Manchester City 1-3 Bayern Munich
Yet another big game came our way in the UEFA Champions League in what has been a great season of European football so far. Guardiola and his Bayern Munich side went to the Etihad, expecting to win. Manchester City also set up to get 3 points in their home game.
The home team started with the first choice centre back pairing of Kompany and Nastasic. Clichy and Richards were the two wing backs. In midfield, Toure and Fernandinho started behind Nasri, Aguero and Jesus Navas. The lone man up front was Edin Dzeko.
The European champions set up an attacking line up as usual. Dante and Boateng were the centre backs who started the game for Bayern. Rafinha and Alaba were chosen to start as the wide defenders, but were detailed to add in attack. Philip Lahm began the game in his now customary position of defensive midfielder, with Schweinsteiger and Kross forming the midfield trio. Muller was the designated striker, with ‘Robbery’ patrolling the wings.
One of the things that made Guardiola’s Barcelona so special was the way in which they pressed and won the ball back from the opposition so quickly. Guardiola seems to have brought this along with him to Bayern Munich, and Der Roten were absolutely fantastic when winning the ball back from the opposition tonight. They pressed City relentlessly, especially in the deeper areas of City’s half. The pressing was different in different parts of the pitch from Bayern. In City’s half, they were chasing down the ball with ferocity, and pressing with an intention to win the ball back immediately. This was on show for their third goal, when Kroos tackled Fernandinho to start the move. However, the intensity of the press did vary, especially when City did manage to get past the initial wave of pressure. In the moments this occurred, the Bayern backline dropped off quite efficiently.
Of course, this pressing had an adverse effect on Bayern as the game wore on, and City came into it a lot more towards the end, primarily because of fatigue affecting the quality of the pressing from Bayern.
Something that Guardiola has implemented quite well at Bayern is the shape they use to facilitate ball retention. As shown in the tactics graph, the centre backs go wide, with Philip Lahm dropping between them. Mostly, Rafinha and Alaba go towards the middle of the field to receive and play their passes, along with Schweinsteiger. They form a midfield trio, with the middle player, Schweinsteiger in this case, moving up and down to find space and play passes. Kroos, was the 1, who forms more of a part of an attacking quartet, along with Muller, Robben and Ribery.
Football Blogging Awards: Click here and vote for us in the “Best New Football Blog” Category
of course, in this game, there were a few changes to this standard model. Alaba and Rafinha for example, provided a lot more width, especially Alaba. There was a lot of switching of positions across the team as well, with Schweinsteiger and Kroos swapping quite often. Ribery and Robben, too, weren’t averse to drifting in and playing centrally at times. Similarly, Muller too went wide when the situation demanded his presence in those areas.
On the night, and in the first half especially, Bayern were looking at crosses and width as an option of attack. Ribery started out wide and scored his first goal by cutting inside. Alaba was also a constant menace down that side for Micah Richards. Bayern attempted 16 crosses on the night, of which only 4 were successful though. This tactic was designed to stretch the City defence, and and the use of wing backs meant that either the City attackers had to track back (something they are weak at) or the two midfielders had to work harder, opening space in the middle for the likes of Kroos. Initially, Rafinha and Robben served as outballs by staying out on the right touch-line. This was facilitated by the fact that Nasri played a lot narrower, leaving the wide space in front of Gael Clichy open. later though, as the City defence moved to their left to try and plug this gap, it opened spaces for Alaba,and the young Austrian needed no second invitation to attack these spaces. They even got their goal from such a situation, where City had to drift right to cover the overload on the left side, and Dante could chip a diagonal pass across the defence to Muller, who scored. 9 of the 16 crosses Bayern made were from the left side.
Due to the fact that Alaba was getting forward quite often, it was only natural that he left a lot of space behind him. As an extension, it was quite natural that many of the City attacks, especially those in the first half, i.e. the counters they launched, were down the right hand side and through Jesus Navas. The Spaniard had 42 touches of the ball, more than any other of City’s attacking players. However, Navas put in a disappointing performance on the night, and wasn’t able to be the outlet that City needed him to be. Of the 8 crosses that he attempted, not a single one found its target. He also managed to complete only 55% of his passes. This was probably down to the fact that Navas didn’t get to see enough of the ball in general, and received it very sporadically.
In the first half, a large reason for Bayern being so comprehensively dominant was Philip Lahm. the captain found himself in a lot of space, and had a lot of time to play the ball to his team mates. Pellegrini picked up on this and assigned Sergio Aguero to the task of picking up the Bayern skipper everytime the Bavarians got on the ball. Of course, this worked to reduce Lahm’s influence on the game, but it didn’t make too much of a difference in the grand scheme of things, with the likes of Schweinsteiger and Kross dominating too. It also reduced some of the little attacking potency that City had up until that point.
Over to you! That was our analysis of the game, was there anything particular that you (tactically) noticed? Let us know by dropping a comment below.