Bundesliga 2018/19: Bayern Munich vs Stuttgart
After Borussia Dortmund’s win against Hannover 96, Bayern Munich had to secure the three points at home against Stuttgart. Although Bayern took the lead quite early, it took them a while to start dominating the game again after Stuttgart equalised midway through the second half. Niko Kovač’s team showed improvements with the ball, but are still not capable of dominating a game for 90 minutes.
Compared to the first meeting of those two teams this season, Stuttgart played more proactively this time. Last September Stuttgart defended deep from the beginning with a back five. Consequently, chances were rare for them. With that tactic, it is hard to win against Bayern Munich because at some point you will make a mistake. The individual class of Bayern is then too high.
This time coach Markus Weinzierl, who took over from Tayfun Korkut, selected a 4-4-2 against the ball. Mario Gomez was not part of the starting line-up, which could be seen as a surprise considering that Gomez is usually one of the important players in Stuttgart’s team. However, we can see later in this tactical analysis that the selection of Donis and Gonzalez as the strike force provided some advantages.
Bayern’s build-up and the Thiago problem
Stuttgart defended more aggressively as I mentioned already. Even still, it was Bayern who dominated the game. As a result, their build-up and play in the second third was the most visible situation. Stuttgart started pressing close to the halfway line, although they focused more on closing space than applying pressure on Bayern’s centre-backs Niklas Süle and Mats Hummels.
In the first half, Kovač’s men tried to play through the left half-space, a location in which they identified a weakness in Stuttgart’s defensive scheme. The Swabians struggled to defend against ex-Barcelona midfielder Thiago dropping to the first line. As a consequence, Bayern easily created a superiority in that space.
Coman pushed in the half-space while David Alaba provided a wide passing option. In the first few minutes, Thiago was positioned between the centre-backs but then switched to the left half-space. The major problem Stuttgart had, especially in the first half, was the focus of the strikers on the centre. After switches, Bayern could exploit the space comfortably. Donis and Gonzalez rarely shifted to that side to pressure.
Due to the man-oriented defensive shape of Stuttgart, Alexander Esswein often found himself in situations in which he had to decide between attacking Thiago and closing the passing lane in the centre.
Kingsley Coman’s positioning was interesting. He moved relatively deep which didn’t allow the centre-backs to push out of position to press. When Esswein moved out of position to press, Coman was the free player between the lines.
After switches of play, Gentner slowly moved to that side. The French winger was in an advantageous position because he always shielded the ball with his body. Stuttgart captain Gentner could only stop Coman from turning with the ball by fouling him.
Different options against the pressing of Stuttgart
Out of the initial action of Thiago dropping deeper, Bayern had a variety of different routes into the centre of the pitch. In the first half of the season, the lacking access to the centre was one of their major problems. However, nowadays they play less statically and the movement of the players fit better together.
The new role of Goretzka as the offensive midfielder was interesting to observe. The former Schalke player is strong at attacking holes in the defence with vertical runs. Due to Coman’s position, he varied his positioning. Usually, he occupied the space between Stuttgart’s midfield and defence.
Again, you can see how Stuttgart leave a lot of space open. This time Esswein stays wider while Gentner tries to press. Nevertheless, their communication is poor and Coman can easily accelerate with the ball at his foot. At the same time, Goretzka attacks the space behind the last line.
The left half-space was not only open when Thiago created numerical superiority. Hummels could take advantage of that hole as well by aggressively pushing forward. The example above shows the problems Stuttgart had from their positioning.
Thiago moves diagonally out of the centre and draws Gentner and one of the centre-backs with him. Beck and Esswein mark Coman and Alaba which opens the passing lane to Lewandowski. Bayern had a 3v2 situation on the far side which they didn’t exploit.
The last example I want to show exemplifies the problems Stuttgart faced with Coman’s positioning. In this image, they are able to close the passing lane to Coman. Consequently, Alaba is open on the wing.
Although Bayern had this advantage, the struggled to exploit it consistently. Especially towards the end of the first half, Stuttgart were capable of isolating Bayern on the wing.
Stuttgart’s approach in possession
Of course, Stuttgart mainly focused on counter-attacks and long balls. Their wingers moved into the half-space to be better positioned for the second ball. Their agile, quick strikers could attack the space behind the defence and Donis caused problems for the Bayern defence.
When Stuttgart had the ball, they focused on playing through the wings. By creating a diamond on the wing, they were capable of overplaying Bayern’s press. The vertical movements of captain Christian Gentner were further beneficial for Stuttgart in possession.
In the first half, Stuttgart were actually able to create a few dangerous chances. Also, after Bayern retook the lead, Stuttgart were unlucky that Gonzalez only hit the post.
Bayern’s half-time changes
During the break, Niko Kovač changed the line-up of his team. He brought Serge Gnabry on for Javi Martínez. The Spanish defensive midfielder didn’t provide enough creativity. With Gnabry, Bayern could also attack down the right side. Müller consequently moved into the centre while Goretzka played next to Thiago.
Nevertheless, Bayern continued to attack through the half-space. Müller is a less dynamic player than Goretzka, but always finds creative solutions. As a consequence, Müller and Lewandowski both overloaded the left half-space. Hummels’ passing technique helped to get the ball to those two.
Again, as we can see above, Gentner moves out of position without closing the passing lane to Müller. Hummels plays a perfect pass to Müller which allows Bayern to attack the space behind the lines.
As I mentioned though, with Gnabry Bayern could now attack down the right side as well. Gnabry provided the necessary speed to exploit the holes which Stuttgart left in their defence due to their man-oriented approach.
The image above shows how Gnabry was effective. He moves the ball to Süle, who finds Kimmich between the lines. He then simply plays a perfect pass to Gnabry. Notice also how Stuttgart are only focused on the ball and completely forget about Gnabry who attacks the space behind.
After Bayern struggled in the first half, they created more chances in the second. Their movement and technical abilities allowed them to attack the holes in Stuttgart’s defence. Although Stuttgart played well, this game showed how vulnerable your defence can be if you focus too much on marking the opponent’s players.
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