Bayern 2 – 2 Arsenal: Is this hope?

miasanrot Separator April 10, 2024

This article written by Pepe Salazar

The expectation was that Bayern was going to focus on defending, after all, before the match they were the “underdog”, and Tuchel’s biggest successes made use of counter-attacking tactics. For this match, given previous results by both teams, no one was going to question or even criticize if Bayern decided to play risk management tactics.

Flipping the script

When Arsenal scored the first goal within the first minutes I thought that was it for Bayern, due to Arsenal’s ability to keep clean sheets even against elite opponents. This, combined with the fact Bayern would be forced to play more open, made me think it would be more likely for Arsenal to score the 2-0, than for Bayern to draw.

Fortunately, Bayern flipped the script, paradoxically, by not changing their approach. Despite the 0-1, the players kept a cool head and Tuchel also remained calm. The tactical approach didn’t change at all. Arsenal didn’t manage to dominate the game as it was expected, they had possession, but for most of the game, it seemed that Bayern was in control of the situation.

Same tactics + focused players: efficient tactics

Tactically, I think Tuchel beat Arteta because Bayern was able to play the way they wanted, without sacrificing their attack, and despite having 60% possession, Arsenal never looked comfortable on the ball and wasn’t able to create many chances. Bayern stopped them from being able to build up through the center of the pitch, and instead forced them to progress the ball with Kiwior or White, forcing Odegaard and Havertz to drop deeper and closer to the flanks in order to progress the ball.

Bayern dropped deep and defended when they had to, but mostly used a mid block. This didn’t mean they would sacrifice attack. The main difference with some previous matches was that the attacking phase was more controlled, more “responsible”. Instead of piling men forward, Bayern attacked intelligently, forward runs and passes were much more careful, the rest of the defense was always correctly positioned, anticipating that Arsenal could easily take advantage of any counter-attack. Despite playing away, and already having a positive result (a draw at the Emirates is positive) Bayern kept going forward and Coman was close to scoring the winning goal in the last minutes but he hit the bar, which creates positive expectations for the second leg.

Tactical recap

Today’s tactics were not intricate nor complex, their simplicity is what made them work. For most of the match, this tactical approach kept Arsenal playing a predictable horse-shoe pattern around Bayern’s mid and low block. They were able to score two goals but even then, the tactical approach was not at fault as it was expected that with their quality in the flanks they would manage to create some instability. My only criticism this game would go towards Davies, who was rather useless in Saka’s first goal and didn’t do a great defensive work on that flank, in fact, both of Arsenal’s goals came from attacks from that flank, and the Canadian was also responsible for the misplaced throw in that led to Arsenal creating the chance for the second goal. Today Kimmich was a better fullback than Davies, despite being slower and older, because his positioning was very good, while Davies was caught out of position several times, and wasn’t able to keep up in the 1v1 against Saka.

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Arsenal tried attacking with their traditional 3-2-5, and Bayern defended with a 5-3-2 or 4-4-2 structure, depending upon the circumstances. In Arsenal’s first goal, Odegaard played a routine pass to Saka but Davies was not effective at marking or even making Saka uncomfortable. Both of Arsenal’s goals came from exploiting Bayern’s weakness on the left flank.

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When Arsenal tried to use Havertz and Odegaard in a 4-4-2 (4-2-4) as false nines, Bayern switched to a 4-4-2 mid block. The essence of today’s defensive tactics was preventing overloads through the middle of the pitch, using zonal marking but also man to man marking when necessary.

In the defensive mifield, Laimer pressed with more intensity while Goretzka stayed in more central positions. Bayern’s wingers were always ready to track back to prevent Martinelli and Saka going 1v1 vs Kimmich and Davies. It worked on Bayern’s right flank, as there were not many chances by Martinelli, but on the left Saka was able to score and create the chance for the second goal. Guerreiro was chosen instead of Tel precisely to reinforce that flank, because Bayern could still counter with Coman, Musiala and Kane, but Davies was in need of defensive support in the final minutes.

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In Arsenal’s seconnd goal, a misplaced throw in by Davies led to an overturn where Gabriel was able to assist Trossard. While no one tracked Trossard’s run, Bayern’s defensive structure did create an overload and had numerical advantage, but the surprise factor after a simple mistake was enough for Arsenal to score.

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In Bayern’s first goal, Kane pressed Gabriel in what seemed like a routine clearance after a long misplaced pass. Instead of clearing the ball, Gabriel gave the ball away. Just as Sané got the ball, Goretzka and Gnabry immediately made their runs to create Bayern’s best counter-attack in the whole season. Sané’s through ball was impeccable and Goretzka and Gnabry’s timing was also exceptional. This is one of the few instances were Arsenal left a gap on their right flank, and Bayern was able to exploit it instantly. In this play, correct positioning, vision, and perfect execution combined to create a beautiful goal.

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Bayern’s 2nd goal (penalty) was also orchestrated by Sané. He carried the ball from the sideline behind the halfway line all the way to Arsenal’s box. This is a showcase of individual skill and talent, and exposes a weakness Bayern should exploit next match; Arsenal can be very slow when defending against counter-attacks. Their back line and defensive midfield are not quick and they couldn’t keep up with Sané; by the time he reached the box, Arsenal’s back line are confused as whether to track Sané, Kane, or Musiala and Gnabry who are also incoming. This match Bayern definitely took advantage of the fact that their attack is faster than the Gunners defensive unit.

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Bayern was very close to scoring a 3rd goal at the 89th minute. Here, Guerreiro’s understated presence creates a positional variation; he inverts, allowing Musiala to overlap. Musiala manages to reach the endline and provide a deadly diagonal pass to Coman, who hits the bar. Despite the fact Bayern had a positive result, they never quit attacking, which sends a message that Arsenal are not invincible and that Bayern can beat them by playing both defensive or attacking football.


This team is not done, at least in the Champions League. I think the fans deserved today’s performance after many disappointments, and this match left a lot of positive expectations for the second leg at the Allianz.

Bayern can definitely make it to the semi-finals, but if there’s anything to to take away from this match, at least against this Arsenal squad, it’s better to wait, be patient, and let them make mistakes, they are weak against Bayern’s counter attack and lack pace to compensate for being caught out of position. If Bayern goes full throttle and commits too many players forward Arsenal will be happy to sit deep and wait for a long pass to Saka or Martinelli, so we shouldn’t expect or demand for Bayern to try to pummel Arsenal at the Allianz, and instead, accept that risk management tactics may be necessary, if the team plays better that way, then so be it.

»Eier, wir brauchen Eier!«

— Oliver Kahn

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