Bayern Munich – Eintracht Frankfurt: Kostić Punishes Profligate Bayern (1-2)

For teams who aren’t in the upper echelon of football powers, the key to beating Bayern Munich lies in a happy medium between energetic pressing, strong defending and lethal finishing. Oliver Glasner’s Eintracht Frankfurt brought all of these elements to the Allianz Arena, and aided by Bayern’s poor finishing, took back a superb result that should lend some much-needed positivity to the new manager’s reign.

Tactical analysis and match report by Manasvin Andra.


While the head-to-head record between Bayern Munich and Eintracht Frankfurt flattered the hosts, Eintracht present exactly the kind of banana skin fixture that can trip up a title contender. There is a clear key player in Filip Kostić who has to be contained, but that is easier said than done when the entire team is set up to maximize his scoring exploits. This is exacerbated by the fact that Bayern’s wing defending is an area of weakness, though few teams exist who can overcome the hosts’ onslaught through the center to actually take advantage of this deficiency. Eintracht, however, is a team that packs a punch, especially in a fixture where Bayern’s first choice right back was absent through injury.

Julian Nagelsmann picked Niklas Süle in place of Benjamin Pavard, with the German joining the usual crew of Dayot Upamecano, Lucas Hernández and Alphonso Davies. Joshua Kimmich and Leon Goretzka made up the double pivot, with Leroy Sané and Serge Gnabry picked as the wingers. Thomas Müller was deployed as the attacking midfielder, supporting the lethal Robert Lewandowski up front.

After beginning the season with his favored 4-2-3-1 shape, Oliver Glasner has realized that a 3-4-3 shape is the most effective method to maximize his players. He persisted with this formation after using it in Frankfurt’s Europa League encounter, with Tuta, Stefan Ilsanker and Martin Hinteregger making up the defense. The double pivot comprised of Kristijan Jakić and Djibril Sow, who were supported by wing-backs Timothy Chandler and Almamy Touré. Summer signing Rafael Borré led the line, flanked by the dangerous combination of Filip Kostić and Jesper Lindstrøm.


Frankfurters bring the pressure

At Wolfsburg, Oliver Glasner drilled his team into being a defensively solid unit that could press a team out of the park. While it is still early days in Frankfurt, that emphasis has continued, as Eintracht pressed up the pitch throughout the first half.


Frankfurt’s flexible shape. Curiously, Lewandowski did not have much involvement in the offensive phases.


While the shape varied between a 5-2-3 and 5-4-1 formation depending on where Bayern began with the ball, Frankfurt’s aim was clear. In the beginning, when Bayern’s fullbacks were in advanced positions, a pass into them triggered pressure from the Frankfurt winger and wing-back, which began with striker Borré prompting Bayern to play to one side. The objective was to utilize pressing traps to cause the hosts to turn the ball over on the flanks, which was to be followed by a quick transition. For this reason, the Frankfurt double pivot was active in backing up the pressure imposed by the front-line, which decreased the time on the ball that was available to Kimmich and Goretzka. Passes to the fullbacks were encouraged, from where Frankfurt hoped for passes into advanced areas where they could cut off all available passing lanes.

Further, in the 5-4-1 shape, the movements of Sané and Gnabry into the halfspaces were carefully watched by the wingbacks and the midfielders. If one of the midfielders was covering the lane into the winger, the wing-back remained part of the defensive line, but if the midfielder was occupied, the wing-back ensured that he stayed tight to prevent the winger from receiving.


Small adjustments free Bayern

Initially, Bayern had success by playing the ball directly to Gnabry who ran in behind the defensive line, but opportunities through this route were at a premium due to the presence of the wing-backs. Further, Eintracht moved flexibly to guard the center of the pitch, by bringing the wingers deeper when in the 5-4-1 shape.

As the half wore on, Bayern adjusted by bringing the fullbacks deeper and moving the wingers into the halfspaces, which saw Müller take up wide positions to work a rotation on the flanks with Gnabry and Süle. As is common for Bayern, players moved in and out of pockets fluently, such that all three of the players involved had sequences where they were inside and on the flank. The idea was to pull to Eintracht to one side by fixing the midfielders, winger and wing-back on the flank, thereby freeing up space in central areas where Frankfurt was shallow and did not have sufficient protection. It was also a way of arrowing through balls into Sané and Lewandowski in dangerous areas, though this depended on the success of the sequence.



While the idea was sound, the defensive line of the visitors was alert in cutting out passes to the forwards and immediately clearing the ball. This did not mean that Bayern didn’t have opportunities, as Müller and Sané created outstanding opportunities for Lewandowski and Gnabry at the beginning and end of the first half. However, Frankfurt went into the break on equal terms after a Hinteregger header cancelled out a Goretzka shot, despite an offensive performance that overall was mediocre.


More of the same in slow second half

In the second half, Frankfurt sported the 5-4-1 shape for longer stretches, and with fatigue came gaps between the lines that Bayern could slip into. Compounding this was the frustrating offensive plan of the visitors, which consisted almost entirely of lumping it to Borré whether from goal kicks or from open play. The striker was expected to play the ball back to the double pivot or wing-backs before storming forward, but was rarely able to execute this as Bayern swarmed him and cut off his options. Through balls to him were overhit and swept up by Neuer, making it an exhausting evening for the forward.

However, things began to look up for Frankfurt after Glasner made two attack-minded substitutions with half an hour to go. Jens Petter Hauge came on for right winger Jesper Lindstrøm, while Danny da Costa replaced right wing-back Almamy Touré.

With an entirely new right flank, Frankfurt was able to string together some passing sequences, but most of them came in deeper areas where they had greater numbers. Again, Frankfurt were pinned in their half for long periods, this time in the kind of low block that Bayern have made a habit of picking apart. However, their defensive line remained resilient, picking off multiple attempted passes into the box.


Frankfurt’s defensive line deserves enormous credit for their efforts to keep Bayern out of the box.


As Bayern piled on the pressure, they left themselves open to counterattacks, though the speed of the center-backs and Davies meant that the rest defense was never fully compromised. An attempted breakaway in the 83rd minute ended with Bayern successfully tracking and establishing the defensive line, but Kostić had just enough room to take a touch before angling a strike past Neuer. It was a shot that would have been saved on another day, just as Bayern would have converted any of the opportunities that fell to them some other time. As it stood, the hosts were left ruing their misses, as Frankfurt escaped with a much-needed victory.



Takeaways

On the basis of how the game went, Frankfurt did not deserve the win, although their defending and keeper Trapp’s saves merited at least a point. It turned out that fortune was on their side as they left with all three points, securing the first league win of the Glasner era.

For Bayern, their finishing in the game was a matter of concern, as is Lewandowski’s general lack of involvement in the offense. It is an issue that needs to be fixed quickly, as the forward’s gravity needs to be better leveraged to generate easier chances for his teammates.



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