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Four observations from Bayern Munich’s 1-2 loss to Borussia Mönchengladbach

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Borussia Mönchengladbach are the real deal and they beat Bayern Munich fair and square.

Borussia Moenchengladbach v FC Bayern Muenchen - Bundesliga Photo by Frederic Scheidemann/Bongarts/Getty Images

Soccer is 90 minutes long

When Bayern Munich finally scored in the 49th minute they were leading the shot count by 14-1 and dominated the overall possession game. They’d targeted every corner of Yann Sommer’s goal and only a clawed fingertip-save on the goal line had saved Gladbach from conceding earlier than they did.

Crucially, it was Breel Embolo’s addition to the match in the 58th minute that changed Gladbach’s identity up front. Almost immediately Bayern fell apart and conceded as Embolo attacked the space in behind Joshua Kimmich, forcing Jerome Boateng to abandon his position in the middle.

Bayern never adjusted as they were run over by Gladbach’s forwards time and again. They never got within sight of Gladbach’s goal for the remainder of the match.

Keep it simple, keep it effective

Borussia Mönchengladbach has been on a torrid run this year. Their pace and pressing are admirable, and it would have been easy for Bayern Munich to overthink this match. Tweaks here and there: subtle tactical exploitation the kind of which would produce the almost yearly tradition of Bayern winning one tie 5-0 and ‘Gladbach winning the other 3-0 during Pep Guardiola’s tenure.

Instead, Hansi Flick kept this game simple for Bayern: Stay wide and spread the field. Work the ball. Attack into open space in wide areas and dump in quick 20-yard passes over the press. Against ‘Gladbach’s quick press, Bayern found themselves quickly under pressure, but they always had a way out.

Bayern played 60 excellent minutes under this philosophy and controlled the game. They lost the plot in the last 30 minutes and they paid for it.

Passing through pressure died in this match

It’s worth noting for Bayern that despite their control of the first 60 minutes, this game also was also balancing on the edge of a knife. ‘Gladbach leads the Bundesliga in interceptions per match, averaging 13.3 over this first half of the season. On Bayern’s side, they average 9.8.

‘Gladbach racked up a grand total of 24 interceptions all over the field and added 35 tackles to boot. This constant and intense pressure obliterated Bayern’s passing sequences on the ground. Thiago in particular was their favorite target on the evening, as the constant pressure forced him into ill advised or risky passes on the ground on many occasions.

Borussia Mönchengladbach has a special recipe for pressing for 90 minutes

Marco Rose has put together a special blend of magic in the western half of the Rhineland. What works so well for ‘Gladbach is their narrow 4-2-2-2 formation through the middle. This is a hallmark of the Red Bull family of academies which Rose came through and he’s found a special group of players to pull it off magnificently so far.

Lars Stindl, Marcus Thuram, Alassane Plea, Breel Embolo, and Patrick Hermann are not flashy players. They’re all support striker workhorses and who are lethal in front of goal. They press in alternating banks, allowing each set to rotate forward as primary pressers and then rotate back as secondary pressers. This allows ‘Gladbach to breathe and sustain pressure for far longer than most teams.

In this match, they easily outlasted Thiago and a Bayern Munich block that fell apart through exhaustion and injury.