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How Chelsea Can Beat Bayern Munich - Tactical Preview

Bayern Munich are the best team in Germany and will provide a very difficult test for us, especially over two legs. They’ve improved un...

Bayern Munich are the best team in Germany and will provide a very difficult test for us, especially over two legs. They’ve improved under Flick, powering towards another league title and we’ve been declining into midtable Premier League form over the last 4 months, on course to achieve a measly 63 points. Make no mistake, Bayern could put 5 past us in one game and we shouldn’t be surprised if they do. Bayern’s biggest threat is their crosses and movement in the box so I suggest a back 3 to limit their scoring opportunities from crosses.

Bayern's set up under Flick

Bayern’s basic set up usually consists of a variation of a 4-3-3 with the midfield 3 varying between 1 holding with 2 more advanced or 2 holding midfielders with 1 pushing forwards. Recently, Kimmich has been deployed as the deepest midfielder with Thiago pushing slightly advanced of him with Goretska in a more advanced role combining with Lewandowski. 

What I really like about what Flick has done is he uses 3 midfielders but they operate on different lines to each other. They rarely have 2 players on the same line in possession, this means they don’t use sideways passes and regularly break lines in possession. This also makes them harder to press high up the field.

Attacking organisation

They prefer to build up with the centre backs using short passes, often through central areas. They have a few variations which they use.

Play into the deepest midfielder (usually Kimmich) and the full-backs provide width pushing forward with wingers and other midfielders trying to pick up spaces in between the lines to receive a pass.  

- Play to the full-back who plays it forward up the line to the winger who plays it back to the midfielder on the ball side.

- Play directly into an attacking midfielder in between the lines who tries to receive on the half turn.

- If pressed they can use Neuer who can play directly to either winger to beat the press in one pass.

To create chances they rely heavily on crosses or combination play in the wide areas. Interestingly, despite having Alfonso Davies at left-back, most of the crosses come from the right-hand side and Pavard from right back. This is dangerous as it can allow Muller to drift and pick up spaces in the penalty area. He’s unlikely to be the target from the initial cross but Bayern are very adept at finding Muller in the box by heading it to him on the move.

Bayern also stay cautious in attack with one full-back tucking in with the centre backs creating a back 3 and at least 1 central midfielder staying back to reduce the risk of being counterattacked should the cross be cleared away.

Bayern are capable of combination play in central areas. This is a risk when teams over-commit to stopping Bayern in wide areas but don’t stay compact and shuffle into central areas. 

Defensive transition

Bayern like to attack with 5 players and this allows them to counter-press very effectively when they lose possession in the final third. Players close to the ball press the ball carrier aggressively and they’re supported by players around them stepping onto opposition players in a man orientated press. With 5 in advanced positions that leaves 2 midfielders and a back 3 to press to further limit passing options on transition. They’re also able to counter-press in the middle third as they prefer to play short passes so players are always close together when the ball turns over.

Defensive organisation

Depending on the setup, Bayern either set up with a 4-1-4-1 or 4-2-3-1 out of possession. They stay high up the field even when there’s no pressure on the ball trusting the speed of Alaba at centre back and Neuer to sweep up in the space in behind. With Boateng playing, there is a weak link in terms of speed which can get exploited on counter-attacks or runners in behind. Bayern are good defensively and are capable of defending well even in chaotic situations as they defend 1v1 situations very well. But Leipzig showed that with quality there’s a chance to exploit the trust Bayern have in their defenders in 1v1 situations.

Bayern presses high up the field using their wingers, starting wide then coming inside when the centre back receives the ball. The ball side wingers cut off passing lanes to the full-back and funnel the centre back inside affording a pass into central areas. The midfielders then step onto opposition midfielders in a man orientated press trying to regain possession high up the field and in front of goal. This might be part of the reason for Goretska being deployed in a number 10 role. This is slightly unusual as other teams press and force opposition players wide to press aggressively in wide areas using the touchline to their advantage.

Attacking transition

Bayern can play quickly but don’t have many opportunities to counter-attack from deep positions as it is more common for the ball to be turned over in the opposition final third or the middle third. As it is normal for the Bayern ball side winger to contribute to the counter-press they prefer to start again with their possession game rather than play quickly into space.

What could be our solution?

