3 Things We Noticed: RB Leipzig – FC Bayern 5:6 (1:1)

On Wednesday evening in Leipzig, part one of the ongoing assessment of Bayern’s current abilities was on the agenda. It was about nothing less than surviving in the cup. Will the record winner remain in the competition or did RB Leipzig collect their first victory in this matchup? Author: Justin • Translator: Tobi

RB’s starting position was not bad at all. Hasenhüttl had been able to rotate a lot prior to this match and could almost field the best possible team. Heynckes’ team, on the other hand, almost set itself up on its own.

RBL-FCB, starting formationsRBL-FCB, starting formations

3 Things We Noticed

1. The Heynckes plan

Prior to the match, it was clear what Jupp Heynckes wanted to achieve. Vidal and Thiago were predictable lineup inclusions. The decision between Rudy and Tolisso was one in favor of the Frenchman. It was quite simply because Heynckes hoped for stability against the ball. With a 1-2 midfield arrangement, they were suppsoed to be defending the central areas which Leipzig are so keen on opening up for press traps. At the beginning, however, the actions of the Bavarian team were still too imprecise and so the pressing trap worked three times after only 10 minutes.

The possible advantage in counterpressing, which Thiago, Tolisso and especially Vidal offered as a kind of fire extinguisher behind it, quickly became clear. The three-man midfield won some important duels. Especially when the record cup winners got into an attacking pressing, the support of the two forward-pushing midfielders next to Lewandowski paid off. Vidal filled the gaps behind that group almost by himself.

However, the offensive relief was too limited. In this constellation, Bayern could not find a way forward and was either stuck on the wings or was forced to take too many risks. From the 20th minute on, Leipzig got some attacks going which can’t always be defended even with the best pressing. It seemed as if Bayern would lose their defensive stability again and again, because they couldn’t get any controlled possessions and were unsorted after turnovers.

In the second half at least the controlling part worked a little better, but this was mainly due to the sending-off of Keita. Bayern got more numerical advantages and,with the unplanned substitution of Martínez, a block of four players in midfield which ensured a safe ball circulation. However, without Coman there was not enough movement towards the goal. That only made the dominance in the centre all the more important.

Hummels and Boateng pushed further and further into the opposing half to shorten the connections to the front. That is how the important equalizer came about. If no one in the midfield can distribute the balls vertically, the world champion defensive duo has to straighten it out. Kimmich, who kept tucking inside in the final phase, did everything to overload the center. Later Rafinha came on, who finally opened the way for Kimmich to move to the center.

Despite the disadvantage, Leipzig defended very passionately, even though they were forced to concede more opportunities. This was also due to players like Rudy, who offers more technical quality than Vidal or Tolisso. Javi Martínez is one of them as well, by the way, and he was once again able to convince. Sure, he’s not a Thiago in the buildup. But the Spaniard was confident, supported his fellow players and above all ensured a very good counter-attacking defense. Compared to Tolisso and Vidal, he showed a much better performance. In the end, Jupp Heynckes’ plan didn’t really work out. It took a series of random events to gain control and dominance. And even then, FC Bayern were unable to win the match within120 minutes. That performance didn’t live up to its own standards.

2. Leipzig putting Bayern under pressure

It was the expected top game. Although there were no great scoring opportunities in many phases of the match, this was mainly due to the fact that both teams were in an excellent setup against the ball. RB Leipzig in particular were able to convince in the pressing game. The Bayern players were often overwhelmed with the variable 4-2-2-2 formation. Even Hummels sometimes played the ball into zones where the Bavarian players were clearly outnumbered. RB’s pressing traps certainly worked out occasionally.

Bayern however knew how to defend the transition moments and so a game with few significant highlights was created. FCB’s greatest weaknesses were once again revealed by Leipzig that evening. In the buildup, Vidal and Tolisso didn’t find the right spaces to connect with Hummels, Boateng and Thiago. Thus, there were again and again situations on the wings or in the center where Bayern were outnumbered.

Leipzig did well to provoke these situations. The Heynckes team was most dangerous when the midfield could be skipped altogether and Thiago, Coman, Robben or Lewandowski found gaps that could be reached by passes from Boateng or Hummels. Too little to put such an opponent under permanent pressure. The deliberate decision to set up a compact and aggressive midfield made the Bayern offense a harmless one.

The hosts did this better over long periods of time by playing vertically quickly after winning the ball, forcing Bayern to react. Neither side showed a lot of control but RB had much more of an offensive flow and were stable in defensive. All in all, they were the slightly better team – at least until the red card that changed the balance of power. But even after that, RaBa defended very aggressively and compactly. The Hasenhüttl XI proved that they can play at the same level as Bayern. Although the attacking relief disappeared more and more with increasing playing time, the way they made life difficult for the record cup winners was impressive.

3. Fortunate turn of events

For a long time, Bayern did not seem to have the right answers to the problems Leipzig caused. It was only the red card that changed everything. But even the previous events were quite exciting. The penalty that wasn’t given, the subsequent wrong decision to give Leipzig the lead and then the dismissal of Keita. In the end, Bayern probably profited more from the unfortunate performance of the referee than Leipzig did.

Ultimately, however, it is not a question of assessing the referee’s performance, but rather of the fact that FC Bayern almost needed this series of events to gain control of the game. Own attacks and ideas were rare. This was of course also due to the injury situation which set up a number of obstacles for Heynckes towards the end of the game.

But especially from the very beginning, one would have hoped for a better and more creative performance from the Bavarians. They also didn’t take enough of an advantage of the numerical advantage. Yes, there were scoring chances and Bayern should have decided the game early on, but much of it was not really determined. In Munich, it will take an improved performance to secure the three points. And Heynckes should think about which formation he presents in the midfield.



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