Arjen Robben may be the most egocentric player in Germany, but the Dutch winger is back to his best and driving the league leaders' challenge at home and in Europe
The game had pretty much everything, except an unforeseen outcome. Four-one? Duh. Werder Bremen are the team who can only win big or lose bigger. They had a decent enough spell after Markus Rosenberg's equaliser in the 52nd minute, when the home side wobbled badly. But somehow neither the result nor the scale of Bayern Munich's win were ever in doubt.
So take your pick. There was Marko Arnautovic, the Werder striker who used to be the Austrian Ibrahimovic but is now the Austrian Bendtner at best, a man whose hyperinflated sense of self-worth is only dwarfed by the sheer awfulness of his latest haircut. There was the Werder coach, Thomas Schaaf, contradicting most of his players – "the result did not reflect the game, we had a decent match", said the defender Andreas Wolf – and bemoaning the same lack of consistency and composure that has been dogging his side for … most of the decade. "We were never in it, we were an easy opponent, we never challenged Bayern, we never threatened them," said the 50-year-old.
There was an elbow from Claudio Pizarro into Holger Badstuber's rib cage that was somehow missed by the referee, Florian Meyer, but not missed enough to open up the possibility to use video evidence against the Peruvian. As Meyer blew his whistle and said he had seen a foul, the German FA cannot prosecute now. "He was being held and tried to break free, it's not a red," insisted the Werder sporting director, Klaus Allofs, who also put forward an idiosyncratic view on Bayern's two penalties: "We wouldn't get them. You only get them as Bayern Munich in a home game." In fact, you would get them anywhere, anytime and a less lenient official might have even sent off Wolf for his trip on Thomas Müller and Sokratis Papastathopoulos for pushing Franck Ribéry.
Allofs, to be fair, did concede that there was a "vast difference in quality" between a less than convincing Bayern and his feeble side. And he did not try to defend the indefensible by claiming that Aaron Hunt was always nice to his gran, or that he volunteered as a lollipop man on schoolday mornings, or that he donated half his income to save stray Ukrainian dogs from execution. (Nothing troubles the German soul more than animal cruelty, especially when dogs are concerned. But that's a different story.)
Hunt, enraged by his own ineffectiveness, had used the pretence of 50-50 ball to jump two-footed towards Toni Kroos on the halfway line, 10 minutes from the end. It was a leg, ankle and knee cap breaker that happily just missed. "It was sheer frustration," said Allofs. "If he sees that again on television, he'll understand how stupid that was," added Schaaf.
Werder's extreme performance fluctuations make it difficult to believe in a title challenge. Awful results against the league's better sides attest to a more realistic status as "the best of the rest", according to the Weser-Kurier newspaper. Bayern, meanwhile, went top of the table again, leapfrogging the two Borussias after their 1-1 draw in Mönchengladbach. Jupp Heynckes's team, with the exception of the irrepressible Ribéry perhaps, look ready for an extended winter break. The wilful destruction of the opposition in the final half an hour could not hide a sense of mental fatigue. Müller, in particular, needs a rest.
Philipp Lahm stressed the importance of winning a day before the squad and bosses were sent to the provinces or deep behind enemy territory (Hamburg!) to meet fan clubs for the annual Christmas get-together. But there were a couple more angles to it. The first one was about 110 degrees, as opposed to 130 or more. Mario Gomez, past the goalkeeper and through on goal, could still have taken a shot but was happy to let the marginally better-placed Ribéry nick the ball off him. Bayern's third goal finished off the Greens but there was still ample time for Arjen Robben to steal the show or at least to monopolise the headlines. The Dutchman, on from the hour mark, insisted on converting the second penalty, too, even though most of the team would have preferred Gomez to take it.
"I thought Mario would do it, it would have been good for confidence. We have to think about all players," warned Ribéry later that night, gently. Robben, though, clearly doesn't. He made the difference on Saturday, again, but also showed why he's nicknamed "Alleinikow" (a play on words, maybe best translated as "Alone-ikov") in the dressing room: team-mates' attempts to celebrate with him were fruitless as he was too busy waving to his family and waving his arms around like an air guitar contestant. A few minutes from the end, the Bundesliga's biggest ego berated Jérôme Boateng for not passing the ball to him. That's just how he is.
