Bayern Munich – RasenBallsport Leipzig: Bayern’s Championship Pursuit Takes A Massive Hit (1-3)
Bayern Munich faltered at the wrong time as Leipzig came from a goal behind to stun the Bavarian faithful. Bayern found success in the first half, largely thanks to their high pressing, but crumbled like a house of cards once their intensity dropped. The result has far-reaching implications in the title race, with Borussia Dortmund now within touching distance of lifting the coveted silverware.
Tactical analysis and match report by Rahul Madhavan.
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In a bold move to revive their season, Bayern Munich chose the experienced Thomas Tuchel over Julian Nagelsmann to guide the team to an unprecedented treble. But their high expectations were met with massive blows last month. Despite disappointing exits from the Champions League and the DFB Pokal, Bayern remain in the driver’s seat for their eleventh consecutive Bundesliga title.
Tuchel has preferred a 4-2-3-1 system and continued to do so. Yann Sommer started in goal, with Noussair Mazraoui, Benjamin Pavard and Matthijs de Ligt, and João Cancelo as the back four. Joshua Kimmich, Leon Goretzka, and Jamal Musiala comprised the midfield, while Kingsley Coman, Serge Gnabry, and Thomas Müller completed the attack.
Meanwhile, RB Leipzig are in a race of their own. The Champions League spot is up for grabs and similar to their opponents, they are just one point ahead of Union Berlin and Freiburg. A victory, however, would all but confirm their place in Europe’s most prestigious competition for the upcoming season.
Their defeat to Bayer Leverkusen last month dented their hopes of a top-four finish, but Marco Rose’s men have bounced back with four consecutive victories to further cement their place. Euphoric scenes prevailed in the Red Bull Arena last time out as they came from a goal behind to seal an emphatic stoppage-time victory. The three points were undoubtedly a timely boost to their morale.
Marco Rose stuck with the 4-2-2-2 formation that has worked in recent weeks. Janis Blaswich kept his place between the posts, while Mohamed Simakan, Willi Orbán, Joško Gvardiol, and Marcel Halstenberg formed the defensive line. Konrad Laimer and Amadou Haidara played as the double pivot, with Dani Olmo and Dominik Szoboszlai in front of the midfield. André Silva returned to the starting lineup and started alongside Christopher Nkunku.
Bayern control early proceedings
Tuchel’s decision to recall Goretzka ahead of Leroy Sané was met with a few raised eyebrows as Bayern secured a resounding victory against Schalke 04 last time out. But it became clear early in the game, with Goretzka operating as a pivot alongside Kimmich in the middle of the park. Bayern continued to build up with a three-two structure in the first phase.
Mazraoui operated alongside the center-backs, while Cancelo was given the license to drift forward and join the front line. With Cancelo holding the width on the left flank, Gnabry moved into midfield and pinned Leipzig’s center-back (Orbán).
Leipzig, on the other hand, formed a 4-2-3-1 shape out of possession, with an impetus on blocking central access. However, Bayern were consistently able to bypass Leipzig’s press, courtesy of a five-versus-four overload in the first phase of play. This, in turn, meant that one of Leipzig’s central midfielder (Laimer or Haidara) were forced to move out of position to match Bayern and get tight to one of their pivot player.
Bayern utilized the width in this instance, often using Cancelo as an outball. As a ripple effect, it dragged Leipzig’s fullback (Simakan) towards Cancelo and opened up space for Bayern’s interiors (Musiala and Müller), who dropped deeper into the halfspaces to receive on the turn. This pattern of play also led to the opening goal of the game, as Gnabry pounced on the space provided before finding the back of the net.
Minute 24: Bayern’s buildup to the goal. De Ligt receiving acted as a pressing trigger for Leipzig. Szoboszlai presses him, which, in turn, forces Laimer to close down Goretzka. Simakan is now dragged out of position when Cancelo receives the ball, and with Gnabry pinning Orban, Müller is free to receive on the half turn.
