Bundesliga 2019/20: Bayern Munich vs Eintracht Frankfurt – tactical analysis
After the disgraceful 1-5 defeat in the Hinrunde and the resulting dismissal of former coach Niko Kovac, Bayern Munich wanted to take revenge against Eintracht Frankfurt on Matchday 27 of the Bundesliga. The results of both teams in the last matches could have hardly been more contrary. While Bayern have earned 25 of 27 points possible this year including an effortless win against Union Berlin last week, Eintracht Frankfurt had lost four in a row before this match. In this tactical analysis, we will analyse both teams’ tactics and point out how Bayern Munich dominated the match.
Hansi Flick had made two changes in his starting lineup compared to last week. In the injury-related absence of playmaker Thiago, Leon Goretzka occupied his position and Thomas Müller started behind Robert Lewandowski. Kingsley Coman occupied the right-wing, while Ivan Perisic played on the left instead of Serge Gnabry.
Frankfurt’s head coach Adi Hütter adjusted his formation deploying a 4-2-3-1 instead of a 4-1-4-1 after last week’s defeat and also rotated four times: Gelson Fernandes, Danny da Costa, and Mijat Gacinovic replaced David Abraham, Djibril Sow, and Daichi Kamada. Upfront, Hütter trusted the more mobile André Silva instead of Bas Dost, while Goncalo Paciencia was still injured.
Bayern’s fluidity and variability
Bayern immediately started the game very dominant, pinning Frankfurt to their own half apart from some higher pressing situations. This allowed Bayern to control the dynamics of the game with more than 70% possession during the first 15 minutes. From their 4-2-3-1 base structure, Bayern frequently created asymmetrical 4-3-3 staggerings with Goretzka pushing higher and Kimmich building a triangle with the centre-backs in deeper areas.
Due to Frankfurt’s passive approach against the ball and Bayern’s wide structure, Hansi Flick’s side were able to comfortably circulate the ball, moving the opponent to find open valuable passing lanes while stretching Frankfurt’s lines. As a result, Bayern were able to tear gaps again and again, with the first goal being exemplary for that in many ways. Boateng brought the ball into midfield through the right half-space and played a line-breaking pass to Robert Lewandowski.
Lewandowski attracted pressure from both central defensive midfielders and one centre-back, eventually opening up even more space for Joshua Kimmich or David Alaba in front of Frankfurt’s defence. When the Austrian received the ball from the striker, he fastened the circulation, effectively passing to Perisic on the left wing with his first touch. The Croatian was aware of Müller’s idea to run in behind and thus, let the ball pass down the line. Since both Frankfurt’s RDM and RCB were attracted by Lewandowski, they were too late to follow Müller’s underlap-run behind the defence.
The movements of other players after Bayern broke through were also noteworthy. While Leon Goretzka maintained his position during the build-up, he started his run from deep toward the box once the attack had picked up speed. Due to his dynamics and late arrival inside the box, he gained an advantage as he went unnoticed by Frankfurt’s defence, and ultimately converted Müller’s cross.
Speaking of Müller: This was just another game, where he lived up to his reputation as Raumdeuter and continued his excellent form. The 30-year-old, once again, had an overall great game and his movements were crucial for the first goal. As a number 10 behind Robert Lewandowski, he made full use of his freedom and adjusted his positioning to exploit gaps in Frankfurt’s defence. He alternated between a second striker close to Lewandowski and deeper positions in the half-space while also moving out to the right flank.
From the above-mentioned base formation, Bayern would also often shift into their well-known structure with three at the back: Kimmich dropped deeper, the full-backs (Pavard/Davies) moved higher up, and the wingers (Coman/Perisic) tucked inwards to exploit the space behind Frankfurt’s outstepping CDM’s. This caused huge problems for the visitors as they were rarely able to close the gaps for penetrating passes into the centre. Bayern had usually four players between the lines. The tactical board below shows a situation from the 21st minute with Alaba in possession.
