-year-old was deservedly in the final three for that coveted European Player of the Year award, alongside Bayern keeper Manuel Neuer and a certain Cristiano Ronaldo of Real Madrid.
Franck Ribery, Javi Martinez, Thiago and Bastian Schweinsteiger are among the big names currently out through injury. However, Robben leaves the biggest hole in the smooth running of the Munich machine.
Bayern were bereft of attacking ideas without the Dutchman, who missed out due to an ankle injury, on Saturday at Schalke. David Alaba and skipper Philipp Lahm provided the most key passes -- a paltry three each. The meagre 10 shots on target were the lowest number in Guardiola's tenure in the Bundesliga. This was the Bavarians at their most anaemic in front of goal.
Alonso at it already
Xabi Alonso only put pen to paper on Friday, but was thrown straight into the side for the tricky trip to Gelsenkirchen. The hierarchy was clarified straight away as the Spaniard was entrusted with taking free kicks on his debut. Fittingly, the Spanish World Cup winner enjoyed the most touches during his 68 minutes on the pitch.
Pep was full of praise for his newest arrival at the news conference. "I am very pleased with his performance and want to explicitly thank the board for signing Xabi Alonso," he said.
Further good news for Alonso is that he made it to Bavaria just in time for the traditional Oktoberfest lederhosen fitting.
Alonso became jugador numero cinco in Guardiola's Spanish revolution, alongside Juan Bernat, Thiago, Javi Martinez and goalkeeper Pepe Reina. Dante, Claudio Pizarro and Robben can all converse in Spanish, so there is no need for any of Guardiola's compatriots to feel homesick.
The international break provides some time to reflect on whether the German World Cup winners in the Bayern squad might be overly enamoured with the Spanish invasion. Bayern have six World Cup winners in the squad -- Neuer, Muller, Lahm, Schweinsteiger, Gotze and Boateng -- the same number as in 1974 and 1990, when Germany also won the World Cup.
Bayern will hope history does not repeat itself -- the Bavarians languished in 10th in 1974-75 and were runners-up in 1990-91. Worryingly, Bayern have not lifted a major title following the past two World Cups.
Mark Lovell is a Germany-based journalist who covers the Bundesliga for various publications, including ESPN FC. Twitter: @LovellLowdown.