Hopefully David Wagner doesn’t have a Bild subscription, because they’ve just revealed the secret training Hansi Flick has been doing to prepare Bayern Munich for their upcoming game against Schalke. Knowing Hansi, you’d think it would be something really cool, like reverse counter-gegenpressing, or triple-inverted false fullbacks. You’d be mistaken.
It’s diagonal long balls.
Yup. Apparently, Bayern’s coach has been training his wide players to switch the flanks quickly using diagonal long balls. Alphonso Davies, Philippe Coutinho, Serge Gnabry, and Benjamin Pavard are all listed among the players instructed to use diagonal long balls in training. According to Flick, they’re necessary to pull a compact defense apart.
Newcomer Alvaro Odriozola has also been participating, with Thiago Alcantara acting as a translator for him. According to Bild, the Real Madrid loanee is expected to be on the bench this Saturday, as it is still too early for him to start.
Now, you know who’s really good at diagonal long balls? Jerome Boateng. And who’s really good at getting on the end of them? Thomas Muller. If Hansi Flick is really committed to the idea of long balls and crosses breaking down David Wagner’s defense, then those two will probably be key in the upcoming game. Thomas Muller in particular was not mentioned in the list of wide players practicing his crosses, so perhaps Flick finally plans to put his Raumdeuter where he belongs — behind Robert Lewandowski in the center of the park.
Now it may seem very silly for Flick to focus on such a mundane tactic when he could be coaching his team to execute amazing feats of attacking play that immortalized Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona team in the popular consciousness, but there’s really nothing wrong with it.
Zinedine Zidane won three Champions Leagues in a row with nothing more than a competent defense and crossing tactics (and Cristiano Ronaldo, but I digress). Under Guardiola, Philipp Lahm and Xabi Alonso’s ability to switch the play from one flank to another became a hallmark of Bayern’s attacking system. Against Juventus in 2016, two exquisite crosses from Douglas Costa and Kingsley Coman allowed the Bavarians to avoid a humiliating defeat in their own stadium.
In essence, Flick is right to go back to the basics, and he should be applauded for it. With players such as Muller and Lewandowski occupying the center, there’s no reason to over-complicate things. Just get them some quality service, and watch the goals flow.