Borussia Mönchengladbach – Bayern Munich: Bayern’s Wing Attacks Destroy Gladbach (1-5)

Whereas Bayern Munich could impress with their attacking down the flanks and their good balance, Gladbach experienced a disappointing performance. Their defense was over-challenged by Bayern’s attacking department and lacked help by their midfielders. Therefore, the clash of the second-placed and the third-placed turned out to be rather uneven, as the final score shows.

Tactical analysis and match report by Max Bergmann.


In their first meetup, Gladbach surprised a lot of people by winning 3-0 in the Allianz Arena. Since that very mediocre period in the grey months October, November and a bit of December, Bayern’s manager Niko Kovač seems to have found the fitting system. Due to their recent success, a win would get Bayern level with current Bundesliga leader Borussia Dortmund. Gladbach on the other hand could only hope for three points to cement their spot within Germany’s top three.

Gladbach coach Dieter Hecking lined up his team in his preferred 4-1-4-1 formation. Christoph Kramer started as the single pivot behind the advanced midfielders Florian Neuhaus and Julian Hofmann. Moreover, French attacker Alassane Pléa replaced Patrick Herrmann on the wing, compared to the line-up in their recent defeat against Wolfsburg.

Due to a long list of injuries, Bayern had travelled to the west of Germany with a decimated squad. However, the squad of Bayern entailed enough quality to replace some regular players. Brazilian defender Rafinha took the place of nominal left back David Alaba. James Rodríguez took over the role of the central offensive midfielder, whereas Thomas Müller was lined up as the right winger. The Spanish double pivot  4-2-3-1 is one of the most frequently occurring formations in football. The two most defensive midfielders are called a ‘double pivot’. comprising Thiago Alcántara and Javi Martínez was tasked to pull the strings and to provide balance.



Bayern’s dangerous wing attacks

After Bayern scored an early leading goal from a corner-kick – second minute, goal by Martínez – the current champion kept threatening Gladbach’s goal by attacking down the wings. Gladbach’s defensive issues were on full display when Bayern attacked in wide areas. Especially in transition moments, the Gladbach fullbacks completely missed the support of their wingers.

During Bayern’s longer phases of possession, Gladbach’s wingers Hazard and Pléa were able to support their defenders. However, Bayern’s fullbacks Joshua Kimmich and Rafinha also joined the attack which created numerical equality again. Since Bayern’s wide players were often able to outplay Gladbach in these situations, the Bavarians created plenty of chances from wing attacks.

Because the advanced midfielders of Hecking’s team were supposed to press Bayern’s double pivot, Gladbach missed vertical compactness. As the distances got too big to cover, Gladbach’s midfielders were in no way able to outnumber Bayern on the wing.

Right winger Thomas Müller played a vital role in Bayern’s attacking concept. Whenever Bayern were able to put in crosses from the left side, the German international joined the penalty area and acted as a second striker next to Lewandowski. Thereby, Müller compensated the fact Leon Goretzka was not on the pitch, as he usually takes this role. Müller proved his ableness for this role when he scored the second Bayern goal after a cross from left wide forward Gnabry. All in all in attack, the individual quality of Gnabry, Joshua Kimmich and Müller was too much for Gladbach, as Bayern created goal-scoring opportunities with ease.


Bayern overload the center with a box midfield

In midfield, Bayern were able to overplay Gladbach’s midfield line with the help of a box midfield. As right winger Thomas Müller often tucked inside and occupied the space between the lines, he positioned himself alongside playmaker James Rodriguez.

Together with the double pivot, the central midfielders created a box-like shape. As Bayern attacked with overlapping full-backs, the midfielders were instructed to play out into wider areas after progressing up the pitch. That way, Gnabry scored their fourth goal of the match, after a quick combination through midfield and a cross from Kimmich.


Bayern’s ‘box-midfield’ formation.


Bayern attempt to disrupt Gladbach’s build-up

When defending, Bayern operated in a 4-2-3-1 formation. The team set themselves up around the midfield line. Once Gladbach played back passes or imprecise square passes, Bayern immediately initiated their press.

