Last week, Bild leaked a report that RB Leipzig was going to attack Benjamin Pavard if the Frenchman made Bayern Munich’s starting lineup. While many questioned whether the report was leaked on purpose, Nagelsmann did ultimately prompt his squad to attack the Bavarians’ outside-back tandem of Pavard and Lucas Hernandez, the latter of whom filled in for injured star David Alaba.
The results? Pretty successful, as Leipzig earned a draw and managed to play like the stronger team in the second half of the game. If not for a few magnificent saves from Manuel Neuer, Bayern could have easily lost the contest.
Per Sport1, Nagelsmann decided to go after the outside-backs because of how high the players tend to drift up the field under Niko Kovac:
According to Sport1’s information, Nagelsmann determined before the match that Munich was vulnerable on the outside, in particular because the outside-backs often stand too open when the opponent launches counter-attacks, because Kovac positions them extremely high up the pitch.
Last week’s “leak” indicated that RB Leipzig would press Bayern’s outside-backs, especially Pavard, in hopes of creating turnovers. The leak, however, covered only a small part of Nagelsmann’s plan and not the entire strategy.
Sport1 also correctly observes that Hernandez struggled, which is obvious in light of the careless penalty he committed, leading the penalty kick converted by Emil Forsberg:
A weakness that Munich also revealed on Saturday evening. Lucas Hernández played as a left-back for the first time and disappointed. Benjamin Pavard seemed somewhat more stable on the right.
Kovac must solve this problem as quickly as possible. It is possible that Joshua Kimmich will return to the back-four. Hernández should replace David Alaba for the time being, who will probably be out for two to three weeks due to a torn muscle fiber.
Lukas Klostermann and Marcel Halstenberg did exactly what everyone thought they would do and applied pressure from their respective outside positions, which allowed RB Leipzig’s Timo Werner, Yussuf Poulsen, Marcel Sabitzer, and Forsberg to create issues and challenge Bayern Munich’s central midfielders and defenders.
To be frank, Hernandez absolutely struggled, but he was also switched to left-back just minutes before the game started. Perhaps he was unprepared for the move or perhaps he was simply uncomfortable in a wider spot because he had not featured there for Bayern as yet. Regardless, Hernandez has shown great speed, toughness, and defensive prowess prior to the RB Leipzig game, and his hiccups are not likely to be a persistent issue if he has to fill in for Alaba for an extended period — which is expected.
Pavard, for all of the “targeting” talk coming into the game, performed admirably even under duress from the Leipzig press. It is not a shock that an opponent would attempt to attack Bayern along the flanks via a counter-attacking strategy. Heck, it was Kovac himself with Eintracht Frankfurt who executed that very strategy to perfection against the Bavarians in the DFB-Pokal finale of 2018.
Typically, Serge Gnabry and Kingsley Coman tracked back well, as they have in the past, but perhaps Nagelsmann saw something else in them that he could exploit. Whatever the case, Bayern will need to be more aware of potential weaknesses that teams intend to exploit in the future.
With the center of the field not quite as locked down as past years, we could see Bayern’s opponents attempt to implement a variety of strategies in the coming weeks.