Tonight showed us all just why this fixture has been labelled as the ‘Super’ Cup. It’s a fixture that has traditionally been full of goals, and this one had it’s fair share of action, with goals, cards, and two managers who regularly produce blockbusters.
2013 Champions League winners Bayern, led by Guardiola, came into this game as favourites. Pep was looking for his 3rd UEFA Super Cup title, while Bayern had failed to secure one in three previous attempts. Chelsea had one Super Cup to their name but Mourinho was looking for his first. Guardiola had already lost the German Super Cup a few weeks back, so he had an added incentive in this renewal of old rivalries.
It was a game filled with class, with technically gifted players, tactically astute managers, and truly one of the best UEFA Super Cups in recent memory.
Bayern’s Forward Play
Pep Guardiola is known as a coach who loves to maintain ball possession, and has his teams create overloads in central areas in order to keep and distribute the ball effectively. In his time at Barcelona, he did this with a fantastic midfield trio, but at Bayern, a team that has a lot more physical capabilities, the Catalan is trying a different method of maintaining possession.
The centre backs drifting into wide areas is a concept that we saw applied at Barcelona as well, and the two Bayern players, Boateng and Dante did this well enough on the night. In between them, taking up the role of the deep lying playmaker, was Toni Kroos. Kroos provided vertical flexibility when he occupied this role. Later, it was taken up by Martinez in order to allow Kroos to gallop forward and link play. Lahm, who also started in midfield, was the runner from deep. His job was to enter the opposition box late, and get back to give the midfield additional cover.
During this phase, the two full backs would move up and occupy areas of the pitch that would generally be occupied by a central midfielder. This meant that Bayern had an overload on Chelsea at the back if Chelsea chose to sit deep, and in midfield if Chelsea chose to press high with their front 4.
In attack, the Bayern front 4 were a flexible and inter-changeable lot. In the beginning, we saw Mandzukic drifting to the left and attracting defenders to make space for Muller. At other points we also saw the likes of Ribery at the deeper tip of this diamond. The diamond was one which could be used to provide width on one end, and allow for penetrating passes as well.
This was generally how Bayern set up when in possession of the ball, in an attempt to over-power Chelsea.
Chelsea Pressing and Counters
Mourinho had to stop Bayern playing easily in order to stop them from destroying Chelsea. So, Chelsea decided to press Bayern Munich, but different types of pressing were utilised in different parts of the field. Chelsea pressed hard to win the ball in Bayern’s third, as they probably identified a weakness in the passing abilities of the back 4. However, when Bayern did get the ball into midfield, Chelsea stopped their aggressive press, and shifted to a form of pressing where the defending players looked to close the spaces that the attackers were likely to pass into. This slightly relaxed outlook spared Chelsea a wild goose chase.
In terms of their attack strategy, Chelsea looked to counter through the wings. This is an area that Bayern’s attacking formation doesn’t really cover well. Therefore, teams that move swiftly down the wings can catch Bayern on the break. Chelsea scored their goals after coming in from wide areas.
On the night, Mourinho decided to attack down the right side. This is because David Alaba loves to get forward in support of Ribery, and often goes beyond him. The pacy Andre Schurrle was placed here, and the German exploited the weakness well, making 4 key passes, and notching up an assist as well.
Bayern Adding Width
After Ramires was sent off, Chelsea needed to shut shop, and defend their spaces very carefully. In order to draw them out, Bayern Munich tried to stretch the game. Guardiola brought on Shaqiri, a winger who generally goes on the outside, for Robben, who was cutting inside very often. He also brought on Gotze, to pick through balls in a stretched defence. After these changes, the inter-changing of positions within the system virtually came to an end. Towards the close of extra time, Bayern relied almost solely on crosses and their ability to stretch the opposition defence.
As Chelsea went deeper, Bayern changed their approach, and began floating in angled crosses from deeper areas. By doing so, they leveraged the number of bodies they had in the box, maximising their scoring chances. Cech was forced into some fantastic saves because of such crosses, and the equaliser also evetually came about as a result of such a cross.
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