Robben was naturally oblivious to his problematic behaviour. The 27-year-old was too emotional after his return to the pitch. "I had a very difficult time, one shouldn't underestimate that," he told a TV reporter, fighting back the tears. "I was not sure if I was ever going to reach my old level. Today, I could play without pain finally. It was a great joy for me." The joy was mutual, in this instance. "Robben will be key in a lot of matches this season, you'll see," said the club president, Uli Hoeness. "He's the designated penalty taker, I'm happy that he's so cool from the spot," said Heynckes, in an attempt to kill off the controversy. The coach hinted at starting Robben away to Manchester City on Wednesday night, too.
Bayern are willing to look beyond his egocentric escapades and have offered to renew his contract. "I'm happy at Bayern," replied the winger, "let's see if they make a nice offer." And if it doesn't work out on the pitch, he can always lend his voice to the seagulls in a Nemo sequel.
• The battle of the Borussias ended in a 1-1 (Lewandowski 40, Hanke 72) that both sides were happy to live with. "We won't dissolve the club now," joked the Dortmund coach, Jürgen Klopp, who is still hoping for a Champions League miracle against Marseille on Tuesday. The match was almost too fast to be furious as both sides closed each other down incessantly to leave no room for error or anything else for that matter. The home side even made do without the injured Marco Reus to prove that their excellent run has not been a fluke. "They are very tough to play against, they do their thing," said Klopp, full of admiration.
• A fine backheeled goal from Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, now level with Gomez in the race for the goalscorer "cannon" (both 13 in 14 games) opened the door to Schalke's 3-1 win over Augsburg and took the Royal Blues back into the fourth Champions League spot. The win was somewhat overshadowed by the uncertainty surrounding Raúl's future at the Veltins-Arena, however. The 34-year-old Spaniard reportedly wants two more years, while Schalke are offering one – at vastly reduced wages. He's rumoured to be on €7m (£6m) a year. Negotiations are expected to begin in January, but it is unclear just how adamant the striker is on one last payday. "I'm happy here, I would like to stay," he said. He also said the "Europa League is very important to me, I want to reach the final", though, so that declaration of love is probably best not taken at face value.
• Everything could be hunky-dory at Hertha, where a 1-1 draw away to Lautern helped them to consolidate in the midfield of the table. A contractual kerfuffle is spoiling the fun there too, however. The coach, Markus Babbel, has still not signed a new deal and upset the board with his constant dithering. "Babbel is not important, only Hertha is," said the exasperated sporting director, Michael Preetz. The former Bayern and Liverpool player's lack of commitment is a mystery and has naturally led to a wave of speculation. Berliner Kurier, not the city's most trustworthy paper, wrote that Babbel was eyeing up a return to Munich in the summer, with Heynckes getting pushed upstairs into a director of football role. It is a fanciful notion. But so far, no one has been able to come up with a better explanation for Babbel's behaviour. "I have no idea whether I will sign or not," he says.
• The biggest surprise of the weekend was not the end of Germany's lucky streak in competition draws. Dr Theo Zwanziger, the president of the German FA, upstaged the ceremony in Kiev by declaring his resignation after October 2012 that very evening. The timing was strange and the decision totally out of the blue, made worse by the fact that Bild broke the news before Joachim Löw had been informed. "This has been coming for a while," said the 66-year-old, hinting that media criticism of his domestic reign and his lack of pressure on Sepp Blatter was partly to blame for the step. "T20", as he is known, also added that he was no longer able to combine the presidency with his role on the Fifa ex-co. The general secretary, Wolfgang Niersbach, is seen as the most likely successor, while Zwanziger has put forward Erwin Staudt, the former Stuttgart president. The Bayern chief executive, Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, may have unwittingly stumbled on a compromise candidate, though. "We must be careful that we don't have an [endless] debate like the one about Gottschalk," he said. Thomas Gottschalk, the man in question, has just resigned from his position as presenter of "Wetten, Dass …", the most important show on German television and plenty of names, including many who were never in contention, have ruled themselves out in recent weeks. Maybe Gottschalk could take over from Zwanziger and vice versa? They're certainly both dressed badly enough for the jobs.
Results: Leverkusen 2-0 Hoffenheim, Mönchengladbach 1-1 Dortmund, Freiburg 1-1 Hannover, Kaiserslautern 1-1 Hertha BSC, Bayern 4-1 Bremen, Stuttgart 2-2 Köln, Wolfsburg 2-2 Mainz, Hamburg 2-0 Nürnberg, Schalke 3-1 Augsburg.