This years Bayern Munich squad have been proclaimed as something of legendary. They are the nigh indestructible club that have laid waste to their opponents clinically and efficiently. Where Jupp Heynckes promoted a side with massive physical presence, Pep Guardiola created an appealing creative nature, one that has supporters screaming for more.
The question is, are they better than they were last year?
Such a question is best answered by retrospection. A perspective on the famous treble-winners’s two seasons (2012-13 and 2013-14) is what we offer. Here’s our analysis on the team:
Bayern Munich (Year 2012-13) | Jupp Heynckes Tactics
Bayern Munich was known as one of the most complete teams at that time. They were powerful defensively; to such an extent that Neuer was rarely ever challenged! Solid formations and a well rounded back four meant that gaps were seldom found in the defence. Jerome Boateng, David Alaba, Dante and skipper Philipp Lahm had done a brilliant job last year.
The team usually played with a 4-2-3-1 formation and made brilliant use of their wings to make their runs. Franck Ribery, one of the fastest and best dribblers in the team, was often found flying through defences, while ArjenRobben’s right-wing-left-foot shot (as we like to call it) found the net quite often.
Their typical plays involve balls being dribbled or crossed into the centre without holding much possession and a very small amount of passing as compared to other clubs, for example Barcelona.
Their numerous overlapping runs (take a bow Philipp Lahm and David Alaba) and constant counterattacking play was what poked holes in Barcelona’s defence in the Champion’s League semi-finals.
Their creativity stemmed from the wings as compared to the centre, and Toni Kroos played an integral role in supporting the attackers, them being Mario Mandžukić or Mario Gomez. Added to that was the entire team’s innate ability to keep running for the entire 90 minutes! Not many teams can boast of the same. Unfortunately, they were quite dependent on their team for that very attribute. If certain players, an example Müller, could not last the entire game, they would fall short in the last phase.
While Kroos would play out to the wings more often than not, Müller (who replaced Kroos once he was injured) chose to pressurize the opponents and then find the strikers. The team relied heavily on its central midfielders, encouraging them to make deeper runs. The exquisite pivoting play of Javi Martinez and Bastian Schweinsteiger made the team even more complete and left opponents scratching their heads as they tried to decipher the unique Bayern style.
The defence and wings of the Bayern of 2012 were phenomenal and to add to that was their overpowering team chemistry.
At the same time, they fell short on set pieces; that was their only significant and not too glaring weakness. The reason for this shortcoming is quite unclear till date, considering the colossal standards of the club.
Bayern Munich (Year 2013-14) | Pep Guardiola Tactics
Bayern Munich has flourished a lot under the management of Pep Guardiola, who chose to undertake the ever-daunting task of managing a treble-winning club, while at the same time keeping up with the standards that Bayern set last year, and the monumental personal goals he set while managing Barcelona. He has certainly done an unparalleled job, considering that the team has already won the Bundesliga, are in the semi’s of the DFB Pokal and have reached the quarter-finals of the UCL, with promise of going further.
Bayern Munich, this year, has dominated in possession, much more as compared to last year. Their high pressure play has meant doomsday for any opponent with a sub-par defence, and even teams with a wall-like defence crumbled beneath the force that Bayern exhibited.
A formational change in the club meant that Pep Guardiola preferred a 4-1-4-1 formation over the traditional 4-2-3-1 structure that Bayern created on the field in the past.
One of their main tactics was to force the opponent’s play out wide, and win possession at the edges before counterattacking. They involved their defenders in the game as well, preferring that they push forward as much as possible and assist in pass-play and wing passes. Added to this was their build-up. It evolved in such a way that it began from the back, and then the play was spread out.
As per their new formations and plays, Toni Kroos, Thiago Alacantra and Bastian Schweinsteiger have been seeing a lot more of the ball.
As compared to JuppHeynckes’ managed Bayern, this season creativity was given greater importance as strength in the central midfield, and as a result Javi Martinez has been finding it a tough task to be a part of the starting 11, and even when brought onto the pitch, he was given a position of centre-back.
Mario Mandžukić was used less in passing play this season; his teammates did their best to find him with early crosses, looking to exploit his gift for accurate and powerful headers. With his height and his prowess with aerial shots, he was just the man for the job.
This year, they have made some brilliant possession play, and creative play was not lacking in the club. The use of Schweinsteiger as a single pivot was also a brilliant tactical play on Pep’s front.
Unfortunately, weaknesses were quite abundant as well. Bayern’s build-up had been slowed down dramatically, and they were left vulnerable to counterattacks that were focused in the middle of the pitch. The raw physicality of the Heynckes managed Bayern had a more profound effect on the club.
Jupp Heynckes and Pep Guardiola created two unique teams, each with their own benefits. Keeping that in mind, we feel that Bayern Munich under Jupp was created specifically for the dominating play that has made Bayern one of the best plays around, and all-in-all, was the better side, with less significant weaknesses. Maybe Pep will work his magic again next year and improve the Bayern side even more.
What do you’ll think? Were Bayern Munich better last season or have they improved under Guardiola?