Among Bayern supporters, yesterday's decisive whomping of Hannover 96 will be remembered mostly for several lightning-strike big plays. Javi Martinez and Toni Kroos both scored on stunning volleys, and Mario Gomez notched a goal less than half a minute into his league return.
But a close look at the numbers reveals that this win wasn't driven by a handful of flashy plays. In fact, this was a triumph of smart midfield play and disciplined, high percentage passing. Three statistical flourishes demonstrate Bayern's end-to-end supremacy - climb aboard as we examine them one-by-one. All stats are from whoscored.com:
1) Six Different Bayern Players Completed 90 Percent of their Passes
Hitting on 90 percent passing is difficult, but not impossible. Usually, a team might have one or two guys who hit 90 percent, and a good passing team that has a nice day might even get three or four. In yesterday's win, though, FC Bayern had six players at 90 percent or above, plus three more completing at least 86 percent. Here's a look at our top seven passers (the six 90-percenters, plus Lahm - I figured his 89 percent was close enough):
|Player||Total Pass %||"Key" Passes||Long Balls Attem.||Accurate Long Balls||Assists|
("Key pass" is defined by whoscored as "the final pass leading to a shot at goal from a teammate"). In addition to the general positive result of 7 guys with at least 89 pct. passing, note that our numbers on long balls are amazing: five guys with 100 percent accurate long-ball percentages, and Dante with a still-impressive 9 of 10. This demonstrates not only, sharp, accurate passing, but also a lot of effort and understanding from the guys downfield: if Dante lets a long ball fly, it not only needs to be a good pass, but the guy on the other end needs to get in position to receive it, use his body to create space, and make an aggressive play on the ball. When a defensive or midfield player knows that he can try a long pass and there's a good chance their teammate will come down with it, they become a lot more confident in trying to get the ball downfield.
2) Bayern Got the Ball to our Most Dangerous Players
"Total touches" can be a deceptively useless stat when trying to examine an individual player's performance - you'd rather have a guy touch the ball 15 or 20 times and make them all dangerous passes over a guy who touches the ball 40 times but mostly just wastes it. But in analyzing a team's tactical success in the aggregate, total touches of forward and midfield players vs. defensive players can be important. Large numbers of touches from your scorers and play-makers demonstrate that your tactical plan is working to create chances, as opposed to a situation in which most touches are coming from defenders (especially CBs - if your CBs are getting most of your touches, you aren't consistently threatening the other team).
Each team's top 6 "touched the ball the most" list, in order. For Bayern:
|Player and Position||Total Touches||Shots|
|Player and Position||Total Touches||Shots|
The rest pretty much writes itself. Looking at the 6 "most involved" players, Hannover's included all both CBs (compared to neither of Bayern's) and generated 5 shots (compared to 10 for Bayern's "most involved" list). The two wings were somewhat involved for Hannover, but in a 4-4-2, that's not even really a threatening position. With that formation, you want your two strikers to touch the ball early, often, and from dangerous positions. For H96, their two starting strikers, Diouf and Sobiech touched the ball a total of 26 times and managed 2 shots between the pair of them.
3) Bayern Are a Tackling Machine
Considering Bayern possessed the ball for over 60 percent of the match and spent long periods camped in Hannover's end, you'd think Hannover would win the tackling battle. Just on number of opportunities, Hannover's defenders might have been expected to rack up 3 or 4 successful ball-winning tackles apiece, if not more. Instead, it was FC Bayern that dominated the tackling numbers. This is a list of players that had more than one successful tackle for both teams - I assume that successful tackle means the player won the ball or knocked it away from the possession of the other team, and did so without being whistled for a foul:
And for Hannover:
Despite Bayern spending long periods in H96 territory, none of our opponents' back line could manage multiple take-away tackles. In fact, their starting CBs, Haggui and Eggimann, both registered zero. I guess you could say it's a sign they should be more aggressive, but this is really just evidence that Bayern's quick-passing game is hard to defend and hard to dispossess.
Amazing overhead kicks and sliding side-volleys are great. But, at the end of the day, it's smart, disciplined midfield play and sticking to a winning tactical formula that will decide matches. Yesterday, Bayern won the accurate passing battle, the "get the ball to your dangerous players" battle, and the tackling battle. Little surprise, then, that we won the war.
Back with more later - midweek play again this week, so check back for a preview tomorrow or Tues. Thanks for reading.