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Tactical Analysis

Tactical Analysis: Borussia Monchengladbach 3-1 Bayern Munich | Astute tactics win the day

Luke Balls-Burgess writes a detailed tactical analysis about the Bundesliga match that finally saw the end of Bayern’s unbeaten streak at the hands of Borussia Monchengladbach.

Borussia Mochengladbach climb to third in the Bundesliga as the gap at the top is cut to just five points after an impressive win over the previously undefeated league leaders Bayern Munich. After an opening straight five defeats in the Bundesliga and after the resignation of Lucian Favre, Gladbach have put together an undefeated 10 match run which has seen them rocket back up the table. It has also seen them return back to some of their most tactically astute performances which made them such a joy to analyse last season.

Gladbach can thank their gutsy but clinically executed man-orientated pressing strategy to stifle a weakened Bayern as well as their ruthless counter-attacks which split open a bewildered Munich defence. Injuries forced Guardiola’s hand to field yet another changed line-up in his bid to further increase Bayern’s lead over Borussia Dortmund heading into the winter break however a rejuvenated Gladbach proved too much again for Guardiola as they again fail to best Gladbach now in their last three meetings.

Gladbach Munich Tactics

Line Ups:

Gladbach (3-5-2): Sommer// Elvedi, Christensen, Nordveit// Korb, Xhaka, Dahoud, Johnson, Wendt// Raffael, Stindl

Munich (4-3-3):1. Neuer//21.Lahm,17. Boateng, Benatia, Rafinha// Alonso, Martinez, Vidal// Coman, Muller, Lewandowski

Substitutions: 85’ Schulz (Dahoud), 88’ Dirmic (Raffael), 91’ Hazard (Stindl)// 66’ Rode (Alonso), 75’ Ribery (Lewandowski)

Goals: 54’ Wendt, 66’ Stindli, 68’ Johnson// 81’ Ribery


Gladbach welcomed the, before now, undefeated Bayern to Borussia-Park with a gutsy man-marking strategy which sought to suffocate the Munich creatives on the ball in their build-up phase of possession. A high pressure man-marking strategy should not be employed lightly as it is a defensive system which forces the using team to react to their opposition and allows the opposing team to dictate their pressers defensive shape should they be technically capable. However, Gladbach’s commitment and execution of their man-marking aggression meant Bayern struggled to control their game in their usual ruthless manner.

Gladbach man orientated press

Gladbach stuck close to the central figures of Bayern’s build-up, always ensuring the likes of Jerome Boateng and Xabi Alonso were placed under heavy pressure, removing Bayern’s accurate long balls from their game which could’ve easily exploited Gladbach’s manipulated defensive shape. Bayern’s midfield ‘3’ of Alonso, Vidal and Martinez struggled to circulate possession of the ball under the Gladbach pressure as not one was as press resistant as other squad members such as Thiago or Phillip Lahm. Gladbach’s man-marking strategy often forced Bayern’s midfield into receiving the ball in poor body positions facing their own goal, meaning Bayern couldn’t dictate their opponents positions as freely as they would like as this slowed down their possession game.

Bayern enjoyed most of their success when transitioning offensively on the ball, Gladbach spent most of the game playing with a back ‘3’ both in possession and out of possession in most scenarios. However, due to the lack of technical quality among Galdbach’s back ‘3’ () they too struggled to circulate the ball quickly before launching the ball into their forward line thus inviting the Bayern press forward. In many scenarios, Gladbach created issues for themselves when their lack of technical quality often led to a misplaced pass being intercepted by Bayern’s first or second line of pressure, creating various 3v4/4v4 counter attacking oppurtunities, where Bayern could exploit the spaces in the wide areas thanks to Gladbach’s shape in build-up.

Bayern press

As Martinez pressures Dahoud into making a mistake, Coman can capitilise and attack his fullback 1v1 with plenty of options to cross to inside the box, Muller unfortunately wasted the opportunity when the ball eventually fell to his feet.

Gladbach did struggle initially to mount any meaningful offence as their offensive set-up was based around a direct style of play. Gladbach forsook the midfield areas on the pitch in favour of feeding the ball into their frontline early perhaps seeking to win fouls in and around the Bayern penalty area and/or to draw Bayern’s offensive players deeper more quickly thus making them less dangerous offensively in transition.

Gladbach direct play shape

Bayern’s ability to defend their own goal whilst running towards it did prevent Gladbach from creating any clear cut chances in the first half but it was in the second half when it all fell apart for Bayern.

A moment of quality combination play down Bayern’s right hand side between Fabian Johnson and Oscar Wendt opened the scoring for Gladbach as they made their way into Bayern’s box and thus scoring the first league goal of the season Bayern have conceded in the second half. With a newfound confidence, Gladbach’s speedy transitional play began to open up Bayern more frequently as the league leaders searched for an equaliser. Gladbach’s one/two touch play moving the ball forward created numerous issues for Bayern, namely removing the defensive quality in Bayern’s midfield provided by Martinez and Vidal and instead forcing the immobile Alonso to cover greater amounts of space as the Bayern backline was struggling to cope with the Gladbach play into the channels. The set-piece which led to Gladbach’s second came as a result of a long ball from Gladbach behind Phillip Lahm, which created a 4v3 opportunity in favour of Gladbach as Rafinha was dragged across into the centre of Bayern’s penalty area, leaving Julian Korb free at the far post to test the outstanding Manuel Neuer, whose ankle temporarily delayed the concession of Gladbach’s second. This move highlighted Bayern’s struggles chasing the game, missing the quality of the likes of Arjen Robben and Douglas Costa in their forward line, Bayern conceded possession on the halfway line as their backline was still advancing, leaving gaps behind their fullbacks and allowing Gladbach the opportunity to take advantage of the number of men they threw forward. The final nail in the Bayern coffin came moments later as a sloppily executed offside trap was beaten by the run of the industrious Fabian Johnson whose 1 on 1 effort was poked home past a frustrated Neuer.


Bayern clearly struggled to cope with the losses of some key players in their match day squad, unlikely to field the likes of Robben, Thiago, Costa or Gotze all due to injury. All these players could’ve helped Bayern to escape the Gladbach press and would add much better technical quality throughout Bayern’s midfield and forward line. While it was a rather poor performance from Bayern, it was an exceptional performance from Gladbach who provided a masterclass in counter-attacking thus reinforcing the Bundesliga’s fearsome reputation for playing host to a number of deadly counter-attacking teams. One positive for Bayern however was that after 9 months out from injury, Ribery looked as sharp as ever coming off the bench to reignite the Bayern frontline and slot away a tidy side-foot finish giving Guardiola a much needed extra option when you consider the recent injury to Douglas Costa.

Written by Luke Balls-Burgess.

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