Analysis: Atletico Madrid – FC Bayern München 1:0 (1:0)

Bayern won all eight competitive matches but one could argue that none of them were a real test for Ancelotti’s team. On Wednesday, that first test was bound to happen at the Vicente Calderon against none other than Atletico Madrid. Author: Justin • Translator:

Prior to the match, it was the tactics of Carlo Ancelotti that were discussed most. The lingering question of whether or not his changes already work out on the highest level was answered for now.

Atletico v Bayern, lineupsAtletico Madrid v FC Bayern, 28.09.2016, starting formations.

3 things we noticed

1. Issues without the ball and no attacking threat

Atletico did what they always do, on the very highest level. Not only did they change the pace of the match whenever they wanted, they also proved to be highly flexible in terms of pressing. The Simeone squad controlled the game, especially in the first half. They decided when Bayern should receive the ball and when they would act themselves. A huge reason for that is Bayern’s struggle to get the ball into central areas.

While the Atleti pressing traps could be avoided – Bayern’s possession phases, while not always threatening, didn’t create any chances for the hosts – Bayern got into huge trouble whenever they fell back. When Atletico had the ball, Ancelotti’s team showed bad positioning and a weak structure. Often it was either Alonso or Vidal pushing forward too early, creating massives gaps between the lines. This disturbed the Bavarian flow greatly. And even when this created a counter-attacking opportunity for Bayern, the transition game was far too weak, as they were too frantic and inaccurate.

That being said, the own possession game revealed issues of their own. It is still the team’s structure that makes it difficult for the offense to get into dangerous positions. In the first half, Bayern only took four shots, two of them on target. Ribery acted in a free role again and repeatedly got himself into positions that didn’t help the team. Too rarely did he provide width in the buildup, instead opting to move into the already crowded center. Only once in the opening half could we see Bayern solve a pressing situation on the wing and then quickly switch to the other side – leading to Alaba creating their biggest scoring chance. When they got the almost perfect Atletico defense to move, gaps were created – Bayern failed to take advantage of those due to inaccurate passing. Simeone’s team managed to bring Bayern’s accuracy down to 84.4%, a low value for this team. Many of those passes were played a little too far behind, removing any pace from the ongoing attack.

In the second half, Bayern did it better. The introduction of Arjen Robben helped getting into one-on-one situations on the right flank. Robben furthermore connected with the central players and got into several dangerous combination plays – mostly by passing the ball into the box and then going for the rebound. This pattern worked multiple times. Generally, Bayern were much better at tearing the opposing lines apart. The second half gives some hope, although there’s still a long way to go in order to restore an attacking structure.

2. Alonso overwhelmed, Thiago impressive

Xabi Alonso once again didn’t impress against an aggressive team. It’s well known that he’s not at his best when facing an intense pressing. That only made it more surprising that Ancelotti preferred him over Kimmich. In the first half, Alonso played only 37 passes (32 of those successful), fewer than the other midfielders Thiago (46/51) and Vidal (40/46). The Spanish veteran didn’t manage to control the flow of the game and his defensive performance wasn’t exactly flawless, either. It was a rather average performance by the 34-year-old, symbolized by him losing a crucial tackle that led to the winning goal. Alonso wasn’t decisive enough, Thiago couldn’t save the day.

Speaking of Thiago, he was a lot better. Not only did he play the most passes up to his substitution (65/73), he also played the most passes in the attacking third (23/26). The Spaniard was similarly impressive defensively – as demonstrated by his seven interceptions and four successful tackles. The 25-year-old appeared as a smart playmaker and had more control over the match than Alonso did. His passes were purposeful even under pressure. Thiago’s decision making and pressing resistance are currently a lot more valuable for Bayern than Alonso’s playing style. Maybe Ancelotti should’ve trusted Kimmich this time, allowing Thiago to act as midfield anchor against the Atletico pressing.

3. Bayern not exactly terrible

Despite the aforementioned issues, it must not be ignored that Atletico was a very strong opponent, as expected. This Bayern team is in a stage where they still need to find their rhythm and structure. The tactical changes are most visible in the counter pressing and the possessional structure. Atletico on the other hand is a well-oiled machine that has played like this for years and has perfected that style. Nevertheless, Bayern had some scoring opportunities – including three very dangerous ones. Unfortunately, neither Müller nor Ribery, nor Robben managed to convert one. In the end, Bayern (15) had almost the same number of shots as Atletico (16).

They showed glimmers of still being capable of keeping up with the biggest clubs of Europe. As long as details aren’t perfect however, it will be difficult to get anything out of those matches. There’s a lot Bayern can learn from this game, Atletico showed them where their biggest weaknesses are. Carlo Ancelotti’s main task of the upcoming days will be to analyze this performance without inflating its meaning.

Atlético Madrid – FC Bayern 1:0 (1:0)
Atlético MadridOblak – Juanfran, Savic, Godín, Filipe Luis – Saúl, Koke, Gabi, Carrasco (71. Gameiro) – Griezmann (90.+1 Partey), Torres (80. Gaitán)
SubsMoreira, Correa, Hernández, Vrsaljko
FC Bayern MünchenNeuer – Lahm, Boateng (62. Hummels), Martínez, Alaba – Xabi Alonso – Thiago (66. Kimmich), Vidal – Müller (59. Robben), Lewandowski, Ribéry
SubsUlreich, Rafinha, Sanches, Coman
Goals1:0 Carrasco (36.)
CardsGelb: Saúl / Lahm, Thiago, Boateng, Vidal
RefereeSzymon Marciniak (Poland)
Attendance59.000 (sold out)

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