Bayern tactics

Hannover 96 – Bayern Munich: Bayern outclass Hannover with a phenomenal performance (0-4)

Bayern Munich celebrated a comfortable 4-0 victory over Hannover 96. The German Rekordmeister was able to dominate the whole match in possession and created endless scoring opportunities against an overstrained defense of Hannover. Even though Hannover coach André Breitenreiter changed formation during half-time, his side was completely unable to resist Bayern’s offense in the second half.

Tactical analysis by Max Bergmann.

Bayern was in need for points to keep pace with Bundesliga leaders Borussia Dortmund and second-placed Borussia Mönchengladbach. Hannover 96 on the other hand is in a tough relegation battle at the bottom of the league table.

In the past few weeks, Bayern’s manager Niko Kovač has set his team up in a 4-2-3-1 formation, the 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’. consisting of Joshua Kimmich and Leon Goretzka. For this match however, Thiago Alcántara was brought into the central midfield next to Goretzka, and Kimmich was lined up on his “old” position as the right defender of Bayern’s back four. Furthermore, center-back Mats Hummels replaced Jérôme Boateng. Lastly, left winger Kingsley Coman was brought into the starting eleven for Franck Ribéry, who was rested and stayed in Munich altogether.

Home side Hannover deployed a 5-3-2 system. Since defender Oliver Sorg was suspended after being sent off with two yellow cards in the previous match against Mainz 05, Breitenreiter lined up center-back Felipe as the only change. Attacker Ihlas Bebou – who might have given the offense more penetrating power with his pace – was not available due to an injury.

Bayern using width to create numerical superiority

Due to their center-focused 5-3-2 system, Hannover experienced difficulty to defend Bayern’s strong wing attacks. As the home side’s midfield and attack mainly defended the center of the pitch, Hannover’s wing-backs were often put in one-versus-two situations, being put up against Bayern’s wingers and fullbacks. Whereas Hannover’s midfield could shift towards one side of the pitch to help their wing-back, the wing-back on the other side was completely isolated. Bayern often capitalized on this defensive behaviour by quickly switching sides. With the offensive contributions of fullbacks David Alaba and Kimmich – still one heck of an offensive fullback pairing – Bayern was able to outnumber the opposition wing-back and make the breakthrough on the wings.

Whenever Bayern broke through on one side, Thomas Müller joined striker Robert Lewandowski in the penalty area. On these occasions, Goretzka pushed forward to receive back passes while his partner Thiago often stayed a bit deeper to build-up Bayern’s attacks.

Bayern 4-2-3-1 formationBayern’s 4-2-3-1 formation in possession against Hannover’s flat 5-3-2 organization.

All Bayern players showed a lot of positional fluidity, meaning they took over different positions, while still keeping the correct shape. Central midfielder Thiago for instance often dropped into a fullback position, asking for the ball in the right halfspace. If you divide the field in five vertical lanes, the half spaces 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. Thereby the Spanish player dragged out central midfielders of Hannover who followed his run.

Bayern provide improved cover to prevent counterattacks

In previous Bundesliga matches this season, Bayern struggled to prevent the opposition from counterattacking. Against Fortuna Düsseldorf for example, the reigning champion conceded multiple goals from counterattacks. This has been the main reason for Kovač to change his formation into a 4-2-3-1 shape, with two defensive midfielders in the center.

In the match against Hannover, the 4-2-3-1 formation allowed Bayern to nip every counterattacking opportunity in the bud. With Goretzka and Thiago both in a central defensive position, there was no getting through even for the three central midfielders deployed by Hannover.

Another interesting tactical tweak in Bayern’s system was the role of Kimmich. Lined up as a right back, the German often drifted towards the center of the pitch. This allowed him to counterpress Hannover’s midfielders right after Bayern lost possession. A further advantage of this positioning was the ability to win second balls and rebounds with an additional midfielder.

As a result, Kimmich scored the leading goal as early as the second minute, after receiving the ball in a central position. As the 5-3-2 formation of Hannover did not deploy any wide forwards, they were not able to exploit the space behind Kimmich. Left wing-back Matthias Ostrzolek, starting from a defensive position, took too long moving up the pitch to make use of the space.

Bayern was the utter dominant side and preceded to create chance after chance. Just before the half hour mark, a right-sided corner kick was deflected and fell for David Alaba. With a whopping strike from the edge of the box, Bayern’s left back scored the second goal of the match and put Bayern two goals up.

Hannover’s non-threatening attacking phase

Hannover’s few offensive actions can be described as playing long, direct and hopeful balls. Either being played behind Bayern’s back-four or to striker and target-man Hendrik Weydandt, these balls were inefficient. Central defenders Niklas Süle and Mats Hummels were capable of winning their aerial duels and defending the space behind the last line of defense.

In rare situations, Hannover was able to sustain possession. Thereby Breitenreiter’s team often used wing-backs Ostrzolek and Genki Haraguchi. Being positioned between the opposition fullbacks and wingers, they acted as spare men on the wings. Whenever they received the ball, Bayern’s fullbacks moved forward to press and thereby left their defensive shape. Nevertheless, Hannover could not utilize the created space because center-backs Niklas Süle and Mats Hummels were attentive again and closed the gap by shifting towards the wing.

Hannover’s change in formation causing new problems

It seemed that Hannover’s manager Breitenreiter had drawn his conclusions after a disastrous first half of his side. With an adjusted formation Hannover planned to gain more defensive stability in the second half of the match. They deployed a 4-4-2 system after the break, which just caused new issues. Although the home side created numerical equality with two wide players against two wide Bayern players on each side, Hannover missed a player to press Thiago in central midfield. The Spanish pivot could pull the strings from the center of the pitch.

Hannover Breitenreiter tactics

Hannover’s new 4-4-2 formation, which offered better protection on the wings, but let Thiago free in the center. 

Further up the pitch, Hannover’s defense struggled to defend the agile right winger Serge Gnabry and second striker Thomas Müller. With one less central defender compared to the back-five of the first half, Hannover’s defenders had to defend man-to-man against Bayern’s four offensive players. Moreover, bad defending behaviour of Hannover’s defenders allowed Bayern to score two more goals in the second half.

In the final stage of the game, Breitenreiter adjusted the defensive shape another time. To avoid a debacle, Hannover deployed a 5-4-1 formation, now defending with three central defenders again and with wide forwards. However, the fact Hannover did not concede any further goals was more down to the Bayern’s sloppy conversion.


Bayern fulfilled their duty with an offensive spectacle in Hannover. This match raised Bayern’s hopes to get back to track in a so far chequered season. However, it still remains to be seen whether Bayern can verify this performance against stronger sides. Their underlying statistics suggest they are the best Bundesliga side this season, so it will be interesting to see how it plays out.

Conceding this defeat, Hannover took over the bottom place of the pile. Both an unresisting defense as well as an offensive department lacking creativity created concerns. Therefore, Hannover will have to reconsider their defensive and offensive approach to avoid further batterings.

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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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