Note from Managing Madrid: This is a fine Fanpost we decided to promote. We are always encouraging our community to write this kind of content to give voice to our readers! Enjoy
I started writing this article well before this week and thought it would be apt to post this after the Copa match. A special thanks to our MM editor Pedro Cesca for proofreading my post and helping me without any hesitation.
FC Bayern München
Bayern Munich - the toughest Champions League semi-finals draw we all wished to avoid this year. I always had a feeling, right from the knockout stages, that we'd need to go through them to reach the finals in Lisbon. Pardon me for that. I have watched several Bayern matches again from the moment we drew them to write a fair review of the team we are actually up against and how they may play against us. Of course, I have also pulled statistics from Whoscored.com and Squawka.com to paint a thorough picture of opponent. Going forward, I want to separate the analysis into two parts 1. Offensive Bayern (when they attack) 2. Defensive Bayern (When they lose possession/defend). I'll publish the second part after a couple of days.
Since Pep took over this team, he has made no considerable change to the offensive line, but he changed their winning formation from a 4-2-3-1 to his own version of a 4-1-4-1. Below is the formation that he usually deployed all season (although I expect that pep will play Lahm in the RB role and Schweinsteiger in the DM role).
The Bavarians have scored a total of 82 goals this year, of which 21 came from set-pieces (including 5 penalties). They have scored only two of their goals from outside the box and scored 58/61 goals from open play. This is the main reason I was emphasizing in my MM comments that our defensive line has to be very disciplined against Bayern. In essence, our defense is going to win the game for us.
The below picture visualizes the way they have scored all their goals this season. Super Mario has headed seven goals so far this season so he will be the biggest threat for us from crosses and corners. Whatever the situation, our defenders need to be in the right position to nullify the threats from headers. I am hugely worried in this area because our defenders tend to lose concentration during the match, especially on set pieces (like what happened to Pepe and Batra scored). He was the only player they needed to mark during the corner and they left him free. With our defensive line taking headers for granted, it will be a primary danger area that needs to be accounted for by Iker and Co. Ribery and Robben waste no time sending in their crosses or key passes to Mario who usually positions himself in great ways.
Pep constantly tweaks Bayern's system from game to game and changes his tactics, thereby making player selection unpredictable. Keep in mind that they currently have the best squad strength and have players in their bench who can come on late and make an immediate impact. One thing Pep changed after his takeover of Bayern is enforcing the wingers to stay wide and let Muller and Kroos join the attack from the middle. Another noticeable thing that he brought in to Bayern is making the midfield as crowded as possible and maintaining a high defensive line. This has provided Muller and Gotze space and time which leads to sparkling passes in the final third. If we take a look at the number of assists from their players below, it is conclusive that Pep is insisting on crosses and through balls to create scoring chances. The number of chances that their wide players and full backs create are really amazing and a certain thing to watch out for.
Alright, enough of the praising. Even though Pep's Bayern looks to be in control of games, there is a general notion that they bore the opposition with their passing. The number of goals they have scored via Counter-Attack is just two, which is something that we can be happy about considering the number of goals that we have conceded from counters this season.
Sometimes when they are in a very advanced position to create goal-scoring chances, they suddenly make a back pass and kill their attack.
Forcing the wide players to stay wide limits the abilities of versatile wingers and the only major benefit that they cheer about is their dominant possession.
It was certainly hard to unearth the "Ugly" part of the Bavarians, but something tells me that Pep is going to overthink and play at least one their players in an unusual position. He has a history of overthinking/overdoing things when there is absolutely no need of it.
Bayern certainly has some weakness while attacking; however, Carlo should focus on how we can prevent them from scoring an important away goal in the first leg, which I consider to be a huge advantage going into the second leg. When we play Bayern, our Midfield and Defensive line should not leave any gap and it should remain compact. Since Pep will crowd the midfield and try to win the game from that zone, our wingers certainly need to drop back and add more muscle in the midfield when we don't have possession.
How should we prepare to face the Mighty Bayern in the first leg?
P.S. This is my first post with respect to team analysis and your suggestions are highly appreciated. I will write the second part pretty soon. Thanks!