Chelsea – Bayern Munich: Bayern Outclass Chelsea With Controlled Possession Game (0-3)
Bayern Munich’s flexible buildup with Joshua Kimmich and Thiago at the heart of things helped them to gain control of the game against Chelsea’s 5-2-3 pressing. The movement of the likes of Thomas Müller and Serge Gnabry behind Chelsea’s midfield line proved hard for the home side to control. Bayern finally went ahead early in the second half with quickfire goals from Gnabry, before Robert Lewandowski sealed the tie with a third goal fifteen minutes from time.
Tactical analysis and match report by Josh Manley.
Chelsea finished second in their Champions League group based on their head-to-head record against Valencia, as well as dropping points at home to Ajax in a chaotic 4-4 draw. This second place finish made it likely they would be facing one of Europe’s heavyweights, with Bayern Munich being the eventual matchup they were handed.
Despite changing managers midway through the group stage with the sacking of Niko Kovač and the hiring of Hansi Flick, Bayern did not miss a beat in the Champions League as they qualified from their group with six wins from six. They also have the most goals scored in this year’s competition so far, helped in large part by their 7-2 demolition of Tottenham Hotspur.
After using a 3-4-3 formation in Chelsea’s 2-1 win against Spurs at the weekend, manager Frank Lampard decided to stick with the same system and personnel for this game. This meant that first team regulars this season such as Willian and Tammy Abraham were left on the bench, as the previously out-of-favour Ross Barkley and Olivier Giroud once again lined up alongside Mason Mount in Chelsea’s front three.
Bayern were able to bring Jérôme Boateng back into the defensive line for this game after he missed Friday’s victory over Paderborn. David Alaba partnered him at center-back, as Benjamin Pavard and Alphonso Davies played right and left back respectively. Thomas Müller joined the impressive partnership of Joshua Kimmich and Thiago in midfield, while Kingsley Coman and Serge Gnabry joined Robert Lewandowski in the forward line of their 4-2-3-1 shape.
Bayern in possession.
Bayern’s game control
From the earliest moments of the game, Bayern looked assured in their possession game and as a result were able to impose themselves upon Chelsea. This control was built upon the stable foundation provided to them in the first two lines of buildup by the intelligent duo of Kimmich and Thiago.
From the starting point of their positions as a 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’. in a 4-2-3-1 formation, Kimmich and Thiago moved flexibly through the first two lines of Bayern’s structure, able to form back threes or diamond structures in conjunction with Boateng and Alaba.
They acted smartly to create passing angles against the 5-2-3 pressing of Chelsea. A common variant in their buildup shape was for Kimmich to drop in line with the center-backs, while Thiago stayed slightly higher to provide presence in behind Chelsea’s first line of pressing. Thiago’s own attributes also made him especially suitable for this position due to his press resistance and his ability to outplay opponents when receiving the ball with pressure behind him.
An example from the first half in which Thiago is able to outplay Jorginho upon receiving the ball from Kimmich, before setting Bayern on the attack.
The ability to outplay direct opponents was also a theme in Davies’ game at left back, as he gave Reece James a hard time on the left of Bayern’s attack as well as easily controlling Mount’s advances in transition moments thanks to his incredible recovery speed.
Davies primarily provided the width on the left side, allowing Gnabry to drift into the left halfspace, 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. where he frequently dropped deeper into midfield to offer for the ball in the spaces behind and beside Jorginho, where he was able to pick the ball up and turn on a couple of occasions before Azpilicueta started to become more aggressive to step out of the defensive line and try to prevent him getting time on the ball.
Müller meanwhile started from the right halfspace and was also extremely strong in his movements to receive the ball behind the Chelsea midfield line, punishing Jorginho and Matteo Kovačić when they tried to act more aggressively in Chelsea’s pressing. Müller also made a couple of outstanding one-touch actions to connect Bayern’s attack in these areas, aided by the likes of Lewandowski and Coman pinning defenders back with their movements.
Chelsea rely on Giroud against pressing
Bayern’s off-the-ball game was also relatively aggressive. Against the 3-4-3 buildup structure of Chelsea they looked to restrict Jorginho and Kovačić’s roles in the buildup in higher pressing, as Thiago would push up alongside Müller to mark the Chelsea midfield duo.
Coman and Gnabry could also step up onto Chelsea’s wide central defenders, while Pavard and Davies also acted somewhat aggressively when the ball was on the wings higher up the pitch to try and trap Chelsea in.
Chelsea in possession.
Chelsea’s solution against the pressing of Bayern was to seek Giroud as the target man using long balls. This had mixed success as Giroud was able to challenge well for the ball on a few occasions as Mount and Barkley got close to pick up the second balls. However, the direct approach from Chelsea also meant there were passes that just ran loose and ended up handing easy possession back to Bayern.
Bayern show quality in final third
Despite Bayern generally being the better team over the first half, Chelsea were able to create moderate danger in transition situations. As such, the teams went in at half-time almost level on shots and with Chelsea coming close to scoring after around half an hour as Giroud was just unable to reach Mount’s low cross in the six-yard box.
The second half was a different story, as Chelsea had only two shots compared to Bayern’s ten. Bayern set the tone early in the second half with quickfire goals from Gnabry, both of which were of good quality.
In the first case, Lewandowski showed good awareness to pick out the run of Gnabry near the penalty spot when it would have been tempting to shoot himself. Gnabry was left with an easy tap in to make it 1-0. Gnabry then made it 2-0 three minutes later with a pinpoint accurate strike into the bottom corner, again assisted by Lewandowski.
Chelsea were in trouble, but Lampard decided against a change of system, and instead made like for like replacements on the hour mark as William and Abraham replaced Barkley and Giroud. Flick was forced into a change of his own as Coman limped off to be replaced by Philippe Coutinho, meaning Gnabry moved over to the right wing.
Just over ten minutes later Lampard finally did make a system change, as he replaced Azpilicueta with Pedro. This brought Chelsea into a 4-3-3 shape, as Pedro lined up alongside Abraham and Willian in the front line, with Mount dropping into midfield.
Chelsea were getting more of the ball at this point as Bayern dropped off somewhat into a 4-4-2 defensive shape, not going as aggressively into higher pressing moments as they had in the first half. Chelsea managed a couple of dangerous-looking crosses into the box which were unable to be met by their forwards, but other than that only managed two shots as previously mentioned.
As Chelsea became more stretched, there was room in behind, and Davies exploited this as he glided past Jorginho and Christensen on the Bayern left wing before setting up Lewandowski for an easy tap-in at the back post. Things got even worse for Chelsea with Alonso’s red card, as Bayern easily retained the ball from therein to see out a 3-0 victory.
Flick’s Bayern side gave an authoritative performance in which they were tactically well coordinated as well as able to show off some very good individual performances from the likes of Thiago, Davies, Müller and Gnabry. Their controlled possession game stemming from the buildup diamond of Boateng, Alaba, Kimmich and Thiago was also impressive.
For Chelsea the game is a demonstration of the levels between them and Europe’s heavyweights at this stage of the team’s development. There is lots of potential in the squad, but clearly time is needed before they are truly able to match teams such as Bayern. Lampard could maybe be criticized for not changing the system earlier or for certain personnel choices, but it is perhaps harsh to be overly critical given the very high quality football Bayern were playing at times during this match.
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