For the 32nd round of Bundesliga fixtures, two teams faced off with very different realities. On the one hand, the local team, FC Bayern Munich, sit first in the standings and are looking to be champions. On the other hand, the visiting team, Hannover 96, are last in the table and looking to save themselves from relegation. Both teams were looking to save the season in their own way.
The following tactical and statistical analysis will show why one of the two teams is fighting for the title and the other trying to stay in the league. Bayern Munich imposed their conditions from the first minute and won 3-1 in a very simple way. Hannover 96 was the inferior team and didn’t show up in this match despite registering a goal.
Bayern Munich took to the field with the system most used by the coach, Niko Kovač. 4-2-3-1 was the formation throughout the game, but with many nuances and movements on the part of the players. With this system, Joshua Kimmich and David Alaba have a permanent out-ball to their wingers. The idea was to generate amplitude and use the entire width of the pitch to find spaces inside. Thiago Alcántara and Leon Goretzka were the holding midfielders, near the back-line. These two players were in charge of connecting with the attacking players.
On the second line of midfielders was Serge Gnabry as a right winger, Thomas Müller as attacking midfielder and Kingsley Coman as a left winger. These three players enjoyed extra freedom granted by their coach. Mobility to generate spaces was the order given by Niko Kovač. This is why they were not anchored to a single area of the pitch. They were usually seen swapping roles and positions behind Robert Lewandowski, the team’s only striker.
For their part, Hannover came out with a totally defensive system. 4-4-2 was the formation chosen by coach Thomas Doll. Logically, Doll’s idea was to wait for Bayern on home turf and try to find a counterattack quickly. With four players in the back-line and four midfielders, the idea was to cover Bayern’s attacks and close the routes of progress. To achieve this, Linto Maina occupied the position of left midfielder when the team did not have the ball.
Hannover was never able to put their idea into practice on the pitch, as the team was defending closer and closer to their own area. Hannover was a team that looked very negative and played with their lines more and more together. The idea became to kick long balls to Hendrik Weydandt and Walace, who played as the second striker. Bayern’s good game and Hannover’s poor play made the game very straightforward for ‘Die Roten’.
Pressure to recover the ball
To generate attacks and create goal opportunities a team must have the ball. If a team has the ball they’re always going to be closer to winning than to losing. That’s Bayern’s philosophy. But to have the ball they must recover it because at some point in the match it will be lost. And to recover the ball they have to press the rival team so that the players don’t find spaces.
Bayern’s ball recoveries are reflected in this idea. The team recovered the ball 88 times during the whole match. But of these 88 recoveries, 49% were in the middle of the pitch.
This principle was applied by Bayern in two ways: first, by not letting the back-line of Hannover play, and second, by referencing each player of Hannover across the rest of the pitch. In addition, when a Hannover player had the ball in the middle of the pitch, several Bayern players surrounded him to recover it as quickly as possible.
To be able to carry out continuous pressure during a whole match it is necessary to have great technical, tactical and physical capacity. The technique to recover the ball without committing a foul, tactics because good pressure depends on the position of the players and the good use of time and space and physical because it is not easy to maintain that rhythm for so long.
Possession of the ball
Bayern uses the ball as their main tool to generate attacking moves. Bayern’s possession of the ball throughout the season averaged 64.9%. But in this match, the possession of the ball was 69.8%, above the average for the whole season. That reflects Bayern’s superiority over Hannover in this game. Moreover, during some moments of the match, Bayern’s possession was 80%.
Locking up the rival
After retrieving the ball, Bayern’s idea was to start pushing the lines further forward on the pitch to force Hannover to defend closer to goalkeeper Michael Esser. That is to say, to subdue the rival team to find the spaces that lead to the goal.
The heat map of the match shows that Bayern played most of the match in the midfield zone and in the attacking zone, with the lines quite advanced. In addition, the red zone, which is the area of greatest influence, coincides with the area where most balls were recovered.
During many passages of the match, Bayern’s centre backs were seen placed in the middle of the pitch or even in front of the middle of the pitch. Niklas Süle and Jérôme Boateng consistently positioned themselves as two more midfielders in Bayern’s formation. As a result, Hannover was obviously pinned back and had no way to play from behind.
Movements and different functions
Another of the pillars of Bayern’s philosophy is the use of time and space. In other words, to be in the right place at the right time. In order to generate spaces that translate into attacking moves, players must move almost all over the pitch. That is to say, the centre backs at times must be midfielders. The full-backs must be midfielders and at times also wingers. Midfielders must be strikers and reach goalscoring positions. Strikers must be midfielders and leave their zone of influence at times.
All these movements are coordinated and are the result of training. The match day should be a reflection of the training and the training should be a reflection of what can happen in a match. Besides, this is the best proposal when the rival team simply plays to defend themselves. The movements of the players and the different functions they perform on the pitch are what generates goal options. All this is logically accompanied by the possession of the ball to make it circulate throughout the pitch.
Joshua Kimmich, David Alaba, Kingsley Coman, Serge Gnabry, Thomas Müller and Leon Goretzka are the Bayern players with the most mobility. For example, during several moments of the match, Kimmich and Alaba played as interior midfielders. That is to say, being full backs, they occupied positions in the middle of the pitch to confuse the players of Hannover.
On several occasions and when the match allowed it, Goretzka came to occupy attacking positions. This player is a ‘box to box’ midfielder, so this task is easier for him. So it’s not uncommon to see him as a striker constantly.
In addition, Müller, Coman, and Gnabry were constantly exchanging positions. Müller played several times as a right winger, while Gnabry moved to a more central position. In the same way, Coman stopped playing as a left winger and went on to play near Gnabry on the right so that Alaba would occupy Coman’s position as a left winger.
With this easy win over Hannover by 3-1, Bayern Munich is very close to winning the 2018/2019 Bundesliga title. This is due to the 2-2 draw between Werder Bremen and Borussia Dortmund. With these results, Bayern is in first place with 74 points and is four points ahead of Borussia Dortmund with two games to play. Bayern’s last two matches will be against Red Bull Leipzig and Eintracht Frankfurt, third and fourth in the standings respectively. But despite facing very complicated teams it will be very difficult for the title to escape from Bayern.
For their part, Hannover, today practically said goodbye to the Bundesliga. Although they are not yet down mathematically, it will be very difficult to be saved. In order to dream of a miracle, they will have to win the remaining two matches against SC Freiburg and Fortuna Düsseldorf, but VfB Stuttgart will also have to lose both of their matches. The best thing for Hannover 96 will be to start planning their next season in the 2. Bundesliga and to try to return as soon as possible to the top flight of German football.