October 2, 2019. Tottenham Hotspurs 2-7 Bayern Munchen. Sounds like a headline that cements Niko Kovac’s place as the head coach after
going through rounds of unsettling games in the Bundesliga
Fast forward to November 3, 2019, the Croatian tactician is sacked
Frankfurt thrashes Bayern 5-1 at the Commerzbank-Arena. Time and tide waits for none as Kovac met what was coming his way
for a long time.
The Bavarians look distorted in mid-season and are dreaming of another Jupp Heynckes return that is seemingly impossible as the German veteran hung his boots for the last time after saving the day for the Munchen giants in 2018 after Carlo Ancelloti’s dismissal.
Now the Munchen management turns their heads towards a realistic choice that turns out to be then assistant to Niko Kovac, Hansi Flick. Uli Hoeness puts his trust in the German with loads of experience coming from assisting Joachim Loew at the 2014 World Cup and hands, him an interim manager role as the board decides over a permanent solution if Flick fails.
Hansi adopted the 4-2-3-1 formation on paper with Goretzka and Kimmich in the double pivot and Muller playing the traditional Raumdeuter role behind their Polish talisman Robert Lewandowski.
Coutinho and Perisic take the left-wing roles along with Gnabry running the right flank. Since his return from injury, Coman has also been a candidate for the wing positions.
With time Thiago, who had a relatively poor start under the coach Kovac started making his way into the starting XI alongside Kimmich in the double pivot benching Goretzka.
In the backline, he has the World Champion Benjamin Pavard playing as the Right-Back and the Canadian sensation Alphonso Davies taking charge of the Left back position along with David Alaba and Jerome Boateng defending the central areas.
With the German veteran Manuel Neuer between the sticks, the back 4 look more composed than ever.
Style of Play
Flick’s style of play can be defined as high-pressing, quick, direct, possession-based, positional style with the team always looking to create
new passing lanes with every attacking maneuver.
We will break down Bayern’s style of play showing how their attack, midfield, defense, and press system works. Bayern this season has been one of the best pressing sides in the world
Lewandowski, Muller, and Gnabry have been regular starters for Bayern under Flick with Coman, Coutinho, and Perisic as the irregular ones occupying the Left side of the flank most of the time.
Coutinho often starts outwide and takes shifts behind Lewandowski with Muller taking a shift to the wing. The front 4 are extremely fluid and mobile with all the attackers interchanging positions to make it difficult to mark.
Let’s go through different Patterns of Play Bayern players take while attacking the opposition’s goal
Here in this situation, Gnabry cuts inside, takes a central position giving way to Alphonso to run into the wide flank area hence an extra attacker
steps into the game.
Lewandowski drops deep and gives Coutinho the space to run into the forward position. The Polish Talisman acts as a target-man throughout the game and lures his marker Christensen with him leaving a pocket of space behind him for the extra man in attack to run into.
This denies the myth that Lewandowski is only a poacher and waits inside the box to tap the ball into the back of the net.
Muller acts as an extra man in the midfield. The Raumdeuter drops deep into the midfield in order to create space behind him for Coman and Lewandowskito run into.
He uses his cheeky movement and quick one-twos to fool his marker and ends up creating space for himself every time.
Here’s the Bayern Munchen’s number 6, Joshua Kimmich, who drops deep between the two Centerbacks and moves the ball forward by playing line breaking vertical passes to the central players or by playing the ball through side-way channels to his fullbacks or wingers.
Kimmich’s got an excellent awareness of the Chelsea players running behind him and avoids the press by faking his movements.
The double-pivot of Thiago and Kimmich is the key to Bayern’s stability in the attack and defense. Both mids take shifts in dropping deep to create extra space for themselves in order to play the ball forward through different passing lanes.
Now in this picture, we can see Thiago dropping deep and looking into his options. Meanwhile, Kimmich takes a comparatively higher position in order to provide an option for Thiago to pass to.
This is the scenario before Gnabry taps in the first goal for the Bavarians. Lewandowski takes a wider left position, Gnabry doesn’t stop running after passing the ball to Lewandowski and he scores from that central position he creates from himself. Perfectly portraying the style Flick wants his men to play; simple, effective, and positional.
Here is where David Alaba steps up, takes a central midfield position, and plays the ball forward to Kimmich between the lines. The Austrian acts as an extra midfielder
whenever Kimmich and Thiago are unable to find space in the midfield to hold the ball and distributes. It shows how versatile this Bayern side is, each and every player has a great sense of ball distribution and picking pockets of spaces. Alphonso Davies takes a forward wing position.
The Press and Defence
This Bayern side is not only good at attacking but they are very well drilled as a defensive side as well. The compactness as a unit and pressing the opponents with proper discipline is there which in time was found lacking under Kovac.
Here are some scenarios defining how Flick’s side copes with attacks.
Here’s Marcos Alonso who is looking to play the ball but is disrupted by three Bayern players rushing towards him and hence Alonso is forced to clear the ball.
This certain rhythm of pressing is called Gegenpressing that has always been the trademark of German football.
Here you can see Bayern’s arrangement at the back with numbers, and a clear bank of 4 defending in more or less a straight line. What’s interesting to see here is the positioning of both Kimmich and Coutinho. They’ve been set up to counter Chelsea AND defend possible runs from midfield.
Bayern defending in a typical 4-1-4-1 formation with Lewandowski defending from the front. Both Countinho and Muller have been tasked to cover the half-spaces rather than the wide areas as Flick feels that is the priority for them.
Scenario 4: Counter Attacks
During a counter-attack, Bayern defends through rushing the ball player and pressing him into either giving the ball away or forcing a poor pass. The screengrab below showcases that press on the ball with Kimmich not only providing another body to press but shadow marking Abraham in case of a pass too.
Keeping the positional play insight, in this picture Pavard takes a higher position and Gnabry drops deep to cover the right flank for Pavard.
The same goes for the opposite flank when a Bayern fullback takes a higher position, the winger drops deep and covers him, decreasing the chances of getting hit by a counter-attack.
This is the reason why this Bayern side rarely gets outnumbered during a counter-attack.
Conclusion: With Real Madrid, Barcelona, Liverpool struggling at the current moment in Europe, Flick’s side has a strong chance of taking over the lost European throne they once had.
Bayern have won 19, lost 2 and drawn 1 since Hansi Flick has taken charge of Bayern Munchen back in November 2019.