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Three Observations from Bayern Munich’s 1-0 win vs RB Leipzig

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Bayern had to grind out a tough, but in the end deserved, 1-0 victory at home against Leipzig.

19 December 2018, Bavaria, München: Soccer: Bundesliga, Bayern Munich - RB Leipzig, 16th matchday in the Allianz Arena. Mats Hummels (r) and goalkeeper Manuel Neuer from Munich fight with Yussuf Poulsen (l) from Leipzig for the ball.
Manuel Neuer catapults over Mats Hummels, while Yussuf Poulsen squeals.
Photo by Sven Hoppe/picture alliance via Getty Images

No Control

Bayern struggled for any sort of control during the game today. Leipzig’s game plan forced Bayern to choose Robert Lewandowski as their main outlet to relieve pressure in the back, and he predictably struggled to win possession on long balls, having to go up against two Leipzig center-backs throughout the game. Though they won the possession battle 60-40, Bayern never felt in control. That’s not to say Leipzig was. Both teams struggled in possession, with misplaced passes and interceptions leading to a lot of hectic action for both teams.

Whether it was due to Lepzig’s press, or whether they just caught a bad day, the Bayern players just didn’t seem to be on the same wavelength today. A number of the misplaced passes today were due to miscommunication, and potentially dangerous opportunities were over before they could really get going. Bayern’s passing percentage of 79% is way down from their season average of 87%, and it clearly showed in the team today.

Leipzig’s Pressure

Leipzig pressed and pressured Bayern relentlessly today, engaging Bayern at their own 18-yard-box on goal kicks and generally keeping an extremely high line of defense. Bayern tried to play out of the back, but Timo Werner and Yussuf Poulsen, along with outside midfielders Jeffrey Bruma and Konrad Laimer, gave Bayern a lot of trouble and prevented them from building from the back. Konrad Laimer in particular seemed to be going at 100 miles per hour the entire game.

The result: Bayern looked for openings, but was either be forced into a bad pass or worked the ball back to Neuer who kicked it long, where Bayern usually failed to win/retain possession. Bayern never really had a spell of possession in Leipzig’s half, evidenced by Bayern’s heat map courtesy of WhoScored, and this was certainly a big reason for it. Note that Bayern is moving from left to right here:

Better Chances

Despite all of this adversity, Bayern still created much better opportunities than Leipzig did. They outshot Leipzig 10 (4 on goal) to 8 (2 on goal), and really could’ve grabbed a hold of the match early when Robert Lewandowski was one on one with Peter Gulasci but only managed to hit the inside of the post. Thomas Müller had an opportunity to put danger on Leipzig’s goal in the second half off of a David Alaba cross, but came up empty.

Joshua Kimmich had the best chance of the game off of a header from Lewandoswki that he met with a header of his own from roughly 3 yards out, but Gulasci came up with a miraculous save to keep it scoreless. Ribery’s late winner was, at that point, long overdue, and Bayern deserved the lead. Leipzig on the other hand didn’t create much high-quality offense outside of headers by Upamecano and Poulsen, both off of corners.

Expected goals agrees, as Understat had Bayern at 1.72 xG and Leipzig at just 0.72 xG, with Kimmich’s header coming highest at 0.62 xG, ahead of Ribery’s winner at 0.41 xG.

OTTNO

On to the next one. After the dominant performance Bayern put on over the weekend, you hoped that the momentum would carry over into today’s contest and Bayern would come out and put on a good display at home against a direct rival in the table. However, the nature of the, game along with the well executed game plan by the opposition, forced Bayern simply to grind out a win today. While it was far from ideal, a win is a win, and the three points are crucial for Bayern as they look to close the gap between them and Dortmund.