A lot took place over the last weekend. Bayern Munich got their UCL group, missed out on three players on deadline day, and beat Borussia Mönchengladbach.
(Yes, you read that right)
The victory, was, as some might call it 'scrappy'. But you take the wins you get, especially against our eternal tormentors Gladbach.
The two halves of the game were vastly different, and the game can be broken down into three parts worth an (comparative) analysis:
• Bayern's attack. Thomas Tuchel made a simple tweak in the second half, giving liberty to our previously inverted wingers and added width to our attack: something that was missing in the first half.
• Bayern's equaliser: a very simple attacking sequence which further highlights Leroy Sané's brilliance this game.
• Our defensive structure, and how Tuchel substituting Konrad Laimer for Noussair Mazraoui was monumental.
Buckle up. Let's delve into the intricacies of our game.
Evidently, our attack in the first half was unfruitful. Most of the shots Bayern Munich took were blocked, and Bayern allowed Gladbach to capitalise on set-pieces.
A key reason was our ‘inverted’ wingers.
A chance in the eighth minute, as shown above, is a good example of this. Bayern's attacking structure is cramped together, while Gladbach's low block defensive line has marked all our players, covering all potential options for us to attack.
Another example. Note the number of Gladbach players in their own box below.
Gladbach's low block proved detrimental to our inverted winger setup. It lead to overcrowding in the box, and no clear cut chances.
Same chance as before, but note Kingsley Coman's deep position. The through ball gets to Sané but there's simply too many Gladbach players. Sané still manages to get the shot off, but it hits the crossbar.
Simply put, inverting our wingers was a bad decision against Gladbach's low block, as it overcrowded our box and had all our forwards marked.
A good manager can see this mistake and make changes to counteract it; and it's exactly what Tuchel did.
In the second half, he gave our wingers freedom to utilize space and spread out, across the pitch. Take a look.
Notice Coman and Sané? They are unmarked, ready to rush in behind the Gladbach defense line. They managed to stretch out Gladbach's defenders, and utilize width: going from inverted to 'touchline' wingers.
(Side note: Laimer's attacking position. We'll discuss this in a later segment)
Here is another one.
Another very similar situation. Sané's completely unmarked, already making his run. Our attack is all over the final third and despite being outnumbered, Bayern Munich in a great attacking position in Gladbach's third: all because Tuchel had the perfect plan to use width.
(Again, note Laimer's position: ready to receive the ball and launch an attack)
One more. Watch Sane. Completely free to make the run. Gnabry too in a great position, but no passing options.
Fundamentally, our wingers were not able to get into these great positions in the first half. Tuchel's tactical tinkering paid off and allowed such chances.
It seemed as if the story of almost every Bayern attack was marked by a very quick and just as smart run from Sané.
Especially in the second half, after Sané had much more space. But his game was highlighted by his stunning equaliser, a product of — you guessed it — one of his runs into the box.
Let's take a look at a relatively simple attacking sequence.
Look at Sané. He understands Joshua Kimmich's signal, and also scans the pitch. He realises that he's completely unmarked, and he can easily get in behind the Gladbach defense line: who are all focused on the possibility of a linear action.
Kimmich too, sees this and decides on his signature long ball, one that we saw multiple times throughout the game.
Sané's on the run, Kimmich sends in the ball. Poetry. Again: look at the Gladbach defense.
It is too late before they turn to see a Sané that they have allowed to get in behind, now all set to get the ball and do what he does best.
This was expertly controlled and finished from Leroy.
Another great play from Kimmich, the first of his two assists this game.
Defensive structure and Laimer's substitution
There is not much to add about our defensive structure. It was almost flawless. Kim and Upamecano barely put a foot wrong, and had very impressive recovery speeds.
Most of Gladbach's attacking chances came from set pieces Bayern (and more often than not, Mazraoui) gave away.
A rare Gladbach counter gave us a glimpse of our defensive structure. All players are well in position and will win the ball back. Not much to comment on, Bayern was unlucky to concede from a corner.
Also, look at Laimer's recovery pace in the above pictures, winning the ball back before our defenders.
And that brings us to the final bit of this piece.
Tuchel made two game-winning tweaks at halftime. One, as discussed in detail, was changing the wingers' gameplay. The other, was a simple substitution.
Mazraoui out, Laimer in. It seemed a bit questionable at first. But it paid off.
Mazraoui took many risks, which was good for our attacking output (an 18th minute chance comes to mind). But the defensive cover wasn't there, and he was on a yellow.
Laimer came in and not only retained the same attacking output (remember the notes? He was always there for the attack) but also provided great defensive cover. A masterclass from the right-back position.
Here's a great example of his defending.
Look at Laimer. Very quick thinking as he sees the pass being made from the Gladbach player. Immediately ready to turn and win back the ball.
And he does exactly that. Winning the ball back. This is what Laimer provided and Mazraoui didn't.
The first half was not our best, but Tuchel's reaction to that and subsequent changes were brilliant. Tactically, he got it bang on.
Both Laimer's substitution and Tel's: who won us the game, were perfect.
It is these games which give the squad character, and it was a great victory for the club. Now, onto the international break!