Bayern had something to prove after their heavy 0-2 defeat in the first leg against Arsenal. Guardiola’s squad showed a strong reaction and took a big step towards the round of 16. Overall, Bayern have always delivered in their last home games in the CL – 21 goals in four matches, with just 3 goals against. Opponents included Barcelona and Porto.
3 things we noticed:
1. Thiago in CL mode
Once again, the Spanish player demonstrated why he was so gravely missed during his injury break. His first-half performance showed just how much he can dominate a game when everything works out well. He hasn’t always convinced this season (only 2 assists in 10 Bundesliga games). For example, he showed some defensive weaknesses in the first leg against Arsenal. That being said, he is able to actually improve on the European stage. One assist, three shots on goal and four key passes per 90 minutes were his numbers before the game. Another assist and 5 key passes were added to his totals after the Arsenal game.
He led almost all statistics at half-time: most touches (75), most tackles won (4), most key passes (3). Thiago was the team’s rhythm, creativity and playmaking, all in one person. Thiago did everything.
His pass leading to the 1-0 showed his football IQ. As regularly demanded against deep, defensive-minded opponents, he didn’t choose powerful crosses to the striker but instead chipped the ball behind the enemy lines and into free space. Nevertheless, he and Lewandowski benefitted from the late reaction of Paulista that made the goal possible. Thiago chipping the ball was the recurring theme. He did that to create another scoring change (for Müller) and already initiated the first goal in the league match against Bremen in the same manner. The idea is to play the ball above the defenders into the free space from a central or half-space position, instead of forcing the striker into the aerial duel against at least two massive central defenders. It is surprising that we don’t see that passing method being used more often, as especially Müller always expects such passes at the edge of the offside line.
Scoring and defensive strength were probably the two qualities that Thiago lacked the most – today he showed both.
In numbers: 145 touches, 5 shots taken or assisted and 13(!!) successful defensive actions.
2. 4-0-6 madness
Even this dominant win against Arsenal can’t answer all questions raised after the first leg and the 0-0 against Frankfurt. Creating chances against deep-acting teams while at 0-0 remains the key task. It was an individual mistake by Paulista that got things going. Nevertheless, the Munich squad can learn some things from this game. Mistakes happen mostly when attacking pressure and pace are held high.
More often than usually did Bayern try to create situations with fast and direct passes into the front pairing, with the support of a perfectly timed positional game. Especially in the first half, several 4-0-6 or 2-2-6 formations were shaped. Lahm and Alaba pushed forward to form one line with the attacking players, either by running down the wing or by occupying half spaces. When they played on the outside, Costa and Coman moved into more central positions and created a 2-4 shape. Those movements and overloading the central midfield quickly brought the ball to where it was needed.
While there were some counterattacking opportunities, Cazorla and Coquelin had way fewer opportunities for a controlled build-up than last time. A side effect of this arrangement was that the positioning made a counter-pressing easier.
As already mentioned: the early goal changed a lot. More space because of the opponent taking higher risks helps Bayern alot. But nevertheless it was Bayern’s determined positional game that made the difference.
3. Robben showed a good reaction
It can be seen as a challenge for the Dutchman when he isn’t in the first squad in such an important match despite being fit. The good but not overwhelming Coman was allowed to start instead, with the effectiveness of Robben as a sub in mind. The French talent made some unnecessary mistakes which hurt the flow of the game, mistakes that affected his body language.
As Robben was brought on, you could spot that special look in his eyes – everything was possible here, from a torn muscle to a hat trick. He scored once – after just a few seconds. Robben showed that, despite his age and his injuries, he hasn’t lost a thing.
For the first time since joining the club, there are alternatives available for his position, for his indivual qualities. Costa and Coman play less ball-dominant. Robben on the other hand can create chances out of thin air with his numerous attempts and diagonal runs. Robben is smart and experienced enough to know that he needs moments of rest. But as long as he can convert his obvious anger about the sub role into positive aggression and hunger, he helps the team enormously.
A fit Robben is key to reaching the club’s season goals. No matter whether it’s coming off the bench or being in the starting lineup.
|FC BAYERN – ARSENAL FC 5-1 (3-0)|
|FC Bayern||Neuer – Lahm, Martinez, Boateng (68. Benatia), Alaba – Alonso – Müller, Costa, Thiago, Coman (54. Robben) – Lewandowski (71. Vidal)|
|Bank||Ulreich, Rafinha, Badstuber, Kimmich|
|Arsenal FC||Cech – Debuchy, Mertesacker, Gabriel Paulista, Monreal – Coquelin, Santi Carzola (87. Chambers) – Campbell (59. Gibbs), Özil, Alexis Sánchez – Giroud (85. Iwobi)|
|Goals||1-0 Lewandowski (10.), 2-0 Müller (29.), 3-0 Alaba (44.), 4-0 Robben (55.), 4-1 Giroud (69.), 5-1 Müller (89.)|
|Cards||Yellow: – / Özil, Campbell|
|Referee||Gianluca Rocchi (Italy)|
|Attendance||70.000 (sold out)|