Scoring his 5th and 6th goal of the Champions League (all 6 of them coming in London), “chef” Serge Gnabry tore Chelsea apart in the second half of the match, helping Bayern achieve a commanding 3-0 lead. Hansi Flick’s team controlled the majority of the game and was able to fend off most of the Chelsea attacks with effective pressing.
Since the first leg, however, Frank Lampard’s side has made significant improvements in their overall game. In this analysis, we take a look at how Bayern players operated in different phases of the first tie and what has changed for Chelsea since the first leg.
Team setup and buildup phase
Hansi Flick deployed his tried-and-tested 4-2-3-1 formation, with Thomas Müller playing as the attacking midfielder in front of a Thiago Alcantara-Joshua Kimmich double pivot. In the absence of N’Golo Kante, Frank Lampard set up his team in 3-4-3 formation. Oliver Giroud spearheaded Chelsea’s attack and he was supported by Mason Mount and Ross Barkley as inside forwards.
As Chelsea pressed Bayern’s center-backs with three attackers upfront, one member of double pivot often dropped between the center-backs to counter Chelsea’s numerical advantage.
Bayern wingers Serge Gnabry and Kingsley Coman often drifted into midfield while Benjamin Pavard and Alphonso Davies provided width. Through their pace and ball-playing skills, they focused on penetrating Chelsea’s defense from the middle.
Counter-pressing and defensive phase
Led by Müller, Flick’s men played with aggression and intelligence in the counter-pressing phase as they forced Chelsea to pass the ball back or commit errors in buildup. Per FBref, Müller pressured opposing players an astounding 31 times (highest in the team, followed by Gnabry at 22).
As red shirts overran their midfield, Chelsea had no other option but to use Oliver Giroud as their outlet to escape pressure. Chelsea players at the back often played long balls to Giroud in the hope that he would use his aerial prowess and ball control to provide through passes to Mount and Barkley making runs in-behind defense.
Bayern’s defense had a clear strategy to neutralize Chelsea’s attack. David Alaba, Thiago, and Kimmich acted swiftly whenever Chelsea tried to advance the ball. If Giroud or Tammy Abraham moved out of position to receive the ball, Alaba immediately followed and started pressing.
Apart from a few turnovers, the team had an effective and efficient overall game in terms of defending. With expert “ball winners” like Davies and Thiago on the pitch, Bayern recorded 11 interceptions and had a tackling success rate of 80% compared to Chelsea’s 7 and 52%, respectively.
Bayern’s attackers put in an exemplary performance in the final third. The Blues’ defense had no answer to Müller and Robert Lewandowski’s off-the-ball work and positional play.
Müller proved to be the team’s X-factor (as he always does). His movement between the lines was crucial in linking up vertical passes from the back to attackers making runs in behind defense.
His movement in and around the box was a big reason why Bayern was able to create so many chances. Müller frequently made well-timed runs and popped up in dangerous positions in the box.
Lewandowski meanwhile doesn’t just play as a target man. The Polish hitman also frequently drops in midfield, drifts to wider areas, or takes part in play-making. In doing so, he either escapes his marker or creates space for his teammates. In the buildup to both of Gnabry’s goals, it was Lewandowski’s intelligent movement around the defensive line that helped Bayern attack Chelsea on the break.
Another player who played a crucial part in attack was “FC Bayern Roadrunner” Alphonso Davies. In the second half, he frequently combined his speed and dribbling attributes to beat his marker and carry the ball, as he recorded the highest number of successful dribbles (6) and players dribbled past (6) from Bayern’s side.
What has changed for Chelsea
Since the premier league restart, Chelsea have played 7 out of their 9 games in a 4-3-3 formation, which often featured a midfield of Kante-Barkley-Mount. In this setup, Chelsea plays with two wingers (Pulisic and Willian) instead of inside forwards. If Kante starts in defensive midfield, Bayern’s attackers may not be able to breach Chelsea’s defense as easily as they did in the first leg. In attack, Pulisic and Willian on the wings will be much more difficult to contain for Bayern’s defense.
One particular area Lampard’s side might exploit is the gap between Jerome Boateng and the right-back. While Alaba and Boateng were able to keep Giroud out for the most of the match, there were few dangerous counter-attacks from Chelsea which came as a result from his holdup play.
As noted by BFW writer RuneKingThor in this article, Chelsea’s offensive output and chance-conversion has improved since the restart, which indicates that the chances of Chelsea capitalizing on those quick turnovers will be higher this time.
If Goretzka starts, his aerial prowess and defensive skill-set will be beneficial in winning duels against Giroud. On the right side of Bayern defense, Pavard’s replacement will need to have great positional awareness, as he will be tasked with minimizing Pulisic’s threat.
Bayern Munich sent a message across Europe with their performance against Chelsea. The difference in tactical awareness and individual quality was clearly visible between the Bayern and Chelsea players. However, the tie is far from over.
Bayern will go into the match having played just one game (friendly against Marseille) after the mini-break and without key player Pavard at right-back. If Kimmich, who is playing a crucial role in center of the pitch, is moved to right-back, Hansi is likely to opt for a Thiago-Goretzka pivot. Chelsea, on the other hand, will have the necessary match fitness and key players Kante and Pulisic returning to the starting lineup.
Chelsea will be bolstering a much stronger team this time, as long as Flick’s side doesn’t lose focus, they’ll surely overcome this challenge and move to the next round.
It’s Bayern time!