TSG 1899 Hoffenheim – Bayern Munich: Offsides And Missed Opportunities Define The Game For Bavaria (1-1)

In a game where both sides were evenly matched from a tactical perspective, it was physicality and execution that were the bigger stories of the day. Bayern Munich was unable to overcome the finishing issues that seem to affect them at times, while Hoffenheim continued their run of strong results.

Tactical analysis and match report by Manasvin Andra

Early season struggles and inconsistency aside, Sebastian Hoeneß and Hoffenheim appear to have finally found their groove. While all Bundesliga sides naturally come into the game as underdogs versus Bayern Munich, Hoffenheim’s perfect record in the four games preceding this encounter raised expectations for fireworks on the pitch. This is a side filled with intriguing players, who on their day can cause a lot of problems for teams (ostensibly) better than them. Hoeneß set out to do precisely that against the visitors, picking his team in a slightly altered 5-4-1 shape.

Julian Nagelsmann returned to the club where he made his name, on the back of a scintillating blowout of Red Bull Salzburg in the Champions League. While the victories have continued to flow, there is a sense that Bayern’s attacking game wasn’t clicking as well as it was hoped. There was hoped that the lessons from the Salzburg win would give them a second wind in the Bundesliga, with Nagelsmann even naming the same side against the hosts.

Hoffenheim’s adjustments versus Bayern

In terms of work rate and physicality, Hoffenheim are one of the few sides capable of matching the reigning champions. While Bayern run into issues against technically proficient sides (notably in Europe), teams that play with physicality have also caused issues in the past for the Bavarians. This was an interesting game when viewed against this backdrop, which was further enhanced by Hoffenheim’s form in the past few games.

Bayern’s 3-2-2-3 shape created a box in midfield, with Joshua Kimmich and Jamal Musiala playing between the hosts midfield and forward lines while Leroy Sané and Thomas Müller played behind the double pivot.

Bayern’s 3-4-2-1 shape in action.

This setup naturally forces the opponent to be more compact in order to swarm the recipient of the ball, which could then free up the wide players to combine in the halfspaces. When the passing clicks in the final third, this shape makes Bayern virtually unstoppable, as Red Bull Salzburg will attest to. But when it doesn’t click, it can lead to frustrating spells of possession, which almost always seems to result in little more than mindless crossing. Against Hoffenheim, it seemed to be a mix of both, as offside calls on three occasions denied Bayern their equalizer. However, Hoffenheim deserve credit for Bayern’s possessions stalling in midfield, which they achieved through a strong defensive scheme.

When Bayern were building the play, Hoffenheim arranged themselves in a 5-2-3 shape. This saw Andrej Kramarić and Christoph Baumgartner partner Ilhas Bebou up front, with the double pivot of Diadie Samassékou and Angelo Stiller sitting behind. Given that Sané tends to drop deeper than Müller in the left halfspace, Baumgartner was proactive in moving out to press Lucas Hernández to deny the pass into the forward. This was a natural reaction from Hoffenheim, given that Bayern were primarily building through the left with Serge Gnabry as an outlet on the right.

However, if Bayern passed the initial Hoffenheim pressure, the hosts fell back into a 5-4-1 shape.

Hoffenheim’s 5-4-1 block, with the wide center-backs having important roles in the defensive effort.

Here, there was an interesting tweak: Hoeneß left the wingbacks on their own to deal with their Bayern counterparts, but the wide center-backs – Kevin Vogt and Stefan Posch – were given license to track the forwards operating in the halfspace. This had two benefits: firstly, the double pivot did not need to stretch itself too much, and could focus on staying tight to Musiala and Kimmich. Secondly, in case of a Bayern turnover, the wingbacks could quickly bomb forwards to benefit from the transition chaos. Hoffenheim’s first opportunity came after Posch dispossessed Sané and triggered the breakaway; unfortunately, Kramarić wasted a golden opportunity to give his side the lead

In particular, the latter was an important rotation for Hoffenheim when they had possession, as the forwards would drop to receive while the wingbacks made a third man run beyond them. They could then receive the chipped pass from the wide center-back and immediately get to the by-line, with Gnabry and Kingsley Coman having to be extremely conscious not to give their counterparts a free run at Neuer.

The hosts strike first

The Kramarić opportunity showed that Bayern had structural problems in rest defense, and they continued as Hoffenheim scored first. Again, the goal arrived from an offensive breakdown, and Hoffenheim swept forward with Kramarić able to attract Niklas Süle and Benjamin Pavard before reversing the ball to left wingback David Raum. The cross was acrobatically converted at the far post by Baumgartner, as Bayern rued missed opportunities after Gnabry had smashed the ball wide and Müller was called for offside. However, consistent pressure – as is the norm for Bayern – finally took its toll, as Robert Lewandowski converted a Kimmich corner just before the second half.

Bayern assert themselves in the second half

Emphasizing the Hoffenheim transitions is essential due to the ineffectiveness of the hosts buildup. Hoffenheim’s backline fanned out with the wingbacks pushing forward and the double pivot in deeper positions, with the goalkeeper an additional member of the defense in possession.

Bayern pressed the center-backs with Lewandowski and Müller with Sané and Musiala pushing up on the double pivot, and were successful at winning duels in midfield against the dropping forwards and wingbacks. This set into motion spells of possession for Bayern, which Hoffenheim then looked to resist and profit from.

However, Bayern piled on the pressure in the second half, even though Hoffenheim had some good moments on the ball. In particular, the hosts own 3-2-2-3 shape became more prominent, with Raum and Pavel Kadeřábek starting to chase more long balls down the channels. Neither side’s plan changed drastically, with Nagelsmann hoping for better execution while Hoeneß waited for his side to profit once more from a breakaway. Ultimately, the hosts held out despite mounting pressure, with Bayern frustrated but not overly disappointed at the final scoreline.


As Nagelsmann himself noted, this was an interesting game from a neutral perspective, as execution rather than tactical deficiencies was the story of the evening. Bayern continue to find out the benefits and problems with the new 3-4-2-1 shape, while Hoffenheim pick up yet another result in their charge up the table.

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Manasvin covers the Bundesliga and Champions League for Between The Posts. He can be found on Twitter @RPftbl. [ View all posts ]


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