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BFW Analysis: How Harry Kane’s addition will give Bayern Munich the tactical edge

“Tactitzel” is back to breakdown Bayern Munich’s tactics and potential formations for the 2023/24 season.

FC Bayern München v RB Leipzig - DFL Supercup 2023
“Müller’s job is so damn tough, goddamn it!”
Photo by Harry Langer/DeFodi Images via Getty Images

Bayern Munich has significantly improved its squad quality with the addition of one of the world’s best strikers, Harry Kane. The No. 9 is a versatile offensive weapon that can operate as a top poacher in the box, while also being just as adept at kickstarting attacks and carving defenses open with his vision and playmaking abilities.

The striker scored 42.9% of Tottenham Hotspur’s goals last season (all stats from Fbref). His 36 goal contributions include 31 goals and 5 assists, and that assist number might seem puzzling for a player who is regarded as an elite passer in the opposition half. The man indeed completes 69% of his passes in the opposition's half, has 5 progressive passes per game, and has 3.4 shot-creating actions per game. One could argue that he did not have the best supporting cast at Tottenham (aside from Son Heung-Min), but it’s not like Bayern’s wingers are known for their efficiency either. Oh well, enough digression.

FC Bayern München v RB Leipzig - DFL Supercup 2023
“It’s not Kané, it’s Kane. Stop pronouncing it that way!”
Photo by Harry Langer/DeFodi Images via Getty Images

We all know what Kane brings to the table. So how should Bayern go about putting his talents to good use? Thomas Tuchel is probably working on just that, but there’s no reason we can’t dish out a few pointers on creating tactical advantages and favourable setups for the Bayern board.

We start with the classic 4-2-3-1 setup and find our way from there.

Hitman Harry

Image explaining tactics.
Lo and behold! The classic 4-2-3-1, Bayern’s go-to treble winning formation.
Schnitzel (using

Kane needs good supply. And what better way to ensure a never-ending supply of goalscoring opportunities than to pair up the team’s two most creative attackers behind the striker? Thomas Müller and Jamal Musiala have worked brilliantly as a tandem before, and there’s no reason to believe that they won’t be even better with Kane up front. Kane will continue in the footsteps of two-time FIFA Best Player Robert Lewandowski and function as a defender magnet, while Müller and Musiala exploit the space left behind to generate chances.

This formation would work brilliantly with Kingsley Coman, a player who is adept at stretching the defensive line with his pace. The winger “hugs the sideline” more often than not, meaning a defender is almost exclusively devoted to defending him. This is more likely than not to create a numerical advantage for Bayern’s attack against the opposition defense, which is when the lineup would instantly shift to a 3-1-5-1. Allow me to demonstrate.

Everything and the Kitchen Sink

Image explaining tactics.
Musiala cuts inside with his dribbles, while Davies works on the overlap. Goretzka makes a trademark run into the box, while Coman stretches the defense.
Schnitzel (using

This formation will be all too familiar if you’ve followed the Hansi Flick era closely. Musiala cuts inside, with Davies working on the overlap. Müller drifts into the half spaces, while Coman stretches the defense on the other side. Leon Goretzka makes a run into the box to create a numerical advantage and serve as an additional target man.

This is when there are also changes in defensive structure to compensate. De Ligt moves to the left, while Dayot Upamecano holds the fort in the middle, and Noussair Mazraoui plays a more defensive role, which he is more than capable of doing. In this situation, Kimmich would act as a shield, offering an additional layer of defense while also being a passing outlet in the event that the attack squanders the opportunity.

“That’s all nice and rosy, but what about tactical flexibility?” I hear you ask. Fortunately, the team can be fluid and dynamic with Kane’s inclusion.

Bobby Kane

Graphic demonstrating tactics.
Kane operating as a free roaming 9 (also moving like a false 9), similar to Firmino at Liverpool.
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We have all seen the role of the false 9 evolve in football over the years. There are also many interpretations of it, such as the role Müller has played at times in the past for both Bayern and Germany, The role Dominik Szoboszlai or Christopher Nkunku played for RB Leipzig, or one of the classic examples: Roberto Firmino at Liverpool, as a certain Tom Adams from BFW might attest to.

Bobby’s role as a free-roaming false No. 9 allowed the deadly combination of Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mané to be put to devastating effect at Liverpool. While not the exact same role, Kane could sometimes occupy a similar position to the aforementioned player, especially during transitions, to facilitate supply to the wingers while also proving to be a goal threat. In Bayern’s season opener against Werder Bremen for instance, the first goal scored by Bayern involved a brilliant one-touch release by Kane for Sané, who did the rest.

Kane’s role as facilitator is underrated, and could prove yet an ace up Bayern and Tuchel’s sleeve in attacking plans this season. Very similar to this role is the role of a half-space playmaker, which Kane is also undoubtedly adept at playing.

Gimme some space to interpret

Graphic demonstrating tactics.
Kane functioning as a left half space AM, as in the game against Werder Bremen.
Schnitzel (using

Everyone and their dog knows that Thomas Müller is the best in the game when it comes to interpreting space and making use of the left and right half-spaces to create diversions and fashion chances. But what if he’s paired up with Kane to dominate those spaces? We could see something similar to the Müllendowski partnership, and while Kane might not score as many goals, he might create A LOT more in this setup.

Notice how player triangles form on both sides. Alphonso Davies and Mazraoui would ideally move up to complete the passing triangles, similar to what we saw under Julian Nagelsmann, while the No. 6 (could be Joshua Kimmich, Konrad Laimer, or whoever else is eager to defend) moves in between the center backs to function as an additional defender. This would ensure stability while providing the half-space interpreters with many options.

Of course, the main game plan will continue to be fashioning chances for Kane to finish, but allowing Kane to transition to a half-space attacker would give Bayern an effective method to attack low blocks and deal with situations where Kane is heavily marked by the opposition. Pairing Müller and Kane in the middle, while using Leroy Sané and Coman to stretch the pitch would give the attackers a lot of room in the final third, leading to loads of chances.

Finally, we bring to the table a potential late-game trump card pairing, in the event that goals are desperately needed. If Kane on his own is a handful, imagine pairing him up with another striker. But this striker has different attributes, like amazing speed, top shot power, and the versatility to function as a wide forward. Yes, I’m talking about Mathys Tel.

Pray Tel, how many more goals?!!

Graphic demonstrating tactics.
Kane and Tel running riot up top as a strike duo.
Schnitzel (using

This graphic explains itself. Kane up front right in the center, with Tel demanding attention from the defense. Tel is placed more towards the wing, where he can attack spaces with his pace and dribbling. Goretzka moves up to fill space behind the striker (could be replaced by Musiala, who has also shown he can function as a No. 8), while Kimmich plays the role of regista. Sané and Coman can cut in from the wings, something they are quite fond of doing.

This formation would provide versatility up front and prove a handful for opposition defenses since Tel is pretty good at positional interchanges. Of course, Moose could play a similar role, but I fancy Tel for this one because of how much he has impressed me so far. This kid is the real deal, and he could be Bayern’s long-term striker solution if he continues to develop in this fashion.

This wraps up the tactical arsenal (no pun intended) for now. There might well be even more combinations we might get to see, while the opposite could also become true: Tuchel might choose to isolate Kane by continuing to bench Müller. Worse still, we could even encounter back 3s or midfield 5s.

There’s no arguing against Tuchel having one of the best squads on the planet, though. Let’s just hope he puts it to good use. Maybe this article will help :)

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