UEFA Champions League 2019/20: Bayern Munich vs Tottenham Hotspur – tactical analysis
Both Bayern Munich and Tottenham Hotspur have had contrasting league and
Champions League campaigns. Both sides had already secured qualification past the group stages, but sat outside the Champions League places in their respective leagues. Tottenham and Bayern had both recently parted ways with their managers, with José Mourinho and Hans-Dieter Flick in the dugouts. In the grand scheme of things, this match was not of much importance, as neither Bayern (1st) nor Tottenham’s (2nd) position in the group could be altered, so both coaches could afford to field rotated sides, although Bayern favoured quite a strong side in relation to Tottenham’s. However, the match still produced an interesting tactical battle between Mourinho and Hansi Flick, and the Tottenham players would have been seeking revenge as the wounds from the 7-2 drumming at the hands of Bayern will still be fresh.
In this tactical analysis, I’ll take a look at the tactics used in the final group stage match between Bayern Munich and Tottenham Hotspur.
Bayern lined up in a 4-3-3. Manuel Neuer captained the side in goal, protected by a back four of Alphonso Davies, Jérôme Boateng, Javi Martínez and Benjamin Pavard. Philippe Coutinho, Joshua Kimmich and Thiago Alcântara played in midfield. The notable absence of a traditional striker left Kingsley Coman and Serge Gnabry to play either side of Ivan Perišić.
Tottenham lined up in a 4-2-3-1. Paulo Gazzaniga started in goal behind a back four of Danny Rose, Toby Alderweireld, Juan Foyth and Kyle Walker-Peters. Eric Dier and Moussa Sissoko started as a double pivot. Christian Eriksen was flanked by Giovani Lo Celso and Ryan Sessegnon. The away side also started without a recognised striker, with Lucas Moura spearheading the side
Bayern’s build-up and offensive play
The home side kept 70% of the ball, so naturally, there was a lot more variety in their offensive organisation.
Bayern had three mechanisms of build-up, with the difference being the midfield’s involvement in bypassing Tottenham’s first line of pressure. All three styles shared the fullbacks staying wide to provide passing options and a 2v2 against Tottenham’s winger/fullback combination on the flank. The first method was Kimmich dropping ahead of the central defenders, with Alcântara and Coutinho staying higher to occupy space in between the lines of Tottenham’s double pivot and the ‘3’ behind Moura. Tottenham’s double pivot struggled to maintain compactness, as the ‘3’ behind Moura stayed much higher than the double pivot of Dier and Sissoko, leaving space for a spare Bayern midfielder to occupy in between those two units. If the pivot looked to push up behind the ‘3’, the defensive line wouldn’t follow nearly enough. This left space for Coman, Perišić and Gnabry to occupy. A common issue for Tottenham was that Lo Celso’s defensive positioning was too narrow, leaving space for Davies, Coman, and Martínez to easily play past Lo Celso by having players infield, wider, and deeper than him. Lo Celso also was poor when tracking back allowing Bayern joy down their left especially with Perišić, who would drift wide left to create a 2v3 overload on Bayern’s left flank (Perišić, Davies, and Coman/Müller against Walker-Peters and Lo Celso).
The above diagram shows Perišić’s crossing map, showing how the makeshift striker drifted wide left to overload that side.
Mourinho saw this defensive liability in Lo Celso and replaced him with Oliver Skipp, who joined Dier in the double pivot, while Sissoko played in the right wing role, offering more defensive solidity on that flank.
This method of build-up wasn’t very efficient for Bayern as Eriksen man-marked Kimmich, while Coutinho and Alcântara were up against a double pivot. This left Bayern with no central numerical superiorities.
Moura didn’t press the centre backs, he instead looked to limit any line-breaking passing options to the centre, and was happy to let Bayern circulate the ball to the fullbacks for Sessegnon and Lo Celso to deal with.
The image above shows Eriksen man-marking Kimmich, with Lo Celso’s narrow defensive position, as well as Moura’s passive movement to deny passing angles rather than jumping out to press Bayern’s centre backs.
The second build-up mechanism Bayern used was using Kimmich and one of Coutinho or Alcântara as a double pivot. This created a numerical advantage in the first phase of build-up in a 4v3 (Kimmich, Alcântara/Coutinho, and the two centre backs against Eriksen, Moura and a pressing winger in Lo Celso or Sessegnon)
The image above displays Coutinho and Kimmich as a double pivot, with Lo Celso being in a narrow position once again.
The third build-up mechanism Bayern utilised was Kimmich dropping in between the centre backs, this was the most effective as Eriksen was tasked with man-marking him, this dragged the Danish international far deeper than his starting position, leaving space behind for Coutinho and Alcântara to occupy. The below image shows Eriksen being dragged out of position, leaving space in between the lines.
Tottenham’s asymmetric pendulum
Tottenham’s build-up resembled the shape of an asymmetric pendulum, this involved the fullbacks taking up very different roles in Tottenham’s offensive organisation. Walker-Peters would push up to where Lo Celso’s starting position was in the original 4-2-3-1. Lo Celso and Eriksen shifted, while Sessegnon stayed wide. Rose shifted across to create a back three. The overall shape became a 3-2-4-1.
Highlighted player: Alphonso Davies
While the Canadian youngster is chiefly a winger, Davies was employed by Flick in a left fullback position. Davies showed his offensive qualities, with the 19-year-old attempting 8 dribbles, completing 6, as well as putting in 2 crosses and taking 1 shot which hit the post, rebounding to Müller and leading to Bayern’s second goal of the evening.
While this game had very little competitive importance, both sides will take home small victories. Bayern became only the seventh team to win all six UEFA Champions League group stage games, while Tottenham will be happy to see an improved result over their previous 7-2 loss to the German champions. Both teams have performed poorly in their domestic leagues thus far, with both Tottenham and Bayern sitting seventh, though both sides have changed their manager in an attempt to improve their league form, with Tottenham doing particularly well since appointing former Manchester United manager José Mourinho, who has taken the lily whites from 14th to 7th at the time of writing. Bayern’s form under caretaker manager Hansi Flick has been less convincing, despite a 4-0 win over arch-rivals Borussia Dortmund.
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