Tactical analysis: how Bayern thrashed Borussia Mönchengladbach

Artwork by @chapulana.

A resounding 5-1 victory for Bayern Munich saw them draw level on points with Borussia Dortmund after their shock 2-1 defeat at Augsburg. With four wins in their last five games, they would appear to be hitting their best form just as Dortmund are beginning to falter with just one win in their last five.

Bayern started incredibly quickly, taking the lead in the second minute of the game through a header from Javi Martinez from a James Rodriguez corner. They further extended their lead in the 11th minute of the game through Thomas Muller and from this point on were never in danger of losing the match.

Bayern’s switch of play

Bayern patiently worked the ball on the right side of the pitch before Rodriguez switched the play across to the underloaded side of the pitch. Serge Gnabry received the ball just outside the penalty area on the left-hand side. Rafinha made a run on his outside which pulled Michael Lang away from Gnabry who was able to play a low cross through the space vacated by Lang for Muller to get on the end of and convert at the second time of asking.

Bayern’s pressing approach

Borussia Mönchengladbach Bundesliga Bayern Munich Tactical Analysis Analysis
Rodriguez joined Lewandowski to press in a 4-4-2 shape.

Bayern prevented Borussia Mönchengladbach from playing passes into central areas of the pith due to their compactness and distance from the ball. The Mönchengladbach midfield attempted to position themselves behind the Bayern midfield line which they did constantly. This, however, proved to be a problem for them as the distances between the midfielders and the ball-possessor were too big, which enabled Bayern to close off any passing angles.

Borussia Mönchengladbach Bundesliga Bayern Munich Tactical Analysis Analysis
Bayern closed the space around the ball to prevent forward passes.

Due to Bayern’s pressing scheme in which they applied pressure on the ball-possessor, they were able to prevent Borussia Mönchengladbach from passing into advanced areas.

Bayern set up in a 4-4-1-1 formation defensively with Rodriguez positioned closer to Lewandowski, partly due to Rodriguez’s limited defensive qualities. This also had the added advantage of having an extra player in an advanced area of the pitch when they regained possession. Gnabry should have scored as a result of this tactic. Bayern regained possession and were able to play the ball straight into Rodriguez who found Lewandowski. Gnabry made a run from deep into space and was found by Lewandowski and if it wasn’t for Yann Sommer, it quite easily could have been 3-0.

Mönchengladbach find a way back

Borussia Mönchengladbach did get back into the game somewhat against the run of play through Lars Stindl. Due to Bayern’s aggressive positioning around the ball, they had no presence on the left-hand side. Borussia Mönchengladbach worked the ball from a throw-in on the right-hand side of the pitch and were able to switch the ball across to Thorgan Hazard on the left-hand side. He was able to dribble with the ball under no pressure until about 30 yards from the Bayern goal. A one-two with Florian Neuhaus saw Hazard receive the ball just outside the penalty area. A clever run into the space between Jerome Boateng and Niklas Sule from Stindl created the space for him to fire past Manuel Neuer.

Bayern exert control

Borussia Mönchengladbach Bundesliga Bayern Munich Tactical Analysis Analysis
Thiago dropped deeper alongside Martinez to provide stability.

Once again Bayern started a half quickly and scored again in the 47th minute through Lewandowski to extend their lead to 3-1.

At this point, they began to control the match with Thiago and Martinez sitting deeper on the pitch to give more control in transition moments. The positioning of them also created an overtly controlled build-up play; with only Stindl applying pressure on the defence, Bayern had a 4v1 overload in the defensive third. Due to the scoreline, they had no need to try and force passes into advanced areas and instead circulated possession in deeper areas until gaps appeared.

During this phase of the game, Bayern were circulating the ball into wide areas looking to create gaps in central areas to penetrate the defence. They were extremely patient often passing the ball from one side of the pitch to the other and back again. This prevented Mönchengladbach from gaining any attacking momentum to get back into the game.

Borussia Mönchengladbach Bundesliga Bayern Munich Tactical Analysis Analysis
The full-backs for Bayern began to sit deeper until they had secure possession.

Both full-backs also positioned themselves deeper on the pitch in the initial build-up phase to prevent Mönchengladbach from counter-attacking into these spaces. They would move forwards once Bayern had secure possession in the middle of the pitch to provide width in attacking areas. This allowed both Gnabry and Muller to move infield to link up with Rodriquez and Lewandowski.

Bayern’s fourth goal came from such an occasion. The ball was regained on Bayern’s right-hand side before being switched through to Rafinha at left-back. He played the ball back inside to Boateng who in turn found Neuer. As Mönchengladbach pushed forwards to press, they left Rafinha in space and he was expertly found by Neuer. After a spell of short passes in the centre of the pitch, a clever pass around the corner from Rodriquez into the path of Thiago saw him pass the ball into Joshua Kimmich on the right. He crossed for Lewandowski whose effort was saved and Gnabry followed up to turn the loose ball home.


Bayern Munich continued their impressive form in their pursuit of yet another Bundesliga title. Borussia Mönchengladbach were punished for their poor defensive display especially their lack of concentration in conceding goals in the opening minutes of both halves. For Bayern, they will encounter tougher matches in the coming weeks including a huge second leg in the champions league against Liverpool.

If you love tactical analysis, then you’ll love the digital magazines from totalfootballanalysis.com – a guaranteed 100+ pages of pure tactical analysis covering topics from the Premier League, Serie A, La Liga, Bundesliga and many, many more. Buy your copy of the February issue for just ₤4.99 here, or even better sign up for a ₤50 annual membership (12 monthly issues plus the annual review) right here.