Berlin, Berlin – wir fahren nach Berlin!
The DFB-Pokal final will see a familiar face in Berlin on the 4th of July. Bayern Munich has managed to reach the final for the third year straight and will face Bayer Leverkusen, who was last in Berlin on May 5th, 2009.
In front of an empty Allianz Arena, Bayern did what everyone expected and won against a relatively weak Eintracht Frankfurt edition. It felt surreal not hearing the home support chant about their upcoming travel to the capital city, though on the pitch it was business as usual — for the most part. Here are our observations about Bayern Munich’s semi-final triumph.
First-half power play
It was around the 25th minute when the German commentator Tom Bartels summed up the beginning of the DFB-Pokal final perfectly. The ARD commentator was the sole commentator for tonight’s game and after a few seconds of silence, in an empty arena, Bartels described the game perfectly in two English words:
Bayern outplayed Frankfurt the entire first half and should have been up by at least three goals when referee Marco Fritz blew the whistle for halftime. It was hard to believe that Bayern played a team that had beaten them with 5-1 at the beginning of the season and a team that is technically still competing in the Europa League. During the first 25 minutes, Frankfurt barely had possession of the ball in Bayern’s half. The game truly resembled an ice hockey game when one team has the advantage of a power play.
In the first half, this midfield was not able to feed anything to attacking midfielder Mijat Gacinovic or striker Andre Silva. Frankfurt fought to keep the game competitive and was lucky to manage to do just that.
David Alaba key to an overwhelming attack
Bayern Munich played as Bayern Munich has always played under Hansi Flick. They pressed high, countered fast, and played fun, dominant football. Whenever Frankfurt was brave enough to force their wide-backs up field they were hit on the counter and Bayern was given a dangerous opportunity.
David Alaba was excellent in his modern libero role. The Austrian should never go back to his old position, as he has revolutionized Bayern’s defense with his high positioned, play-making style. Bayern’s high pressing in the first half allowed Kimmich to sit back while Goretzka pushed up, forming a 4-1-4-1 — a formation that allows Bayern always to find a man in the final third. Because of Thomas Muller’s constant runs and Lewandowski’s fondness of occasionally playing as a false nine, Bayern’s attack has so many outlets that it became impossible to deal with – even when for an opponent as defensive as Eintracht Frankfurt was during the first half.
Eintracht puts Flick on the defensive
So, what happened in the second? Firstly, Eintracht’s midfield, which was by far the most disappointing aspect of their first half, started to play much better. Sebastian Rode had a great second half, as he managed to win the ball over and over again, forcing Goretzka to drop back to help Kimmich out.
Flick, I believe, became aware of this problem and substituted both his wingers for Thiago, another midfield to help them win a then losing midfield battle, and Lucas Hernandez, so that Davies could push up further up the pitch. The move was a defensive substitution in the 60th minute, in a game in which Bayern completely dominated the first 45 minutes.
When Danny da Costa scored the equalizer, it was deserved if you look solely at the second-half performances.
Flick’s tactics and lack of rotation catch up
It didn’t take long for Bayern to bounce back, as this team is a squad filled with pure professionals, but the team’s second-half performance was overall poor, which is strange considering the first-half dominance.
The main reason appears to be fatigue. Flick’s tactics demand a lot from the players. It makes sense that, at some point, the players will get tired. Today was the first time I’ve experienced a tired Bayern Munich squad under Flick. It is not surprising at all. Flick is very conservative in rotating the squad and so far, it has worked out great. Bayern can possibly become Bundesliga champions later this week, which would allow them to rest before the DFB-Pokal final against Bayer Leverkusen, another squad that emphasizes an intense attacking style.
In the second half, even the roadrunner with four lungs looked tired and it is understandable.
Flick’s tactics require a big squad, one that can rotate week in and week out. It will be very interesting to see what Bayern does this transfer window and how Flick will manage the problem of fatigue in his first whole season in charge.