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Four observations from Bayern Munich’s 4-2 win over Werder Bremen

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Bayern struggled early against an impressive Bremen, but righted the ship late with some small tactical changes

FC Bayern Muenchen v SV Werder Bremen - Bundesliga Photo by TF-Images/TF-Images via Getty Images

Space — there’s only so much of it

Jupp Heynckes opted for the high octane attacking version of Bayern Munich in this game, rolling out five attacking talents in a standard 4-1-4-1. It didn’t work for the first 55 minutes. With Arjen Robben on the right, the Dutchmen consistently found himself isolated on the right, a position from which he never does well.

When Robben did try to come inside, he ran into Thomas Mueller being squeezed by the presence of James Rodriguez, forcing both the Colombian and the German to restrict their movements. Without fluidity, none of those players thrive and the unusually stout defensive midfield of Werder Bremen compounded those issues.

It wasn’t until the introduction of Kingsley Coman — and the width he brings — that Bayern Munich’s attack had the space to breath. And breath they did as Rodriguez and Muller assisted on all of Bayern’s second half goals before combining with each other on a brilliant goal late in the second half.

The 4-1-4-1 is a difficult formation to play well

The problems with Robben, James, and Müller highlight a bigger issue from today’s game. Namely that the 4-1-4-1 is a very difficult formation to play.

The overly aggressive stance in attacking midfield overbalances the midfield and requires the defensive midfielder to cover a tremendous amount of ground. Javi Martinez and Arturo Vidal had great games as the lone defensive midfielders, but as Martinez went off gassed in the 55th minute, it highlighted the problem with not controlling possession.

Bayern Munich showcased their typical directness under Jupp Heynckes, but as turnovers mounted, the pressure put on their midfield gave Werder Bremen many quality chances which they capitalized on repeatedly.

If Bayern want to really be serious about playing a 4-1-4-1 and making it work in this manner, they need to be more restrained and deliberate in attack. Without it, there are going to be more games like this one, and they can’t always count on Max Kruse to hit the post.

Give Werder Bremen a serious amount of credit

Werder Bremen’s standard fare 4-4-2 was always going to be risky on defense given the firepower Bayern brought and the final result bears that out. But the counterpoint was Bremen were able to use Jerome Gondorf and Maximillian Eggestein to great effect with their strikers in overloading Javi Martinez with targets. With space and numbers, Bremen carved their way through the defense often and competently.

This was a complete team performance from Bremen. While they eventually paid for their brazenness late in the second half by shipping three goals, they still took it to the Bayern defense over and again.

James Rodriguez, or how Bayern Munich deals with absence of Thiago

This has been picked over many times but it deserves another look. Since the departure of Toni Kroos, Bayern Munich has always been reliant on Thiago for much of their offensive creativity: the perfect pass, the sublime cross, the defense splitting throughball. Without Thiago, Bayern were left to show off their most brute force of attacking displays and over the years we’ve seen many of them.

With James in the fold, Bayern now have another option. Does he bring the same level of total midfield control that Thiago does? Not even remotely.

But what Rodriguez does bring is the passing skill and offensive vision to ensure that Die Roten get every ounce of effort out of their offensive energy and that’s probably the only thing good to come from the Carlo Ancelotti tenure.

Besides, 4-2 is a fun game to watch.