Winning convincingly against every opponent in the competition and thrashing some big names in European football with a big margin, Bayern Munich came into the finals with a 100% win record in the competition so far. PSG whereas was on the easier side of the pool, but their journey towards the final wasn’t easy. They left it late against Atlanta, to score two late goals and make it to the semis. Well, a convincing win against Leipzig showed they are too ready for the final showdown.
With two European Heavyweights all set to face each other for Europe’s ultimate crown, the UEFA Champions League, everyone expected a high octane competition between the two with goals expected from both the side. However, this wasn’t the reality with Bayern dominating the possession and controlling the game and PSG failed to convert few simple opportunities to take the early lead and bring life in this final event which everyone was eagerly waiting. Breaking into the tactical analysis, I feel both teams were well prepared and studied about their opponent’s strategies and executed their own tactics really well to their squad capabilities.
Hans Flick’s side opting for the usual 4-2-3-1 formation with one change of Kingsley Coman for Ivan Perisic from the previous game. Thomas Tuchel’s side played in a classic 4-3-3 formation with plenty of pace in front three.
Bayern Munich had a process-driven approach of keeping the ball possession. They dominated the possession as everyone expected them to do. The build-up normally started with Neuer plays to either of the center-back and they taking it wide to the fullbacks. Thiago played the pivot role of dropping deep to support his center backs and Goretzka played up. Müller and Lewandowski were constantly switching position and either of the two drops to support the play. They transformed into 3-3-1-3 shape where Kimmich and Davies moved further up the pitch in wide areas to provide the width which helped to stretch the play. Gnabry and Coman looked to make inward runs and get inside the box. This helped Bayen to consistently invade the final third areas. They had lots of space in wide areas, especially on the right side to create chances. In spite of that Bayern found it difficult to unlock PSG‘s defense in the final third as they were so organised & compact in their zonal defending style.
As you can see, Thiago drops in the build as a pivot to support the two center-backs in order to get over the PSG front line. Di María and Mbappé have blocked the center-backs route to pass to their fullbacks. This makes Thiago drop down and create space for the next three in the line. Now, Thiago is in a better position and in plenty of space until Neymar charges on him to pass it to Goretzka or to the wide and spread the play.
Bayern played with a high line in order to control and nullify the counter-attacks of PSG. Playing with the highline is risky, especially against the quality of Mbappé and Neymar who are looking to get behind with pace. But a well organized and co-ordinated high line can slow down the attack or catch them offside. They did counter-pressing whenever they were out of possession. Let’s have a look at the counter-pressing of Bayern’s players and few examples of Bayern’s high line later.
As PSG starts the play, Coman charges blocking the scope for a short pass to Kehrer from Thiago Silva. The midfield trio of PSG is marked by three Bayern players with pivot Marquinhos is marked by Lewandowski. Gnabry is also ready to block in similar ways if the ball is passed to Kimpembe. With not much option, Thiago Silva went with a lofted pass towards Kehrer. This gives time to Bayern to do counter-pressing on the possible receivers and regain possession.
The ball was way ahead of Kehrer and in between Herrera and Kehrer. However, Herrera receives it, but he had to release it quickly due to quick pressing on him by Goretzka. Other Bayern players were quick to join the counter-pressing with Goretzka. Coman falling back to press on Herrera in an angle that blocks Herrera’s intention to give a back pass to Thiago Silva.
Here finally, Lewandowski disposes Marquinhos and wins possession for Bayern. Later, Kehrer fouls Coman and Bayern wins Free-kick in a promising position. Such counter-pressing was carried by Bayern for the entire 90 mins.
Another Bayern’s defense strategy was playing a high line. This in order to support their counter-pressing and nullify the opponent’s intention to switch the play beyond Bayern’s defenders with a long ball if they manage to escape such pressing.
It is evident here that Coman’s counter-pressing and Bayern’s defensive high line created a big problem for PSG to break on the counter. Such scenarios can be seen on numerous occasions were PSG was forced to withdraw from the quick counter-attack. There is another scenario was Kehrer learned from his mistake here and held back to give it to his teammate, who launched the ball at the correct time to get over Bayern’s high line.
Here, Kehrer realises that Di María was off and he withdraws the attack and holds the play. Later, giving a back pass to Silva. Again, Bayern high line forcing PSG to withdraw from a quick attack or to find an alternate route. PSG during this attack waited for the right time to enter into the attacking third.
Here, Paredes was at the right place and at the right time after receiving the ball from Silva and was able to find Mbappé unmarked and with a lot of space up-front. Later, Mbappé was able to enter the penalty box area and had an attempt. This is what PSG could have done to hold and wait for the right time to move forward in order to get over the defensive mechanism of Bayern.
They relied on counter-attacking. They wanted to get past Bayern’s high line in a flash. PSG’s normal build-up started with the keeper giving the ball to either center-backs which passed the ball to a fullback. They will directly try to find the attackers in free space. One of the attackers is expected to get passed the final line or release it & create for other attacking players. Marquinhos, Herrera, Paredes formed the center trio where Marquinhos played the role of a pivot.
As you can see fullbacks are stretched, Center backs are parallel to each other. The center trio is close to each other. PSG looked well-organised in their build-up, but Bayern’s counter-pressing didn’t allow them to progress consistently. Marquinhos is quickly trying to release with a long ball towards Mbappé before there is any pressing.