Therefore, either one of the wingers or central offensive midfielder James moved forward to support striker Robert Lewandowski. To decrease the space between attackers, midfield and defense, the whole team shifted towards the opposition goal while forming a 4-4-2 shape. Since single pivot Kramer provided a central passing option for the central defenders, Thiago often opted to man-mark the German midfielder.


Bayern’s defensive organization and how Gladbach attempted to exploit it. 


In the course of the first half, Gladbach did manage to find some solutions against Bayern’s press. Martínez had to keep his position as the only central player with a connection to the back-four, to keep the space just in front of the defense occupied. As a result, central advanced midfielders Hofmann or Neuhaus could drop without being marked and received the ball behind Bayern’s first pressing line.

Furthermore, Gladbach utilized the free half spaces 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 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. more and more often as Martínez stayed centrally, especially Hazard enjoying freedom on the left. The consequence of this strategy was Lars Stindl’s goal, who received the ball from Hazard in the left half space and struck successfully. Since Bayern pressed with more intensity during the second half again, Gladbach were rarely able to progress up the pitch after the interval.


Gladbach invite Bayern to counterattack

Just like Bayern, the home team also tried to build up play with two central defenders, while the fullbacks pushed up the pitch. Since Gladbach committed some unnecessary mistakes during their build-up, they offered space on the wings for Bayern to counterattack. Often Lewandowski was supported by one further winger to quickly get behind the last line of defense. As the center-backs of Hecking’s side severely lack pace, they struggled to defend the Polish striker and his team mates. Nevertheless, Gladbach’s goalkeeper Yann Sommer prevented Hecking’s team from conceding even more goals, with some outstanding saves.


The Expected Goal plot shows Bayern’s dominance.


Bayern apply balanced structure in possession

Javi Martínez was a standout player for Bayern, constantly keeping the balance when Bayern was in possession. By staying close to the central defenders during attacks, the Spanish midfielder provided good cover in cooperation with both center-backs.

Bayern were able to outplay Gladbach’s mid-block press with the help of Thiago. The Spanish midfielder often dropped into a left fullback position. This had two consequences: firstly, it allowed left winger Gnabry to tuck inside and have more time and space on the ball. And secondly, it prevented Gladbach from actively pressing Thiago, because he was so deep, and in so much space. Together with Thiago’s ability to outplay or dribble past almost any opponent in the world, this was a very successful way of building up for Bayern.

Whenever one of Bayern’s midfield players received the ball in the center, they were pressed by one of Gladbach’s central midfielders. However, as Thiago positioned himself in a deeper area with an open body shape, the distance for Neuhaus and Hofmann was too far to press. All of these aspects led to Bayern’s domination in possession, especially in the second half of the game. Bayern almost perfectly took advantage of their combination qualities and thus gathered a very easy win.




With this thrashing victory, Bayern were able to catch up with Borussia Dortmund in the Bundesliga standings. The balance during possession as well as the creation of goal-scoring opportunities displayed an improvement compared to their game against Gladbach in the first round. This performance rang the bell for a thrilling title race against Dortmund, as Bayern’s underlying numbers have been good all season long. Now, their results are too.

Gladbach on the other hand have to thank their goalkeeper for avoiding an even bigger debacle. After conceding twelve goals in the last four games, manager Dieter Hecking will have to stabilize Gladbach’s defense. In order to stay on a spot qualifying for the Champions League, Gladbach need to find back to their compact defensive shape.

Use the arrows to scroll through all available match plots. 

Max Bergmann (21) likes to watch football from every possible angle as an ambitious coach, player, (former) referee and analyst. Holding the UEFA B-Level license, he is coaching youth teams and making video analysis. In order to extend his knowledge about tactics, physiology and psychology in sports, he is studying sports science. Whenever Max is not on the pitch or at the university, he analyses football with a focus on the Bundesliga and the other European top leagues for TotalFootballAnalysis and Between the Posts. [ View all posts ]


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