What a roller-coaster couple of months it has been for Bayern Munich. After stumbling at the beginning of the season with Carlo Ancelotti, in came the beloved Jupp Heynckes to steer the Bavarian ship back on track, for the fourth time in his managerial career. Considered one of the best managers in the beautiful game, Heynckes occupies a special place in each Bavarian’s heart; memories of the amazing 2012/2013 season in which Bayern Munich won the treble are still fresh in the supporters’ minds as they demand to relive it once again now that “The Fox” is back in business.
The German loyalists wanted to know whether the team can bounce back against the very same opposition who handed them the embarrassing 3-0 defeat at the Parc des Princes, which eventually led to the sacking of Carlo Ancelotti. On the other hand, PSG already secured qualification to the Round of 16 as first of their group, so some might say that the French wouldn’t give their all in a match that wouldn’t make much of a difference. However, judging from the lineup PSG featured, it surely speaks a totally different view.
Bayern Munich (4-2-3-1) | Manager: Jupp Heynckes
26. Ulreich – 32. Kimmich, 4. Sule, 5. Hummels, 27. Alaba – 24. Tolisso, 19. Rudy – 29. Coman, 11. James, 7. Ribery – 9. Lewandowski.
PSG (4-3-3) | Manager: Unai Emery
16. Areola – 32. Dani Alves, 5. Marquinhos, 2. Thiago Silva, 20. Kurzawa – 6. Verratti, 25. Rabiot, 23. Draxler – 29. Mbappe, 9. Cavani, 10. Neymar.
Made using TacticalPad
Heynckes goes back to his favorite 4-2-3-1, ensuring optimal organization along his team’s lines before moving to the attack. That’s how the German genius thinks, and that’s how he managed to reach the achievement of winning 2 Champions League trophies with 2 different clubs, Bayern Munich and Real Madrid. Looking at the back line, we can sense that Heynckes is working on Sule-Hummels partnership in the absence of Boateng. Sule is a young talented center back and Hummels is the experienced one who can lead Sule and be his mentor. With the defensive organization that Heynckes demands from all of his players, the center backs are the players who benefit the most due to the added defensive coverage, thus reducing space to defend.
Looking at PSG’s 4-3-3, we definitely recognize that this is the Parisien’s strongest line-up that can be fielded. The fact that the electric front three of Neymar, Cavani, and Mbappe plus midfield maestro Verratti are playing gives the idea that the group leaders are not coming to this match for fun, they are coming to win. But Heynckes had a foxy plan to overcome the most prolific team in Europe today.
A. Bayern’s brilliant defensive organization
Building on the same blueprint that lead his team to Champions League glory, Jupp Heynckes focused a lot on organizing his team defensively. Coordination and cohesion in movement was instilled by the German coach and the results were shown in today’s match against top attacking opposition. PSG’s players managed to break away a couple of times but that doesn’t mean credit shouldn’t be given to Bayern Munich; they’ve put in a great defensive performance and scored 3 past PSG, a perfect balance.
Without the ball, Bayern often fell back into a deep 4-5-1/4-1-4-1/4-4-2 that ensured vertical compactness to counter against any PSG player positioned between the lines. The 4-1-4-1 is optimal when covering any player near Zone 14, thus Rudy was the one who dropped behind the midfield line whereas Tolisso and James joined forces in the center of the field.
When in 4-5-1, there’s a risk that the midfield line will be flat therefore allowing opposition players to be between the lines. That’s where the role of the sweeper comes to play; Hummels took responsibility of moving up and pressuring the opposition player in case the pass was played towards him. This allows the midfield line to recover and prevent any mistakes from happening.
B. Bayern Overload Midfield
1. False full-backs
Most probably taken from Guardiola’s stint with Bayern Munich, the false full-back was implemented by Heynckes taking advantage of the excellent technical skills Kimmich and Alaba possess. They are confident with the ball and not afraid to dribble their way out of trouble.
Notice how Kimmich is making a run in the channel between Rabiot and Thiago Silva, perfect use of the false full-back tactic. Meanwhile, Alaba is tucking into midfield when the ball is on the other side of the field, this is done to aid in possession and protect against any turnovers. Some managers might prefer that the full-back on the ball-far side be stretched towards the touchline waiting for any switch of play. However, Heynckes opted for the keeping them tight to midfield and letting the wingers be close to the touchline, taking advantage of their speed, especially Coman’s.