Bayern’s structure allowed constant positional rotations, especially among the attackers including Robert Lewandowski. In the example above, Kingsley Coman switched over towards the left half-space in a Dortmund-ish manner, where he could find possession unmarked and pass the ball on to Ivan Perisic, who enjoyed a lot of space in the intermediate between left half-space and wing . This fluid positioning and the high variability of Bayern in possession made it hard for Frankfurt’s defenders to predict the movements and, accordingly, to defend them. Their two defensive lines were regularly manipulated as players were pulled out of position.
Furthermore, the tactical board also shows the gap between Frankfurt’s RB and RCB, which was exploited by Bayern over and over again. Especially Touré appeared unoriented in many phases and showed a clear tendency to move out wide too early toward an opponent, leaving the passing lane between him and the RCB open. However, Touré was by no means the only one, whose positioning was questionable. There were other situations, where e.g. Ilsanker did not shift wide enough when Bayern attacked through the left side.
Another way how Bayern managed to penetrate Frankfurt’s defensive structure was through the full-backs. When they pushed high and received the ball, they could play diagonal passes into the centre between Frankfurt’s second and last line.
Overall, Bayern’s variable shape allowed them to organize themselves in strong structures and they switched between the two with impressive fluidity. Frankfurt were constantly faced with the question, which spaces to prioritize out of possession, which made it very difficult.
Crosses, corners, and chips
Crosses and corners played a key role in this match. This was barely surprising considering that this was the match between the two most frequent crossing teams. While Bayern leads in this category with 22.49 crosses per game, the visitors average 19.86. In Saturday’s match, both teams amassed 14 crosses, three of which led to goals for the home side.
As we mentioned in the first part about Bayern in possession, Frankfurt repeatedly left large gaps as a result of Bayern manipulating the last and second line. These gaps were constantly exploited by deep underlap-runs from behind – whether it was Müller, Coman, or Perisic – which allowed them to break through to the baseline. Nevertheless, despite all praise for Bayern, the oftentimes wild staggerings of Frankfurt’s back four and their spacial unawareness paired with a low speed of reaction did not make it too hard for the league leaders. The third goal is another example, when Müller moved wide and nobody followed Coman’s underlap run behind the defence.
When we talk about Bayern’s wing play, we can hardly do so without talking about Alphonso Davies, who had another great game not only because of his goal and his assist. Oftentimes, a simple one-two with Perisic was enough to expose Frankfurt’s right side as these deep runs were neither handed over nor did any Frankfurt defender follow their opponents closely enough. His extraordinary speed did the rest…
Corners were another interesting and crucial part of the game. Numerically, Bayern were clearly superior in this category with seven corners and almost all of them were dangerous. The visitors only had two corners, however, both of which resulted in goals through Martin Hinteregger. Especially the second one was interesting as fellow analyst Cam Meighan explained on Twitter.
In addition, Bayern could also create chances through smart chip balls from deeper positions in midfield. Especially Joshua Kimmich, who had a brilliant game, excelled in this regard playing five key passes that directly led to a shot. In a similar way, Bayern scored their fifth goal.
In possession, Frankfurt’s focus on wing play was quite clear from the beginning underlined by the lineup of the “real” wing player da Costa instead of Kamada. This was reinforced in the second half when Chandler, an offensively oriented full-back, occupied the left side with Kostic. However, Bayern’s pressing, in the beginning, didn’t allow them time to comfortably progress the ball into these areas. Instead, they were attacked at their own penalty area, which resulted in lots of imprecise long balls.
It’s very interesting to look at Eintracht Frankfurt’s passing map and the most frequent pass combinations as this tells a lot about their style of play.
It is immediately apparent that all strokes are very thin, indicating that there was a low number of passes between the players. Particularly striking is the non-existent line between the two centre-backs as they only played two (!) passes to each other. Bayern could quickly cut passing lanes and isolate the ball-carrying centre-back. This proves that Frankfurt were not able to get Bayern’s shape moving at all, which allowed them to maintain compactness.