They didn’t do any counter-pressing. They sat back in their zones and marked respective players in their zones. They never went much out of position and were well organised. They did give away a lot of space on the field, but yet they weren’t exploited much. Di María and Mbappé would drop in the midfield to support the defense against dominating Bayern. Di María was able to block the passage of passing towards Davies. This moved the formation of PSG towards their right, which left them exploited on their left side. Hence, Bayern was able to find space on their right flank consistently. Having studied Bayern’s style, Tuchel didn’t mind giving that space in wide areas. He knew Bayern isn’t going to keep launching crosses as their wide players Gnabry and Coman would like to get into the penalty box. The challenge here was to stop the runs of Kimmich and Davies so they didn’t step forward and launch crosses. This job of marking or blocking passes to Kimmich and Davies was assigned to Di María and Mbappé when Neymar played center in the front three. PSG’s fullback sat deep in the penalty box to block Bayern’s attackers from getting inside.
As you can see the back four sat deep and close to each other. Similarly, Mids three are close to each other and waiting for Bayern to advance. Here, they are allowing plenty of space in wide areas but blocking all the passage to get through the center which Bayern would have liked. Neymar is marking the pivot, Thiago. Di María is with Davies here & Mbappé is positioned such that he can block that pass from a CB to Kimmich.
Here, Di María has joined the midfield as Davies has entered this zone. Whenever there is overload at the center from Bayern, Di María and Mbappé would join the midfield to mark Davies and Kimmich respectively.
Another example was PSG isn’t making any counter-pressing and sat back in their zones well organized and with a similar strategy to break on the counter even after conceding the goal.
Underrated Herrera and lack of final output in the final third
Tuchel’s men did find a way to ruin Bayern’s defensive structure on a few occasions but failed to deliver the final output in the final third. Sometimes they lacked finishing and sometimes they failed to deliver key passes in the box to create easy tap-in goals. Ander Herrera was so close to being the best player of the match that day, but unfortunately, Di María and Mbappé misfires their shots and failed to bury it in the net with served in a plate assists from Herrera for both players.
Herrera gives the ball to Di María beating three Bayern defenders smartly. He overlooked offside Mbappé and Neymar in the crowded area and gave it to Di María. Di María had a shot from 10 yards, but it was always rising. Herrera’s smartness and potential assist go in vain. Similarly, Mbappé missed a shot in the closing minutes of the first half.
Another big opportunity missed by PSG here. It was better than the previous one and should have been finished with the likes of Mbappé taking the shot. The lovely exchange between the two to create this opportunity. Herrera had the option to shoot but with the angle being tight and Neuer covering the near post, he did well to find unmarked Mbappé and take away two Bayern defenders marked in blue out of the equation with this pass. There are few more instances were PSG could have created such chances with better quality in the final third play. This can be seen in a few of the following examples.
Marquinhos finding Mbappé in space with a quick long ball. Later, Neymar was played in by Mbappé down the left and had only Neuer to beat, but he failed to beat the German goalkeeper.
Marquinhos failed to identify Mbappé and Neymar are free and unmarked in front of the post and went for the shot. Marquinhos received a beautiful ball from the right through Di María who nullifies two Bayern players with the pass. Marquinhos lacked that presence of mind and creativity to set it for either of the two strikers preferably Neymar because he was in a better angle to receive and finish it.
Here, Choupo-Moting fails to take advantage of the disturbed and out of position Bayern defense. He had a poor shot which was blocked by Süle. Draxler was free on the right with plenty of space to put a low cross towards unmarked Neymar. This is another evidence were PSG lacked the final output in the final third.
Influential Thiago, outstretched Neuer but underutilization of wide spaces available
Thiago had a great impact in the game dropping as a pivot or playing alongside Goretzka. He was at the center of controlling the game for Bayern. He was delivering key passes were Bayern could breakthrough. He also did in the build-up to the only goal scored in the match. Also, Neuer’s excellence in keeping kept PSG away from scoring anything pass him. Despite dominating and controlling the game, the only complaint to this Bayern side is that they failed to create prominent chances with so much space available in different parts of the field.
Thiago receives the ball from the left and quickly turns to the other side and on his second touch passes it to Kimmich who is in acres of space ahead. Here, Thiago takes four PSG players out of the way with this key pass making it a long chase for opponent’s players to join their defense.
Thiago sends the ball into the empty space were Kimmich was on the run, but his own player, Goretzka intercepts it as he was unaware of the run made by Kimmich. Later, Kimmich does receive the ball from Müller but it was late as PSG’s defenders closed him by that time.
This is another evidence were Bayern failed to capitalize on the space available. Goretzka gives it to Gnabry but Gnabry’s ball to Kimmich is too heavy and it results in PSG’s goal-kick. Again, Bayern misses out making use of the ball in the final third.
There is time to hold the ball, launch the ball into wide areas. Again here, Bayern has the opportunity to take time and find a route to get through PSG’s defense. Thiago’s short pass to Goretzka was intercepted and Bayern was pushed back. Such events of not capitalizing on the space and width available can be seen on numerous occasions in Bayern’s play.
Talking about goalkeeping analysis here, you can look how stretched the Bayern captain was that evening on almost every save that he pulled out. With his stretched body, he makes himself big and allowing the minimum area for strikers to get past him. Questions were asked by the PSG’s strikers, but the Bayern keeper held strong and allowed nothing to get past him.
With both teams known for their goal-scoring ability, they disappointed in the offensive department. This is quite clear from the above analysis as both teams were impressive in terms of their defensive tactics and adapted well to their respective strategies. The lack of quality in the final third by both teams resulted in a low scoring game. Statistically, Bayern ruled PSG but Tactically, this was fairly even competition.
- UEFA Champions League 2019/20: PSG vs Bayern – tactical analysis - September 18, 2020