Bayern came into this game to further enhance their role at the top of German football. Dortmund needed to prevent them from doing so in order to salvage something from a rather disappointing season.
The game had a good pace about it, but it struggled to really kick off. It evolved further in the second half, with complete end-to-end action. Extra time was forced after both failed to find the back of the net. Deep into extra-time Robben snuck in at the far post after a host of individual errors, putting Guardiola’s side 1-0 up. With Dortmund pushing forward, gaps opened up and Muller got one more just before half-time, to complete a double in Germany.
Borussia Dortmund 0-2 Bayern Munich
Borussia Dortmund: Weidenfeller, Sokratis, Hummels, Piszczek, Schmelzer, Sahin, Jojic (Aubameyang 83′), Grosskreutz (Hofmann 110′), Reus, Mkhitaryan (Kirch 60′), Lewandowski
Bayern Munich: Neuer, Dante, Boateng, Martinez, Hojberg (Van Buyten 102′), Rafinha, Lahm (Ribery 31′ 0 Pizzaro 109′, Kroos, Robben, Gotze, Muller
Pep reverts to a Jupp like approach
The past few weeks has seen a lot of criticism leveled against Pep Guardiola, unfairly we might add. Despite winning the Bundesliga in record time, with enthralling football, and a domination that would make dictators proud, Guardiola has been faced with questions over his system and ideology, this because he was comfortably knocked out of the Champions League by Ancelotti’s Real Madrid. While that definitely did raise questions, it would be wrong to lament Guardiola for his style. This debate has also prompted some to suggest Bayern won the league too early, a ridiculously fair argument.
A lot of the criticism has stemmed from Guardiola’s decision to shift the side that suits his style of play, seen at Barcelona, rather than suit the system that was already in place. A case of not needing to fix it if it isn’t broke. But it is that change that saw Bayern so convincingly steamroll themselves to their 24th Bundesliga title, way back in March when most leagues still had 3-4 contenders vying for the title. Many experts and Bayern supporters seem to be of the opinion that Jupp’s style was probably better than what the Spaniard is implementing. Though our stand remains that Guardiola is well within his right to change the system, which only takes time to transition (it’s remarkable that they’ve done the double in this apparent weaker approach), that debate is for another day.
It is interesting to note though, that Bayern actually played a system against Dortmund yesterday which was reminiscent of the exceptional side we saw last season under Heynckes. Though they retained much of Guardiola’s passing philosophy, finishing with a superior 64% possession, their general playing style didn’t involve as much passes but rather a more direct game. Bayer were seen playing more long balls than usual to a fluid attacking third. A good combination of Guardiola & Heynckes can do wonders for the Bavarian club. A lot of Bayern’s chances were created through this direct approach; a system where they basically countered Dortmund’s counter with a quick ball in.
This sytem was further helped by the fluidity of Bayern’s attacking third, which was the biggest factor in last season’s treble winning side. Gotze, Robben & Muller were in the front three with the Dutchman dictating play and symbolising what Bayern’s approach was in the zone. His movement and pace was causing lots of problems to the Dortmund defence, as it was hard for even viewers to truly understand if there was any positional system in the attacking third. All three front men interchanged placed comfortably with Robben even taking up a central role, Muller drifting wide. Gotze was the obvious weakness whose movement wasn’t as threatening as the other two.
Robben & Muller also turned up as the scorers, reemphasising their role in big games, always turning up at the right moment and lifting their performance. It’s remarkable how mentally efficient the two are in such games, a great asset in any player, as much as raw skill & talent.
Bayern go with three at the back
Another change in Guardiola’s system was the decision to go with three at the back, something whice we’re seeing Guardiola do for the first time in his Bayern tenure and possibly his career as well (correct me if i’m wrong with a comment below, good chance that I might be. Update: I’ve been corrected). Boateng & Dante were the usual centre-backs and Guardiola opted to play Martinez deeper than usual. Now we’ve seen how one holding midfielder is usually much deeper than the rest, with the primary duty of providing cover to the back line. It was a pretty similar approach but Martinez was played so deep that it put him in the same line as the centre-back duo.
This was an obvious tactical change from Guardiola to prevent Dortmund from getting much benefit in the attacking third. It was a system to prevent future player, Robert Lewandowski, and Marco Reus to combine easily in an attacking sense. Martinez would in fact directly battle Reus and try to completely shut out the creative wheel of the Klopp side. While Dortmund do need to be blamed for missed chances, Martinez had a large part to play in preventing the opponents from finding a way through.
To put Martinez’ performance in to perspective, statistically, he made 3 tackles and 3 interceptions; a decent return. A remarkable 14 clearances, more than anyone else on the pitch. He successfully won 6 aerial duels, another master stroke to ensure his height was used to his advantage in a defensive capacity. He had an 88% pass completion rate which was more than any Dortmund player, also attempting 92 passes which too was more than any Dortmund player. His passing didn’t involve much in terms of creativity, more to do with recycling of possession. But his role in the side was crucial in ensuring victory.
Rafinha was played on the left, and 18-yr-old Höjbjerg was on the right making just his 3rd start of the season; one for #TalentRadar to watch next season. The two were played as typical wing backs with constant forward runs. More than providing an attacking threat, this was instrumental in ensuring Dortmund were pegged back from the start. It was a system to defend from the front. Rafinha and Höjbjerg made 11 successful tackles between them in rather advanced positions. This was probably not planned as a system to defend from the front, but it certainly worked that way (stats via WhoScored.com)
While this three-man system did yield good results with Martinez in particular, a lot still has to be tweaked to implement it more efficiently. It isn’t something Guardiola will do too often, but it was definitely pleasing to see he has different systems up his sleeve as and when needed. To call him ‘past it’ is just a ridiculous statement, the Spaniard too is capable of dynamism and versatility, making him one of the best tacticians in the game, still.
Dortmund once again display how a deep defensive set-up isn’t the only way to contain Bayern
Borussia Dortmund earned quite an incredible victory a few weeks back against Bayern Munich, beating them 3-0 at the Allianz Arena. And at the Olympic Stadium in Berlin, Dortmund matched up to the Bundesliga champions for large parts of the game. Bayern’s attack was kept largely under control through a committed Dortmund side.
Klopp didn’t set out his side to play a more deep & defensive system, which has proved successful in forcing Bayern’s attack into a struggle. Instead, the manager maintained his usual philosophy. Their emphasis on a counter attacking system was retained, their usual pressing approach was evident. This latter factor has been the biggest reason of success under Jurgen Klopp. The midfielders were made to work hard and they kept up to their task. This is something we saw earlier as well, as Dortmund defeated Real Madrid and nearly knocked them out in the Champions League.
Although Klopp’s men fell short, late on, through a combination of individual errors, the basic approach to contain teams like Bayern is successful. While defensive football is more successful against such sides, Dortmund have found a way to maintain their attacking ideology and use that as a defensive tactic.
Where does this leave them?
Bayern have now completed a double in Guardiola’s first season, it’s also the third time they’ve successfully defended their DFB Pokal title, Felix Magath being the last one. And though a lot has to be done to understand the reason for the Champions League exit and the way the team dropped off after winning the league, it’s been a more than successful campaign. Guardiola didn’t equal Heynckes’ record last season, but you couldn’t have expected him to in his first season either.
Klopp might feel hard done by the final result of Dortmund 0-2 Bayern. They looked good for large parts but a moment of individual error, compiled with wasted chances, ended their hopes of some silverware. They’ve been ravaged by injuries but can’t afford to have another season where they finish 19 points off the title winners. An important summer awaits after back-to-back trophyless seasons.
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