When looking deeper into Hinteregger’s numbers, we can see that his two preferred recipients of passes were goalkeeper Kevin Trapp and striker André Silva. On the one hand, this shows the lack of passing lanes in Frankfurt’s build-up combined with Bayern’s press, forcing Hinteregger to play back to Trapp. On the other hand, it also shows Frankfurt’s direct and vertical style.
The sequence below gives an indication of why Frankfurt had such thin passing lines. The visitors started their build-up usually with deep centre-backs while the full-backs pushed up at the same height as the defensive midfielders. Bayern approached this scheme with the striker and the wingers applying pressure toward the back four, while Müller stayed option-oriented between the central midfielders. While the wingers were positioned in a way so that they have access to the centre-back and the full-back quickly, Lewandowski made the curved run to guide the ball-carrier towards the sideline. This prevented the pass to the other centre-back and left the ball-carrier, essentially, with three options: back to the goalkeeper, long ball, or pass to the left-back.
Another issue in the example above were the suboptimal distances, especially those towards the full-backs, who positioned themselves relatively high, making it easier for Bayern to press or trap them. Once a (long) ball is played wide, the winger could press backwards while Bayern’s full-back shifts out and apply pressure as well. Even if Frankfurt’s full-backs would receive the ball (as they did in the situation above) they could only play backwards to escape the press. Ultimately, these situations – starting from the central defenders – resulted in numerous aimless long balls towards the attackers.
The second half could hardly have started any worse for the guests. It took Bayern only 45 seconds to score the third goal and nip all hopes of Frankfurt in the bud. We saw the creation of the goal in the section about crosses, corners, and chips. This goal seemed to have solved the tension of Lewandowski & Co. a bit too much, as they started to become more negligent. This was noticeable both through simple losses of possession as well as a lack of determination and compactness against the ball. In the instance below, they were not aggressive on the flank, while the two players in the box also switched off, not tracking back.
Also, Frankfurt showed improvements compared to the first half, which they deserve credit for. They were more aggressive, found better access to their opponents while sacrificing more players to support André Silva upfront. Another aspect was the substitution of Timothy Chandler, who replaced N’Dicka and enlivened the wing play, constantly occupying width on the left. The passing map of the previous section shows how high he was usually positioned (number 22).
After winning the ball, Frankfurt tried to attack in two waves. The first pass was mostly vertical to André Silva, who laid off to a player moving up the pitch and subsequently, attack deep spaces behind Bayern’s defensive line through the wings. None of this was dramatically different from the idea in the first half but executed more effectively combined with more space allowed from Bayern.
The most effective and promising situations were those in which Frankfurt attacked via the wings and Bayern’s advanced full-backs were caught out of position.
If Frankfurt even managed to bypass Bayern’s first pressing line now and then, thus, being in possession in midfield, there were even more opportunities to create because of Bayern’s high line. The wide positioning of Chandler and Kostic on the left is also visible very well.
Nevertheless, even though there were some promising situations with which Frankfurt could have made it a more thrilling game, their decision-making, and execution in the final third from open-play was rather poorly, e.g. when Kostic tried it himself instead of passing to Bas Dost on the left. In addition, Bayern’s fast and mobile defenders, especially Alaba and Davies, were able to cover ground very quickly and interrupt counter-attacks.
As this tactical analysis has shown, Bayern seem to be well-prepared for the German Klassiker on Tuesday in Dortmund. Even though Frankfurt’s chaotic and at times wild defence made it fairly easy for Bayern, they showed impressive fluidity and variability in possession. Against Borussia Dortmund, one can also expect that they will avoid their sloppy phases and play concentrated over 90 minutes. Given their current condition and the constancy with which they perform this year, even a draw might be enough to keep Dortmund at a distance on their way to the 8thtitle in a row.
Eintracht Frankfurt, once again, showed some alarming signs in defence, which led to their fifth defeat in a row. However, despite all the (justified) criticism, it must also be mentioned that four of these defeats came against teams from the top 5 of the table. Nevertheless, even against weaker teams, Frankfurt need a significant performance improvement to climb up the table again and avoid any discussions about possible relegation. The next chance to show this is against SC Freiburg.