Bayern Munich – RasenBallsport Leipzig: Entertaining Bundesliga Title Clash Ends In Stalemate (0-0)
The first half of this game saw Bundesliga leaders Bayern Munich dominate the game against second-placed Leipzig as the away side struggled to cope with Bayern’s superiority in midfield and over the wings. In the second half, Leipzig came out with more intensity which created a more even game for a short period. Like Bayern in the first half though, Leipzig were unable to capitalise on their chances – leading to a goalless draw.
Tactical analysis and match report by Josh Manley.
Since consecutive league defeats against Bayer Leverkusen and Borussia Mönchengladbach, Bayern Munich have won their last six Bundesliga games, including dominant victories over Hertha BSC and Schalke 04. This run helped them to return to the top of the Bundesliga ahead of this key game against RasenBallsport Leipzig.
Leipzig were top of the Bundesliga going into the winter break, but have won just one of their three Bundesliga games since the league resumed in the new year. They began the second half of the season with a victory over Union Berlin, before suffering defeat at Eintracht Frankfurt. Last week, Julian Nagelsmann’s side took a point from a duel, with another of Europe’s emerging coaches, as Leipzig drew with Marco Rose’s Borussia Mönchengladbach.
Bayern coach Hansi Flick made just one change from last week’s victory over Mainz 05, as Serge Gnabry came into the lineup for the injured Ivan Perišić. Gnabry joined Thomas Müller and Robert Lewandowski to form a three man forward line in Bayern’s 4-3-3 shape.
Behind them was the midfield trio of Joshua Kimmich, Leon Goretzka and Thiago. In defense meanwhile, Benjamin Pavard and Alphonso Davies took up the right and left fullback positions respectively while David Alaba was once again deployed at center-back in partnership with Jérôme Boateng.
Leipzig initially lined up in a 5-2-1-2 system. Tyler Adams and Manchester City loanee Angeliño were the wing backs, while Konrad Laimer and Marcel Sabitzer partnered in central midfield. January signing Dani Olmo was the number ten, with Christopher Nkunku and Timo Werner either side of him as forwards.
Bayern in possession.
Leipzig weather the storm
For the early stages of the match and indeed much of the first half, Leipzig found themselves very much on the back foot. The visiting side struggled to generate problems for Bayern with their pressing and transition game – allowing Bayern to pin them in their own half and launch consecutive attacks.
Crucial in the construction of these forays were Kimmich and Thiago in central midfield. For long stretches of the first half, these two players helped Bayern dictate the game, drifting through the first and second lines of Bayern’s buildup. Bayern’s third midfielder, Goretzka, tended to play in higher areas making forward runs in support of Lewandowski – leading Bayern to resemble a 4-2-3-1 system when in possession.
Leipzig countered with an initial 5-2-1-2 or 5-2-3 defensive shape, which could then transform into a flatter 5-4-1 formation when they were pushed deeper. Olmo was the central player of the front three, with Werner starting on the left and Nkunku on the right looking to either pressure Bayern’s center-backs higher up the pitch or to drop back and protect the halfspaces If you divide the field in five vertical lanes, the halfspaces are the lanes that are not on the wing and not in the center. Because there is no touchline like on the wing, players have the freedom to go everywhere. But this zone often is not as well-defended as the very center. This makes it a very valuable offensive zone to play in and a lot of chances are created by passes or dribbles from the halfspace. </span when holding deeper positions.
With Kimmich and Thiago both floating in and around Bayern’s number six zone, Sabitzer would sometimes step up alongside Olmo to try and help control this space. In these moments, Olmo would usually seek to orient himself towards Thiago, while Sabitzer looked to control Kimmich.
When Thiago would then leave the six zone to roam further forward, Olmo would follow meaning Leipzig sometimes returned to their initial 5-2-3 shape, but with Olmo temporarily alongside Laimer and Sabitzer as the number ten.
Sabitzer’s pushing out could of course increase the space around Laimer for Bayern to get in behind the Leipzig midfield line. Another, more pronounced issue for Leipzig was control of the wide spaces, as Bayern were able to threaten along the flanks – especially on their left side where Davies was a prominent attacking threat.
Bayern could easily find space with switches A pass from one side to the other. of play, and in Boateng, Alaba, Kimmich and Thiago they had players capable of executing these passes. With Leipzig’s narrow midfield line, and their wing backs getting pushed into deeper positions by Bayern’s wingers, the guests struggled to stop Bayern getting down the sides of their midfield and threatening the defensive line.
Leipzig up the intensity
Despite their superiority in the first half, Bayern were unable to capitalise with a goal – partly thanks to some good emergency defending from Leipzig in their own penalty box. The second half was a more even affair in which Leipzig arguably had the better chances.
Nagelsmann’s side entered the second half with more intensity in their pressing, defending higher up the pitch, which helped them to get their wing-backs engaged against Bayern’s fullbacks more often instead of being pushed into a flat back five, as they did in the first half.
Bayern created relatively little in the first twenty minutes or so of the second half, while Leipzig had opportunities of their own. Sabitzer blazed a good chance over the bar from near the penalty spot within the first minute of the half.
Shortly afterwards, Werner had his shot at an empty Bayern goal blocked by a recovering Bayern defender in a situation where Manuel Neuer had charged out of his goal and failed to deal with the danger. Just under fifteen minutes later, Werner had a better chance which he was unable to convert, as his first-time effort from close range following Nkuku’s low cross went wide of the target.
Leipzig had relatively little possession throughout the game, but for this twenty minute period at the start of the second half, they did get slightly more of the ball, which allowed their tactical plan in possession to showcase itself somewhat.
When they had the ball, they appeared to transition to a 4-3-1-2 system. Adams, who acted as a wing back out of possession, would move to an aggressive right central midfield position when in possession – here he would frequently make runs in behind the Bayern defense in the right halfspace. Using Adams’ position change as a trigger, Lukas Klostermann would shift wider into a right back position.
Leipzig in possession.
Going into the final 25 minutes of the game, things returned slightly more in Bayern’s favour as they again took a much higher share of possession. They also had the best chance in the game, as Goretzka forced Péter Gulácsi into a smart save.
Bayern had to replace Boateng with Lucas Hernández just before seventy minutes due to injury, which meant they had to play with two left-footers at center-back, in Alaba and Hernández. Alaba played on the right side of the duo, which took away his strength in building up from the left halfspace.
Philippe Coutinho also made an appearance in place of Gnabry, while Nagelsmann replaced Olmo with Patrick Schick. Leipzig were once again on the back foot for most of the remainder of the game, but Bayern were ultimately unable to find a breakthrough – with the match eventually resulting in a scoreless draw.
The draw means Bayern stay top of the Bundesliga, as they continue to show impressive signs under the management of Flick. In particular, the midfield duo of Kimmich and Thiago are enjoying superb form and critical in allowing Bayern to control games. Meanwhile Davies at left back provides a dangerous attacking threat, as Leipzig found out in this match.
Leipzig’s first half display was quite underwhelming, as Bayern found it far too easy to outplay their 5-2-1-2 system – gaining large possession shares and exploiting space down the wings. Leipzig showed improvement going into the second half and very good chances for Sabitzer and Werner which were not taken. Later in the game, they faded again slightly, but still may feel this game was a missed opportunity.
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