Furthermore, Bayern had a similar numerical superiority in the final third of the pitch. They overloaded the left side to isolate the right, with Cancelo, Gnabry, Musiala, and Müller pinning Leipzig’s defenders. This benefitted Coman, who found himself in one-versus-one situations against the full-back.
Bayern’s pressing suffocate Leipzig
While Tuchel’s game plan in possession appeared to have worked to near perfection, Bayern’s shape out of possession helped them to win the ball back quickly and sustain pressure. Their structure was very similar to their opponents, but using a mixture of man-oriented and zonal pressing made a huge difference.
Starting in a narrow 4-4-2 shape, one of Bayern’s front two looked to close down the center-back in possession, while the other shifted across to mark Leipzig’s central midfielder (Laimer or Haidara). Using the touchline as another player, Bayern trapped their opponents and forced them to move the ball wider. In this scenario, the far-sided winger marked Leipzig’s interior, while Bayern also had a three-versus-two superiority at the back.
Minute 11: Bayern’s pressing. As the ball moves to the left side, Müller presses Gvardiol, and Musiala shifts his attention to Haidara. Gnabry drifts into midfield to mark Szoboszlai, while the near-sided pivot player (Kimmich) marks Laimer.
Leipzig looked to counter this by moving Nkunku to the left flank. However, Mazraoui immediately switched from marking Olmo to Nkunku, with Kimmich taking over the full-back’s job. Goretzka adjusted his position and took over Kimmich’s duties of marking Laimer. In this way, Bayern were able to maintain numerical superiority at the back, while also man-marking Leipzig’s forwards.
Leipzig pounce on Bayern’s lack of intent in the second half
Rose replaced Simakan with Benjamin Henrichs at half-time, which made a significant impact on the way Leipzig attacked. However, it was Bayern’s lack of intensity both in and out of possession that drastically turned the game around.
The visitors fully capitalized on Bayern’s struggles and began growing into the game. Much of Bayern’s success was due to their zonal pressing, but they largely failed to replicate it in the second half. This, in turn, opened up gaps in midfield, with the likes of Olmo and Szoboszlai regularly finding Nkunku’s runs in behind.
Minute 52: Leipzig’s central progression. As Orbán receives possession, Müller fails to track Haidara, unlike in the first half. This forces Kimmich to get tight to Haidara and leaves a huge gap in midfield. Laimer drifts wide to pull Goretzka, which opens up a passing lane centrally. Haidara finds Szoboszlai with ease, as Kimmich is caught stranded.
Additionally, Bayern under Tuchel have shown a lack of organization and communication during a settled defensive phase. When their center-backs were dragged wide due to Leipzig’s front two, Olmo in particular, made runs into the space vacated by them. Bayern’s midfielders failed to track the runners, which resulted in ramifications.
The home side’s lackluster approach provided Leipzig a way into the game and they certainly took advantage of it. Three goals in the span of twenty minutes changed the course of the match and the title race as Bayern were dealt a significant blow. Despite their attacking changes late in the half, Leipzig defended resolutely to seal another three points.
The Bayern Munich faithful appeared shellshocked after the final whistle. After a promising first half, where Bayern consistently opened Leipzig apart, they fell short of their lofty standards in the second. Tuchel’s tactical acumen has been questioned, but it was Bayern’s failure to sustain Leipzig’s pressure that turned the game around. Sloppy passes and their inability to create meaningful chances in the second half could ultimately result in massive consequences as Dortmund go one step closer to securing the Bundesliga.
While the focus was on Bayern’s struggles, Leipzig ultimately showcased their mettle and sealed their place in the Champions League next season. Marco Rose certainly has to be credited with substitution as Henrichs provided an attacking threat and defended well against Cancelo. Their center-backs were tighter to Bayern’s forwards in the second half, while they also took advantage of their opponents’ defensive vulnerabilities.
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