The fragility of Bayern’s backline high up the field is their weakness therefore a counter-attacking game would be best suited. I initially thought of a 4-3-3 and replicate what we did to Liverpool in the Super Cup with Pulisic running in behind and Giroud making runs down the side of the centre backs. But due to Pulisic being injured and having watched Koln play a 4-5-1 and get ripped apart in 10 minutes it is clear we cannot do that. Koln tried to press in wide areas but without enough intensity and Bayern kept possession and in 3 passes were able to receive the ball in the middle of the pitch in front of the defence. This led to passes going out wide or combination play in the middle. Also, with Jorginho’s tendency to jump out when pressing onto the deepest midfielder it would open up passing lanes to players in between the lines, missing Kante this would be a major issue. If we use 4 at the back someone like Zouma or Christensen would need to be in midfield making a 4-4-1-1 out of possession with Kovacic as a midfield partner and Mount in front.

A 3-4-3 system or even a 3-5-1-1 would be best and I think Bayern Munich will use a 4-1-4-1 system. So when using a 3-4-3 what do we need to do to beat them?

Drag Kimmich out of the middle

Bayern can be exploited in midfield as they lack a pure defensive midfielder relying on Kimmich. It is possible to draw Kimmich into wide areas and open up space in front of Bayern’s back 4. As shown in the picture below Leipzig built up the right side quickly drawing Kimmich out of the centre and no-one filled into space for Bayern.

This eventually led to a clear goalscoring chance with a pullback to Sabitzer in front of the back 4. This shows a big space in front of their back 4 which we could exploit with Mount especially.

Using a 3-4-3 we could use the wing-back, attacking midfielder and a central midfielder to create an overload in a wide area thus dragging Kimmich wide then play the ball centrally to the other attacking midfielder who could fill the space in the middle. We could then either combine centrally using Giroud or work the ball to the opposite wing-back to create a crossing or shooting opportunity for Alonso.

Play quickly into space

Bayern have a tendency to stay high up the field even without pressure on the ball relying on Alaba’s pace to cover Boateng. As shown here Laimer is in possession under minimal pressure and about to play a long pass and Bayern aren’t in a position to drop back to protect the space in behind. This led to Werner’s big miss.

Mount can make excellent third man runs which could exploit this. A challenge, however, is we lack players to make long passes like this we would need to play more short passes before a through ball eventually arrived but it isn’t impossible. If one attacking midfielder dropped short into midfield and Mount and Giroud both get the timings of their movement correct we could exploit this space.

Out of possession

I suggest a 5-4-1 out of possession. 3 centre backs would allow us to deal with crosses and any knockdowns for runners in the box. We also defend the box terribly with a back 4 with the ball side centre back flying out into wide positions leaving lots of space in the box for attackers to move into. At least with 3, there’s less risk when this happens. If the two central midfielders stay close to the back 3 Thiago and Kimmich will have to come short and play in front of our midfield. This gives them less of a threat with few players in between the lines.

The ball side winger also will need to track back into deep positions on the full-back so our back 5 can stay compact. Furthermore, as Bayern push one full back on but the other stays cautious in a back 3 we can afford to leave an attacking midfielder up the field as an outlet with the striker to play directly and avoid Bayern’s counter-press.

An issue with this system is the difficulty of pressing Bayern’s midfield, Kimmich in particular, but I think Giroud is the best option and he doesn’t offer a lot of pressing against a back 4 so it would be best to be set up in a mid to low block for the majority of the game out of possession using Giroud as an outlet as he’d be stronger than any of the Bayern defenders. He also showed against Spurs how he can drop in on a defensive midfielder and use his physicality when required.

My main concern with a 3-4-3 is that Jorginho or Kovacic jump out to press the ball leaving a space in between the lines which Bayern can exploit. Spurs were able to get into those positions but lacked the quality to create clear goalscoring chances, Bayern do not. In these instances, our back 3 have to pressure the ball and block shots without turning away. For this reason, a 3-5-1-1 could be considered, especially if we take the lead.

Predicted Teams

Chelsea: Caballero, James, Azpillicueta©, Christensen, Rudiger, Alonso, Kovacic, Jorginho, Mount, Willian, Giroud. 

Subs: Kepa, Zouma, Emerson, Gilmour, Loftus-Cheek, Barkley, Abraham.

Bayern Munich: Neuer©, Pavard, Boateng, Alba, Davies, Kimmich, Thiago, Goretska, Muller, Gnabry, Lewandowski. 

Subs: Ulreich, Hernandez, Ordiozola, Coman, Coutinho, Tolissio, Zirkzee.

Written by - @BenBell98

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