The Bundesliga started again this weekend. After the winter break, Bayern Munich had to play their first game away from home against Hertha BSC. Hertha BSC struggled in the first half of the season and is fighting against relegation. Bayern also struggled a bit during the first half of the season, which led to the change in manager after ten Bundesliga games.
In this tactical analysis, I will take a closer look at which defensive tactics Hertha used to stop Bayern’s attacking threat. Furthermore, in this analysis, I will look at why Bayern struggled to create chances in the first half. Lastly, I will examine what changed after the opening goal. Time to dive into the tactics!
Hertha BSC and Bayern Munich started the second half of the season with the line-ups shown in the picture above. Jürgen Klinsmann made some changes to his side in comparison to the last Bundesliga game. Karim Rekik, Per Skjelbred and Eduard Löwen were left out of the starting eleven. Jordan Torunarigha, Santiago Ascacibar and Marko Grujic played instead of them. Bayern also had to make some changes. Serge Gnabry was fit again. However, the German winger was not fit enough to start the game.
Hertha’s defensive structure
Hertha started the game in a 4-1-4-1 formation. Defensively, they used this structure to make the spaces as little as possible at their own half. There, they defended compact and tried to overload the centre of the pitch. From within that structure, they forced Bayern to play through the flanks of the pitch.
The picture above shows Hertha’s defensive structure. Klinsmann’s side immediately dropped back into the compact organisation at their own half. In this situation, the central midfielders played closed the passing lanes to the centre of the pitch.
Striking was the role of the wingers in the first half. They had to support their fullbacks in the battle against Bayern’s overlapping fullbacks. As the picture beneath shows, Hertha’s right-winger Dodi Lukébakio almost played as a wingback to support his backline. Hertha did this to stop the danger Bayern tried to create through the interplay between their winger and fullback.
Struggle in possession
Despite their solid defensive structure, Hertha struggled in the first half to keep possession. Especially in the first 20 minutes of the game, Hertha lost possession quickly. In the picture beneath, we see Hertha’s passing map of those minutes. Hertha gave 62 passes during those minutes, of which only 39 were successful. This resulted in a passing percentage of 62,9%.
Hertha struggled to keep possession because the players offered no support to the player on the ball. As a result, the player in possession had two options. Option one was to play the ball backwards. This often resulted in a ball back to the keeper, who kicked it long towards the strikers. Option two was to kick the ball long themselves. These long balls had little success.
The picture above symbolizes Hertha’s struggles in possession. Right centre back Dedryck Boyata received the ball at the edge of his own penalty area. After receiving the ball, the centre back was immediately pressured by Bayern’s left-winger. Because of his body shape and the lack of support, the centre back could not find Hertha’s free fullback on the right- hand side. As a result, he was forced to play the ball back to the keeper, who kicked it long towards the strikers.
First-half struggles for Bayern
Bayern struggled in the first half. Bayern again started in a dynamic 4-3-3 formation. On paper, it looked like a 4-2-3-1 formation. Thiago and Leon Gortezka were the two defensive midfielders, while Philippe Coutinho was the attacking midfielder. However, on the pitch, it looked more like a 4-1-4-1 formation. On the opposition’s half, Goretzka had the freedom to position himself further up the pitch. In those cases, Thiago positioned himself more in the centre of the pitch, while Coutinho moved a bit to the left side of the centre.
The picture above shows how Bayern’s players positioned themselves on the opposition’s half. Thiago played in front of the two centre backs, while Goretzka and Coutinho played deeper in the centre of the pitch.
However, Bayern struggled to create chances in the first 45 minutes of the game. In fact, Bayern only created one big chance during the first half. This was due to Hertha’s defensive structure. Because Hertha overloaded the centre of the pitch, Bayern struggled to find the free player between the lines. The picture beneath shows that Alphonso Davies was in possession. Striking is the lack of passing options towards the centre of the pitch. Davies was only able to play it back to David Alaba, or wide towards Ivan Perisic.
