Bayern 3 – 1: A convincing win in the midst of an injury crisis. Tactical analysis and recap.
This article written by Pepe Salazar
Despite the nominal 4-2-3-1, for most of the match Bayern played a 3-4-3 diamond when in attack or possession. This is a very dutch or Cruyffian formation, which can be very chaotic or very balanced. Bayern is playing in a balanced, yet attacking style, where the priority is to avoid 1v1s in the back line, while trying to exploit the flanks and half spaces in attack.
The 3-4-3 diamond allows a player like Müller to roam free behind the 3 forwards, and a pivot (Pavlović) to dictate the play in the build up. It also creates lots triangles and rhombuses that allow for a free flowing positional play in which players can occupy the spaces left by their teammates.
In Bayern’s case, to play this situational back three, Mazraoui and Boey stayed back in a RCB role for most of the match, allowing Davies to be the attacking fullback, almost in a LW role, which in turn allowed Musiala to start from the LW spot, to then tuck in and attack more central spaces.
Gladbach’s only goal came from a mistake by Bayern, so in terms of tactics, today the team scored three goals (should have been four) and conceded almost no chances on defense, which is very good news considering Upamecano, Kim and Kimmich were absent.
Bayern build up with a 2-4-4 when Gladbach didn’t press.
When Gladbach dared to press with two forwards, Bayern lined in a 3-4-3, with Pavlović dropping between the CBs and the 2 fullbacks close to him, which created a diamond in the center of the pitch, with the two CBs very wide to create space and break the press. This worked fine, with the big exception of Gladbach’s first goal.
Gladbach’s goal came from an error in Bayern’s build up. It’s hard to blame Neuer as the pass was correct, but it’s also hard to blame Müller as it was a difficult one and some may argue he was fouled. Gladbach’s reaction was so quick neither Davies nor Goretzka were able to cover the halfspace, which Elvedi ran into to score. This is not a tactical error, but rather a combination of individual mistakes and bad luck which was proven out as there were no other similar plays and Gladbach didn’t really cause troubles in the build up.
In attack Bayern played a 2-3-5 and a 3-4-3 diamond. This created triangles especially on the flanks, where the fullbacks, wingers and forwards were allowed to switch positions to pull out the defenders.
Musiala started in a nominal LW position, but when he received the ball he always tucked in, which allowed Davies to overlap on the flank. This, in turn, allowed Goretzka to move in to an attacking position like a box to box 8 would. Pavlović remained mostly in the center of the pitch, in front of Dier and de Ligt to prevent counter attacks through the center.
Bayern also attacked in a 3-4-3 diamond so the switch between this formation and the more common 2-3-5 created some surprise in the attack, without sacrificing defensive stability.
Pavlović’s goal (1-1) came from this 3-4-3 approach where Kane, Müller and Sané pulled the CBs, creating a gap in the right halfspace, which Pavlović smartly ran into. In this sense he is different than Kimmich, who stays in more central positions and doesn’t venture often into the box. These types of plays are essential for a team to break the monotony, and since Boey was staying back, and Goretzka had been tracking back more or less effectively, the CDM was allowed to move forward without it being overly risky.
Bayern’s defense consisted mostly in pressing and getting the ball on Gladbach’s side of the pitch, by overloading the flanks, which is where Galdbach likes to start their build up. This worked perfectly, as for most of the match Bayern didn’t really have to drop into a defensive formation, except for the final minutes where the idea was just to keep the advantage and avoid unnecessary risks. Bayern often pressed in a 4-3-1-2 or 4-4-2
Bayern also pressed in the 3-4-3 formation, with Müller and Musiala joining Kane very close to the GK and CBs, this forced Gladbach to make mistakes and lose the ball close to their own box, and a key element for this to work, was having Sané do lots of defensive work on the right flank, more like a traditional winger.
When Bayern did drop back to defend, which was usually in a mid block, and very occasionally on a low block, they turned to a very simple 4-4-2. Again, for this to work, Musiala and Sané really had to commit defensively and mark the fullbacks, which they did, which is great news for the team.
This was a hard win. Get used to that. These tactics are meant to minimize risk, injuries and burnout. The squad has to be in shape for the Lazio and Leverkusen match.
For me the best thing today was seeing Sané and Musiala contribute in the defensive and pressing phases, which really made a big difference for the back line as neither de Ligt nor Dier were at any point left to face risky 1v1s with attackers running towards them. The team looked very cohesive on all phases of play, and I didn’t see any “diva-esque” behaviors.
This is what is needed for the difficult matches.
Pavlović is showing he can take the responsibility of playing as the main 6, while also contributing to the attack, and Goretzka is being less selfish, tracking back more often and covering for Davies when he overlaps.
Boey is a very good defensive acquisition and he showed today he can play as a RCB in a back three. This will create more variations for Bayern to attack and defend and I can foresee, in certain circumstances, Tuchel playing a back three with Boey as a RCB, and Mazraoui and Davies as wingbacks.
Considering the number of absences, I think Tuchel played this one perfectly and the team responded to him after he called them out after the Bremen defeat (which in some squads this has the opposite effect, so it’s also great to see the players can take criticism) stand behind their coach’s tactical approach, and prove their worth on the pitch.
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