Raghunandhanan Narasimhan writes a detailed tactical analysis of the Bundesliga match that ended Bayern Munich 8-0 Hamburger SV.
Bayern Munich played host to HSV in the Bundesliga as the away side tried to put behind their recent woeful form against the giants at the Allianz Arena. Bayern needed to consolidate their position up top as RB Leipzig have proved time and again that they are here to challenge for the title as they keep racking up the points. Bayern provided a master class on the night while HSV did not do themselves any favours with some very lax defending. Robben, Lewandowski, Thiago and Muller were all rampant on the night with Bayern able to put a resounding score line on board yet again against the HSV side.
Bayern Munich: (4-2-3-1): 1.Neuer; 27.Alaba, 6.Martinez, 8.Hummels, 21.Lahm; 6.Thiago, 23.Vidal; 10.Robben, 25.Muller 21.Costa; 9.Lewandowski
Hamburger SV: (4-2-3-1): 1.Adler; 6.Santos 5.Djorou 13.Mavraj 24.Sakai; 28.Jung 12.Walace; 17.Kostic 8.Holtby 27.N.Muller; 11.Gregoritsch
Over focusing on defending does more harm than good for Hamburger SV
One of the main reasons for the onslaught that ensued for HSV was their over reliance on defending. While this idea was not that wrong for a side that is qualitatively lesser against the best team in Bundesliga, the orientations assumed by the HSV team did them no good. Bayern have not been their fluid best this season barring a few matches. Their individual quality has been enough to see them over the line this season in a lot of matches. Bayern have shown a difficulty in breaking down well organised defences which has been a trademark for them this season as they have struggled to find a balance between linking play from the center and the flanks. However HSV’s game plan on the night had a few flaws. By focusing too much on shutting down space, HSV almost had zero focus on recovering the second balls. Their 4-2-3-1 shape was lopsided for most of the match with an increasing focus on Bayern’s right half space which shall be discussed subsequently. However, by squeezing the space on the half spaces and the flanks, HSV could do nothing to prevent the second balls being recovered in time.
This was a major reason why HSV hardly were able to muster any sort of attacks away from their half. Offering no respite, Bayern constantly kept coming at the HSV defense with brilliant pass combinations that could unsettle an organised defense. The fact that HSV paid no heed to the second balls was evident how easily Vidal’s late run to the edge of the box got Bayern their first goal with the Chilean able to slot home an excellent finish from the edge of the box, albeit under no pressure.
This was a regular occurrence in the match as Lahm and Robben combined expertly down the right. The reactions from the HSV defenders were mostly sub optimal and could not defend against the combination play from the Bayern wide men. There were always bodies in the box attacking the ball with the final line very deep for HSV.
HSV try to shut down Bayern’s right half space
Identifying Robben and Lahm as the major threats, HSV chose to overload their left hand side in order to limit their influence on that side. The drastic measures taken by HSV would supplement what was told previously about their over inclination towards defending. With Kostic and Wallace oriented heavily towards the left already, the number 10 Lewis Holtby also was asked to join the defensive duties on the left hand side. This heavy compactness on the half space led to a lot of scrappy play with Bayern refusing to be intimidated by the narrow HSV lines.
Nicolai Miller, who played on the right side for HSV, moved in to press Vidal as he was the nearest number 6 on his side. This should give a good understanding of how HSV did try to counter the Bayern Munich attack. However Carlo Ancellotti’s brilliant team selection might have proved to be just the deciding factor in this thrashing as Thiago’s presence as a deep lying playmaker and the Raumdeuter Muller in the ten space meant that Bayern had a very dynamic variant in their game play. The reactive structure helped Bayern over ride the lines in midfield with Thiago acting brilliantly as a link between the deep phases and the advancing blocks.
The subtle tweaks from Bayern to override HSV
With Lewandowski dropping deep and Muller offering himself on the overlap, the covering scheme adopted by HSV becomes muddled as the off ball movement is swift with quick interplay. Douglas Costa can find himself towards the center as the HSV players have camped themselves in the right half space. Notice how Vidal and Thiago are deep with the forwards taking control of the situation. This scenario resulted in the third goal with Lewandowski arriving late into the box after Costa had his shot blocked.
As mentioned, the presence of Muller in the number ten position meant that Bayern had a roaming forward who could link up play with the wingers at will. These roaming movements also complemented Lewandowksi’s dropping movements. With Wallace engaged in the left half space, Jung was tasked with marshalling the midfield from his deep position. This was however a very arduous task as Vidal’s late runs from midfield combined with Lewandowski dropping contributed to very simple yet effective overloads. Douglas Costa and David Alaba were often acting as relief measures when the right half space and the flank became very crowded. The over compact nature of HSV’s deep block meant that there was minimal coverage all over the pitch.
Thiago’s passes in between a congested line in midfield were instrumental in bringing Robben and Muller into play. By using swift pass combinations, Bayern could release a third man runner beyond the last line of defense to get in a cross or a cut back. This was aided by some very passive defending as the game wore on with very sub optimal reactions from the HSV players. There was not enough reactivity in the HSV organisation to counter the third man runs facilitated by the ever increasing presence of Robben and Lahm in that flank.
Bayern exploit lack of vertical compactness
After taking a handsome lead within the first half, HSV’s game plan was down the drain. However, Bayern exploited HSV through some very clever off the ball movements. Douglas Costa especially was involved in a lot of dropping movements. This accompanied by the tactical intelligence of Thiago in the middle of the pitch and the general dropping movements from Lewandowski and Muller meant that the HSV players sometimes reacted sub optimally to it. By this I mean that the players covering the zones sometimes followed them and found themselves in no man’s land. This was especially exploited by the direct nature of Hummels’ ball playing capabilities. Hummels had all the time in the world to pick out passes at his will as he was able to break all the lines with a single pass.
With Lewandowski dropping just a bit, the reactive moment from the centre back gives enough room for Coman to move onto Hummels’ long ball. The positioning of Robben in here is vital as it keeps the other centre back occupied while the over compact nature of the structure is exploited.
Despite setting out to frustrate Bayern, HSV highly lacked the organisation to carry out their plans and the vertical compactness was increasingly missing as the match wore on. This meant that the squeezing out of space on one side proved to be of little use as the lines were easily broken every now and then. There were a lot of instances when Lewandowski and later on Coman, could move on to the goal with a simple pass over the top and just a defender or two to beat at the back.
Bayern were comfortable winners on the night and the score line did them just enough justice as they were rampant and clinical up front. The tactical instability from HSV was a bit misplaced and surprising as they have the necessary acumen to play better than how they did on the night. The ploy to involve Lewis Holtby, their chief creator, on the left in defensive duties did them no good as they almost totally lost connectivity up front with their forward players remaining anonymous throughout the game. The result puts Bayern in command of the Bundesliga just as before and it is theirs to lose if they keep this quality of performance up. Ancelotti would be mightily pleased also with the performance of Thomas Muller who was extremely unselfish on the night while setting up David Alaba despite his indifferent run of form. Robben and Lahm were brilliant on the night and Lewandowski continued his impressive form in front of goal for the Bavarians.
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Raghunandhanan currently resides in India and is an avid follower of the Premier League. A fan of Manchester United, he is looking into being a full time writer of football analysis. He enjoys tactics and dreams of getting into football management someday. Check out his blog at theblindsideweb.wordpress.com for a look at his work.
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