Because of the lack of passing options in the centre of the pitch, Bayern was forced to play through the flanks. This resulted in a lot of crosses in the first half. Bayern gave 22 crosses in the first 45 minutes, of which only 5 were successful.
Hertha struggled after the break. The main reason for that was that they struggled to keep their defensive discipline intact. In the first half, Hertha successfully defended in a compact block and overloaded the centre of the pitch. In the second half, Hertha struggled to do this again.
As the picture beneath shows, Alaba was in possession. Where in the first half Hertha closed all the passing lanes towards Bayern’s midfielders, Alaba was now able to play the ball towards Goretzka who positioned himself between the lines. However, Alaba did not recognize the space and played the ball to the left side of the pitch.
After a while, Bayern slowly started to recognize that Hertha struggled with closing the passing lanes towards the centre of the pitch. As a result, Bayern was able to attack the opposition’s half much better than in the first half. As the example beneath shows, Thiago was in possession around the midway line. The Spanish midfielder recognized that Coutinho was open and played a vertical pass towards Bayern’s attacking midfielder. As a result, Bayern was able to attack Hertha’s half.
How the first goal changed the game
In the 60th minute, Bayern opened the scoring. Thomas Müller was in the right position to kick the ball in the back of the net. This goal changed the run of play of the game.
Until the opening goal, Bayern struggled to find any free players in the centre of the pitch. Despite having more space at the beginning of the second half, Bayern still did not utilize this space enough. However, after the opening goal, Hertha struggled even more to keep their compact defensive structure. As a result, the spaces in the centre of the pitch grew, which allowed Bayern to play vertical passes to players between the lines.
The picture beneath is an example of Hertha’s defensive struggles after the opening goal. Alaba had possession around the midway line. In contrast to the first half, Alaba had three passing options towards the centre of the pitch. Thiago was free, while the centre back was also able to play the ball much deeper towards Robert Lewandowski or Coutinho. The centre back recognized the space and passed the ball towards Lewandowski.
Furthermore, the opening goal changed the way Bayern defended. In the first half, Bayern pressed high at Hertha’s half and wanted to win back the ball as high on the pitch as possible. However, after the opening goal, Bayern dropped back a bit. As a result, Bayern created space behind Hertha’s backline in the transition from defence towards attack. Furthermore, the change in the tactics also increased the space between Hertha’s defence and midfield.
The picture beneath is an example of one of the many transition moments after the opening goal. In this example, Bayern won back the ball around the midway line, after which they started the counter-attack. First of all, we can recognize that due to the change in Bayern’s defensive structure, there is more space behind Hertha’s backline than in the first half. Secondly, there is a huge gap between Hertha’s defence and midfield. As a result, Bayern started to dominate the game more and more.
Hertha started falling apart. Their tactics were focused on keeping Bayern from scoring while trying to hit them on the break. Because of Bayern’s goal, the tactics had to change. The result of this was that the team fell apart. Some players started to press after Hertha lost the ball, while others ran back. This opened up even more spaces for Bayern to utilize.
Bayern’s second goal symbolized Hertha’s problems described in the section above. Bayern was in possession, after which a few of Hertha’s players started to press. Because Hertha did not do this as a team, Bayern was able to play through the press, which opened up a big space. Bayern used this space to their advantage. Goretzka gave the through ball towards Thiago, who finished the attack with a stunning strike.
Hertha started the game well. Due to their compact defensive structure, they kept Bayern off creating big chances. However, the team struggled in possession. As a result, Klinsmann’s’ side created little to no chances. Furthermore, they struggled to keep their compact defensive structure. As a result, Bayern was able to walk away in the second half.
Bayern struggled in the first half. They were forced to play through the flanks because Hertha blocked the passing lanes towards the centre of the pitch. Instead of playing the ball from side to side in a high tempo, Bayern started to play a lot of crosses. This had little success. In the second half, however, they were able to play vertical passes to the centre of the pitch, which allowed them to dominate the game more and more. The opening goal helped Flick’s side even more. This allowed Bayern to drop back a bit, which opened up more spaces in the transition phase.