Preview: Werder Bremen – FC Bayern

Bayern displayed an average performance, but thanks to Robert Lewandowski they started 2017 successfully. The eleven of Carlo Ancelotti wants to build on this against Werder Bremen. Author: Justin • Translator: Michael

On the season opener the record champions thrashed Bremen, who were coached by Viktor Skripnik back then. Since SVW have sacked Skripnik and replaced him with a younger coach in Alexander Nouri, things are going better.

Graphic: Michael Böck

Scouting report

With him they’ve lost four games in a row this season but other than that the record doesn’t look too bad. Four wins, four draws and six defeats.

One shouldn’t expect any miracle work though. Bremen was lacking structure under Skripnik, controlled build-up and the necessary aggressiveness against the ball. Nouri is trying to improve these issues step by step.

It’s noticeable, how Werder’s build-up play is now focused on short passes. The coach, who is a massive fan of a back-three is making sure, that the zones in front of the defence are occupied as good as possible. In possession there are still problems, however. Fritz can’t dictate the play anymore and is frequently getting rings ran around him, while Junuzovic can’t often justify the hype surrounding him in the past.

Nouri changed it to a classic 4-4-2 for a while but it’s to be expected, that Bremen will bring out a back-three or back-five against FC Bayern. After early struggles against BVB, it was going really well in this system later on.

Since the managerial change there hasn’t been a Bundesliga game, where Bremen failed to score. This is not just about Pizarro, Kruse, Bartels and Gnabry chipping in with their enormous individual quality, no, in possession there is actually some structure now.

Pizarro is obviously the target man, although he’s yet to reach the form of recent years. Depending on the system, there are 1 or 2 additional attackers creating connections on the wing or in the playmaker space. In the first game of the second half of the season Pizarro was the victim of Drobny’s early red card. He was subbed off for back-up keeper Wiedwald.

Especially the signing of Serge Gnabry, who was repeatedly linked with Bayern, was a brilliant move. The 21-year old was immediately pulling the strings in the attack of Bayern’s upcoming opponent and has scored 7 goals in 16 games. One assist completes his outstanding first half of the season.

Against Bayern, Werder will probably go for a more defensive approach. In general no team is sitting deeper than Bremen on average. The passive 5-4-1 under Skripnik, which was thrashed time and time again, has become a more active 5-2-3 or 5-4-1 against stronger opponents.

Both teams in comparison
(Graphic: Lukas)

SVW’s spacing is better, is defending more aggressively and is a lot more effective in transition, because the players seem to project the feeling, that there’s actually a plan behind it. Generally, everything seems smoother, more controlled and more efficient. However, no team is allowing more shots on target than Werder and that’s exactly where Bayern will have to look for their chances.

Even if the attack of Nouri’s eleven is more than capable of scoring against Bayern, the record champion will definitely get a fair amount of chances.

FC Bayern barely found any gaps in Freiburg. This was down to the opponent running an unusually high 124 kilometres as well as the own spacing. Players were standing on each other’s feet, the runs off the ball weren’t always right and in the build-up passing options were missing. Alonso rarely got the support he so desperately needs.

Just like Freiburg, Werder Bremen will try to create chances in transition. It’s overly important for Bayern to stop this early on. Thiago’s early interceptions are missing here, which lifted Munich’s counter-pressing to another level.

Thiago’s absence is making it harder

The Spaniard is basically missed everywhere. Vidal didn’t work as a defensive midfielder at all. Not until Costa and Lewandowski dropped back into midfield more often, the play of the Bundesliga leaders got better and more dominant. Ancelotti will have to find solutions to compensate Thiago’s absence and improve the structure.

The Spanish international did all of this with his intuition. It felt like the 25-year old was everywhere on the pitch and occupied each position, he was currently needed at. Thiago might not only be a central player for Carlo Ancelotti, he might actually be the most important one. No other player in the squad has such understanding for the attacking structure like the Spaniard does.

Even in the times, where Munich’s positional play wasn’t existent, Thiago was able to create enough triangles in the offence. With him the wingers weren’t as isolated anymore and Lewandowski got crucial support. Now he’s injured and the squad doesn’t offer a direct replacement.

Müller isn’t the type of player to contribute much creativity to your play. Costa did this well as an inside winger and a deeper Lewandowski provided some good actions, too.

Werder will make the spaces in the centre as tight as possible. Here, the new signing Thomas Delaney must help. He arrived from Kopenhagen in the winter and was Bremen’s best player in last week’s match. All the more important to play effective in these zones. An interesting alternative for Thiago could be Franck Ribéry, who’s equipped with a skill-set to provide creative breakthroughs in the centre. Unfortunately, the Frenchman doesn’t fancy playing this positions and Ancelotti isn’t known for experiments anyway.

Thus fielding a similar formation to the one used in Freiburg is likely. If the record champion finds his automatisms and is able to create more connections in the space between Lewandowski and Alonso, three points should be going to Munich despite the concerns. It will be about replacing Thiago as a collective.

Werder Bremen can be a very uncomfortable opponent for dominant teams. Borussia Dortmund made this experience, who couldn’t find any structure while Bremen even were a man down and just narrowly escaped with a win.

After the poor performance last week, FC Bayern should be warned. For a successful display in Bremen the reigning champion will have to improve.

Five bold predictions

  1. Bayern will win in Bremen.
  2. Lewandowski will score at least once.
  3. Müller will be involved in at least one goal.
  4. Bayern won’t keep a clean sheet.
  5. There won’t be a goal in the first 30 minutes.

The Freiburg preview was on point. All predictions were correct and now I’m sitting at 58/110.

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