FC Bayern München is probably the only team keeping up with FC Barcelona in this first part of the 2015/2016 season. Everyone agrees that Bayern is Barça’s main rival in their attempt to win the Champions League for the second time in a row. Let’s look at the German team’s strengths, key tactics and also its weaknesses.
1. Possession. Like Barcelona in the Guardiola era, possession is today one of Bayern’s biggest strengths. Let’s look at the possession stats:
2. Ball Carry Out. As at Barcelona, ball carry out from own area is one of Guardiola’s obsessions. He gives maximum importance to this aspect of play which provides the team the opportunity to do damage when reaching the opponent’s area. He is always looking for superiority. See images:
– Under normal rival pressure: Midfielders Wide and Lagging + Wings Deep and Wide + Pivot assist (5 vs 2).
– Under high rival pressure: The above + 2 Backs + Keeper (8 vs 6).
From the moment they carry the ball out the intention is to generate scoring opportunities in the rival area. The team grows around the ball and one can clearly see their conviction that the better they come out, the better they will reach the opponent’s area.
3. Wings Always Hide (external game). This is a non-negotiable point. The wings always stay wide. Make the pitch big. Many more wide openings than interior ones. We have analysed Bayern’s attack zones over the length of the season and have seen clear signs of increase in wide offensive play. The inclusion and great form of Douglas Costa result in the German team’s tendency to charge forward more plus their play on the left and right but always initiating wide to end up putting the ball into the centre.
4. Organised pressure. Highly directional with three main objectives: high pressure to attempt deep ball recovery, after loss pressure and pressure on the wings. In other situations the team move up and down field without applying excessive pressure.
Organised pressure to drive opponent wide.
5. Strong Initiation of Play from Own Half. In this aspect they are very similar to the Barcelona of 2009-2012 where they resolved matches in the first 30 minutes of play. Against Stuttgart or Arsenal, the halftime scores were, respectively, 4-0 and 3-0.
6. Defense Against Counter Strategies. Guardiola directed a purely zonal defence in answer to strategic attacks against Barça. Bayern use the same defence with a slight difference: they occupy the whole small area with one player behind and four players strung out along the border of the area. The slight difference lies in the deployment of three players who mark rivals man on man. See images:
+ Disruption. They have more disruptive capacity this season. The signing of Douglas Costa, a brilliant 1 on 1 player and Guardiola’s discovery of Coman on the wing contributes loads to the team as it adds potential to the existent but irregular play by Robben and Ribéry. Gotze and Müller can occasionally play on the wings too. In midfield they also have the potential to disrupt play breaking pressure lines mainly focussed on Thiago. Speaking clearly…very similar to what Iniesta does at FCB.
Constant rotation of systems of play. Bayern has already used a number of systems this season: (3-4-2-1 against Stuttgart; 4-1-4-1 against Arsenal; 3-4-3 against Dortmund, Borussia Mönchengladbach and Wolfsburg; 4-2-3-1 against Mainz; 2-3-5 against Köln or Olympiakos). There are even changes within the same match or the changes become apparent in their implementation during transitions. I think Guardiola has implemented this.
Flexibility. The current line up has given the Bavarian team a lot more generic and individual flexibility. Players like Arturo Vidal, Müller, Alaba, Javi Martínez, Coman, Götze and especially Lahm (who has played in five different positions!) have multiplied the number of options to play in different ways and to implement changes in play systems or ideas during the match.
Vulnerable second line of defense. The German team is especially vulnerable when opponents reach their second line of defence. Especially in plays where their defence has been forced to swing from side to side, the game profile has changed (rival attack from side to side) and these are quick. Most goals scored against the team are of this nature: goal scored by Dortmund, by Wolfsburg or second and third goal by Gladbach.
Slow centre backs. All of Bayern’s centre backs (Boateng, Benatia, Badstuber, Javi Martínez) are slow moving both with the ball and moving around the field. They are a weakness when they have to play with space behind them and the rival plays to these spaces.
FC Bayern is the highest scoring team in Europe at the moment and the 2nd least scored against team, just behind Atlético de Madrid.
Currently a very powerful team. The only one capable of keeping up with Barça at this time.
Guardiola says that this is the team he feels most his since his arrival in Munich, and it’s true.
They are not at the same level as Barcelona but they are the closest.
This year they have gained disruptive capacity and are in a position to opt for titles they weren’t in before.
We can see in the comparisons with Barcelona the records are quite similar and even more so if we take into account that Barça’s game in the last two months has centred on its most fast passing version.
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