2. Midfield players making runs
Lewandowski positions himself between the two center-backs, Coman on the right, and Ribery on the left. How to create dangerous chances? A simple yet effective move was adopted by the attack-minded midfield players James and Tolisso, running into the box at the right time to overload PSG’s defensive lines.
Tolisso is seen making a run having a 1vs1 situation against Mbappe who is not a defender by nature thus Tolisso here has qualitative superiority; meaning that his attacking abilities can overcome Mbappe’s defensive efforts. James is on his favored left wing making a run behind PSG’s Dani Alves to cross the ball into the box. This move lead to Bayern’s first goal where we noticed 6 Bayern players positioned inside PSG’s penalty box as seen in the image below, a big number indeed.
When overloading a crucial space such as a penalty box, the opposition gets chaotic and all the marking duties go up in the wind. It is definitely a risky tactic since your team will become exposed to a dangerous counter-attack due to overcommitting in attack. But when done effectively, most of the times it leads to a goal.
C. James focus on left-wing
One of James’ best qualities is his crossing accuracy. During his time with Madrid, James was often seen on the left-wing purely to cross inside the box towards the striker, ball-far winger, and midfielder positioned in the box. Heynckes knew that PSG’s defence can lose focus easily if this tactic was paired with Tolisso performing his runs into the box supporting Lewandowski and Coman.
It is worth mentioned that the aforementioned play lead to Bayern’s second goal of the night. From the image above, we see how Alaba is performing the overlap, Lewandowski standing between the center-backs, Coman attacking the ball-far wing, and Tolisso making a run on the Thiago Silva’s blind side. It’s all in the small details when it comes to the Elite level, and Heynckes is surely a master in picking them out.
D. Tolisso’s Night
The Frenchman was unleashed by Heynckes against his former rivals. Being an ex-Lyon player, it’s a given that Tolisso had that extra drive to take revenge against PSG. And the German Fox leveraged that into instructing Tolisso to be fearless when attacking the box, thus freeing him from the defensive duties.
Bayern’s third goal was scored by the Frenchman after a smart late run inside the box benefitting from the space left by the retreating PSG’s defence. One would ask why did he hold out on his run for a couple of seconds? The answer lies in the movement of Lewandowski, the Polish striker made his run to the near post and by nature PSG’s defence followed him since he is one of the best strikers in world football. Tolisso knew what would happen and waited a couple of seconds for space to appear before performing his fast run into the box and receive a pass from Coman, simple and effective football on display from the Germans.
E. PSG’s front three fluidity
On a night that seemed near perfect for the Germans, PSG managed to create few chances thanks to the fluid positional interchange between Cavani, Neymar, and Mbappe. Emery knows that confining his best three players to rigid structure in attack means losing out on the three of them. He has full trust in their attacking qualities and football intelligence, that’s why he allows them to free roam in the field’s last third.
1. Neymar’s Chance in 1st half
Looking at the image above, several points need to be noted:
- 4 players from Bayern shifting to their right wing to cover 3 players from PSG
- Cavani occupying Hummels, Mbappe on the penalty box arc leaving his wing to take advantage of the space provided by Cavani, this is the beauty of free roaming.
- Neymar plays a pass to Mbappe who is in a dangerous position; this is due to both Rudy and Tolisso shifting to the wing to defend against Neymar and poor horizontal compactness from James and Ribery.
- Rudy should’ve stayed back and protected the backline centrally, Coman should’ve helped Tolisso, and both James and Ribery should join the midfield line to make it compact and close the channels.
2. PSG’s goal
Again the goal was scored followed by positional switch between Mbappe and Cavani, causing Bayern’s defenders to mix up their marking duties.
As per the image, Mbappe falls back and becomes a false nine positioning at the edge of the box; he waits for the pass to be made to Cavani who is now in Mbappe’s place. After the lob has been made, Mbappe sprints into the box behind Hummels who should’ve stayed with his marker and not follow the lob pass. Once again PSG showed how their attacking trio can be dangerous when their rotation happens at the right time striking the opponents with blistering pace.
As mentioned before, what sets teams apart at the elite level is attention to detail; some managers consider it a lot of work and just take care of the general points, they might succeed and they might fail. But to have the willingness of focusing on each aspect of one’s team no matter how small it is, then your place among the top managers is surely reserved.
When watching Bayern Munich, we instantly recognize Heynckes’ fingerprint on their performance: Top organization, quick attacking plays, solid defensive understanding, and most importantly confidence. To fine tune the tactical aspect of the team is one thing, but to instill confidence and mental solidity into each player guarantees that your team has the capability to reach the goals it desires. Are we upon the comeback of the Bavarians to the big stage?