Where’s the six-appeal at FC Bayern?

Justin Separator October 31, 2018

FC Bayern is well on its way to regaining its self-image and self-confidence. Thomas Müller is a good example: he was satisfied and dissatisfied at the same time after the match in Mainz. They had shown a good attitude, but the ambition was somewhat different from winning against FSV by just one goal.

Bayern arrogance? By no means. Müller hit the nail on the head. Again, the Reds were not creative in the final third. They were unstable in the second third and only rarely productively made it out of the first third. There are tactical problems, which we document and analyze on Miasanrot for weeks.

The squad discussion was often pushed into the limelight – justifiably so. But it is not wholly responsible for the missing structure. In midfield, FC Bayern can currently rely on footballers in their prime with Thiago (27), James (27), Goretzka (23) and Martínez (30). They all have the potential to create dominance in midfield, which provides control in most Bundesliga matches.

It’s not about copying Guardiola

In addition, Müller (29) and Renato Sanches (21) are available to the coaching team – admittedly these are very special types of players who need strong integration to function perfectly. Even Joshua Kimmich (23) would be an option as an inverted full-back or as a six, but this would require a change in formation.

It’s certainly not up to the players that the midfield currently resembles a painting that’s already hanging to one side and threatening to fall. Thanks to Thiago alone, this hasn’t happened yet. He is, so to speak, the one nail on which the work of art still hangs.

The expectation for Niko Kovač is also not to copy or imitate the Guardiola football of the best times. The time under Guardiola would have been natural and undemanding if anyone could simply copy it. His idea to create a more direct game from a well-ordered defensive, in which many players have direct access through high eights in the last third, is understandable in its approach. But it currently fails because of the implementation.

Optimize positional play

The point is to optimize your positional play in such a way that the direct play is secured by good counter-pressing on the one hand and requires less risk on the other. The mere fact that, ideally, you want to play directly to the front and the midfield is often bypassed in the process leads to a higher risk. But there are ways to minimize this.

In Stuttgart and against Leverkusen, for example, FC Bayern recalled their best years in many phases. Because the team as a whole had a good positional game. The eights were extremely high, but not on the same line as the three attackers. The result was a “W” in the attack like we experienced in Guardiola’s “WW” formation – only a bit wider and narrower. The central point, however, was that Thiago aggressively moved up as a six when the game entered the attacking half. Also the full-backs moved in a bit and thus secured turnovers.

This resulted in a crushing counter-pressing, which the respective opponents had to surrender to. Now it can be justifiably noted that both Leverkusen and Stuttgart were no yardsticks. However, it is remarkable that Bayern have not been able to push in this accuracy and aggressiveness since then.

Holes in pressing and missing coordination

Often there are two parts of the team – offence and defence. The offence presses forward when the ball is lost and in normal pressing, the defence remains in the back. This leads to huge holes in the midfield, which the opponent can exploit with a single pass. There are hardly any inverted movements by the full-backs and the number six – currently Javi Martínez – prefers to stay with the central defenders rather than to push.

Also in the build-up game the presence of Thiago is missing on this position. Martínez usually moves in the cover shadow or not in higher zones. The ball then moves from one side to the other in small increments and at some point forward on the wing. Opponents can move at a moderate pace and move Bayern to the wings.

This is too easy and predictable. In the centre there is simply a lack of coordination. Thiago is certainly great as an eight, but he is even more valuable as a six. There he can pull the strings, distribute balls and give the midfield a partial structure that leads to a better positional game. Once the game has been opened, he pushes and supports the eights. If the full-backs then move inside a little, things could work out again in the Bayern game.

A construction site that could hide others

The improvement of the missing midfield structure will certainly not solve all problems. Ribéry will not win more dribblings even with a better structure. It will also not give Gnabry the consistency and quality in his individual actions, which is currently still missing. Robben won’t get any faster either. But a better team structure can give these players support again.

It can ensure that they become more confident in the basics: the ball circulation and counter-pressing after turnovers. A good midfield structure will inevitably lead to FC Bayern becoming more dangerous again in the final third and protecting the risk.

At the moment, Bayern are lacking six-appeal with Martínez in this position. The fact that Kovač also explicitly praises the Spaniard and promises him further appearances, should his performance remain the same, shows that he hardly perceives the missing structure as such. Should this not change, however, there could already be a rude awakening against Dortmund. Because they are currently playing football. With structure, brain and speed.

»Eier, wir brauchen Eier!«

— Oliver Kahn

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  1. Yes, but against Hertha and Gladbach, Thiago played as a six, if I’m not mistaken. And we had some of our heaviest losses in those games. What do you think contributed to that? (I ask, because I’m completely at a loss to understand why our playstyle has become so deficient.)

  2. Great observation and analysis. The shortcomings of current Bayern team have been there for quite a while, and are getting more and more obvious every game. However, for me, there are even more striking questions I’m not able to answer, and would like to know your opinion:

    – What happened during the beginning phase of the season, before the 1st international break? We were playing good football back then, with proper positional play, counter pressing, fluidity and dynamism. I was getting my hope up back them. What exactly happened since then? The September Bayern and the October one are completely different, and it’s not form or fitness problem, because even if you’re not on form, you simply don’t forget all basic principles overnight. Or were they playing the usual style back then, and when Kovac started to push the team his way, there has been conflicting, incompatibility issue that needs time? It is really explainable.

    – Speaking of Kovac, I didn’t expect great things from him, at least for the 1st season, so I was pleasantly surprised when we started the season very well. But now the team is performing much worse than even my humble expectation at the beginning, so I’m starting to doubt whether he’s up the the job? Has he been realizing there problems and working on the fix? Because what I see is the team getting worse and worse each match. I really don’t know what the team is heading too, and now I’m not so sure if we can get back to the dominant team we want to be.

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