Bayern 2 – 2 Freiburg: Can Bayern keep a clean sheet? Tactical analysis

miasanrot Separator March 2, 2024

This article written by Pepe Salazar

Cruyff said something like “be wide when attacking, compact when defending.” Bayern is wide when attacking, but they forget to be compact when defending. “Give a player five meters and they’ll be great” (also, Cruyff). Whenever Freiburg attacked, it seemed their players had space to carry, pass, make runs, receive the ball and shoot, even if they didn’t have numerical advantages. This makes scoring easier for opponents, even from low probability chances.

Most teams know how to defend against Bayern, no tactical masterclass is needed; be it Saarbrücken, Copenhagen, or Freiburg, a solid 4-4-2, shutting down the central lanes, and staying calm in a mid or low block is enough. Wait, let Bayern lose the ball, and get them on the counter.

This is a sad but deserved draw, with conceded goals coming from individual marking errors, but also, goals scored from individual efforts, rather than collective ones. I think most fans want to watch a team that attacks and defends together, every single match.

Tactical analysis

Build up and attack:

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Bayern build up in a lopsided 3-2-5 and Freiburg focused on closing the central lanes, which forced Bayern to try and build from the flanks. Like other teams, it seems Freiburg felt comfortable even inviting Bayern to attack from wide areas.

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In a recent tactical improvement, Musiala is dropping deeper to help in the build up, similar to what Wirtz does at Leverkusen. See that defensive midfielder that’s always in the marking zone? That is Goretzka. He will stay there for most of the match, so Musiala dropping deep helps, but doesn’t create a numerical advantage because Goretzka doesn’t do much off the ball and doesn’t make runs for Musiala to play a pass or a through ball.

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Bayern also build up in a 4-4-2 or 2-4-4. That defensive midfielder in the marked zone? Goretzka. Freiburg’s center forwards pressed the man with the ball, forcing wide passes, and then their fullbacks or wide midfielders pressed Bayern’s fullbacks. Numerical advantages combined with runs in behind could solve this situation, but the team seemed to be disconnected in the build up and defensive phase.

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When Bayern managed to carry the ball into Freiburg’s half, Freiburg opted for a very compact 4-4-2 (like other teams have done against Bayern), inviting Bayern to play wide passes. Despite the fact that Bayern attacked in 2-3-5 or 3-2-5 shapes, they rarely created numerical advantages because the central lanes and especially zone 14 were always crowded by Freiburg’s defensive unit.

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Due to Kimmich playing as an inverted right back, it was Müller or Tel who had to play near the flank. Tel is proving to be a complete forward, playing in every attacking position, but despite him and Müller covering the right wing position, they were not able to play effective passes or crosses into the box.

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When Bayern seemed to be able to get numerical advantages in the attack, Freiburg switched their formation to a back 5, or even back 6 or 7 if needed. Bayern’s midfielders were mostly unable to lose their mark, which forced the attack into riskier moves down the flanks.

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The back 7 is no tactical masterclass, just sheer numbers to make Bayern’s attacking 5 irrelevant. In these scenarios, big clubs would have their DM’s making runs into the half spaces, to at least pull defenders and open spaces for the attackers, but this didn’t happen in today’s match.

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Freiburg were happy to let Bayern play a horse-shoe passing pattern around their box, but rarely let them actually make runs into it. Both of Bayern’s goals came from individual efforts, Tel winning the ball and scoring a banger, and Musiala dribbling between three defenders to score on his own. In the attacking phase, at least today, Müller and Kane made no difference, and neither Goretzka nor Guerreiro or Kimmich provided much help to open up spaces for them. Despite Bayern scoring 2 goals and having 8 shots on target, they didn’t create many clear chances.

Defending and not pressing

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Bayern defended in 2 main formations; a 5-3-2, and a 4-4-2 (or 4-4-1-1). Freiburg created some chances, especially from the Bayern’s right flank. This was expected, as Bayern has no RBs available. With Kimmich defending that flank, one of the DMs or wingers dropped back to create situational back 5 lines to compensate.

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Freiburg created an attacking diamond pattern on Bayern’s right flank, outnumbering Bayern’s RB-DM-RW combo. Grifo managed to outrun Kimmich easily, or even take the ball away from him, winning most 1v1s and Günter had two big chances from this position, one, an impressive banger, and another one, a shot where Neuer made an important save.

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When Bayern defended in a 5-3-2, Freiburg was not shy and they mirrored this formation, attacking in a 3-2-5 or 2-3-5, if Bayern had managed to get the ball back quickly in these circumstances, they could have created chances through counter attacking, but despite Freiburg committing men forward, Bayern didn’t create any chances through counter attacks.


It’s hard to make these tactical analyses when Bayern loses or draws, not because of the result, rather, because of the way the matches go. Bayern started poorly, then dominated, then deflated like a balloon at the worst possible moment.

The tactics are more or less the same, and changes are mostly adaptations to injuries and/or absences. I can’t even criticize squad selection because the players that start most recent matches are the ones that are available, there’s not much to choose. I would have liked to see Zaragoza instead of Choupo, at least for a few minutes, so Bayern could play with two wingers and be able to overlap in both flanks. Teams invite Bayern to play wide because they know that no wingers equals less danger.

It’s great to see players like Tel giving everything they have; Musiala scored a very important goal (both for his current form, as well as for the team spirit), but then, other players lose their focus for a second and concede a goal from a routine throw-in. These kinds of inconsistencies are not what Bayern fans expect, but it’s hard to see a cohesive team when there is no certainty regarding who occupies which role/position.

We’ve been seeing more tactical flexibility; the attacking unit roams and switches positions freely, but it doesn’t compensate for the lack of partnerships between players. We had Robben and Lahm on one flank, Ribery and Alaba on the other, Javi and Bastian behind them, and Müller assisting Lewa. Since they left, these partnerships are still in process of being developed. In the meantime I think we will continue to see an inconsistent squad, for better or worse. Instead of Hollywood FC this could be Rollercoaster FC. On Tuesday Sarri will play the same defensive tactics every team plays against Bayern, so an early goal would be ideal just to get things going and avoid the horse-shoe attacking pattern we see in most matches.

»Eier, wir brauchen Eier!«

— Oliver Kahn

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