In this analysis, we will be observing the tactics of Rudi Garcia and Hans-Dieter Flick in their recent champions league semi-final clash. Bayern eventually won the game by 3-0. This tactical analysis will look to the tactics of both teams on and off the ball and what worked and did not work for both sides.
Bayern lined up in a 4-2-3-1 formation and retained the same formation or shape during the defensive phase. Thomas Müller as a central attacking midfielder, Ivan Perišić as the left midfielder and Serge Gnabry as the right midfielder. Bayern used two pivots, Thiago Alcântara and Leon Goretzka. The fullbacks, Joshua Kimmich and Alphonso Davies would often go forward during the attacking phase, as we will see this in this tactical analysis.
Lyon, on the other hand, lined up in a 3-5-2 formation and shifted to 5-3-2 formation with Memphis Depay and Ekambi upfront. Bruno Guimarães played as a pivot, Maxwell Cornet and Léo Dubois as the wingbacks.
Bayern’s high press and Lyon’s build-up
In this section, we will be analyzing the high pressing system of Bayern. The base structure of Bayern’s press is 4-2-3-1 with Müller pressing the opposition’s pivot. The lone striker would try to force the opponent to play towards the flanks. Against a back-3, Bayern’s wingers would press the wide center-backs while cutting the lane wide. One of the pivots would press the opposition’s midfielder, while the other would remain more central so as to create an overload if the opposition tries to play it to their target man.
In the image below, we see an example of this. Here, Bayern are pressing with 4-2-3-1 formation with Müller more man-oriented towards Lyon’s pivot, Guimarães. Gnabry is pressing the wide-center back and is able to balance between the wing and center, and so is in a position to press either should they get the ball. Robert Lewandowski would then try to force the goalkeeper to play either towards the flanks or to a long ball to Lyon’s target man, Depay. In addition to this, one of the pivots would remain more central and the other marking the opposition’s midfielder. In this particular image, Davies and Perišić have switched position briefly but the main idea of pressing in Bayern’s 4-2-3-1 system remains the same.
Bayern’s high line also makes them vertically compact and difficult to play through at times. To overcome this, Lyon used Depay as their target man, often playing the long balls to him with Ekambi trying to win the second ball. The images below highlight this pattern of play from Lyon. Here, Muller is again man-marking Guimarães, wingers pressing the wide center-backs, and Lyon’s goalkeeper would then play a long ball to their target man Depay.
Bayern’s attacking play
In this game, Bayern had 66% of ball possession as Lyon were happy to relinquish possession and defended deep in a 5-3-2 formation. During the offensive phase, Müller acts a roaming number ten, and operates between the lines and will often move into the half-space, allowing Bayern to create overloads. The technical ability of Bayern’s wingers/ wide midfielders and their timed movements allow Bayern to progress the ball through the half-spaces.
In the image below, we see an example of Bayern’s attacking shape. One of the advantages of playing two pivots is one of them can drop in the defense to create a backline of 3, it allows the center backs to move wider. The additional width of the back three also allows for the full-backs to push higher and wider, which then increases access to the half-space. The other pivot would then pin the opposition’s midfielder. In this game, Goretzka pinned the opposing midfielder while Thiago dropped deep. The wide midfielders Perišić and Gnabry pinned Lyon’s wide center-backs, and Müller acted as a roaming number ten.
The images below highlight the attacking system of Bayern. Here, Müller and Goretzka have pinned two of Lyon’s midfielders, Perišić and Gnabry, the two wingers/wide-midfielders have pinned Lyon’s two wide center-backs, and Thiago dropped in the defense to create a backline of 3, which then allowed the fullbacks push higher and wider.
Throughout this season, Bayern’s movement around the half-spaces has been lethal, the width is provided by the fullback and the wingers occupy the half-spaces, combining this with the excellent off the ball movements of Müller.
In addition to this, Bayern used player rotation to pull Lyon’s center-backs out of their lines and often created a 2v1 situation on the right flank. As mentioned above, Müller acted as a roaming number ten, in this example, he moved to the right flank and provided the width, this left Lyon’s wingback Cornet in 2v1 situation with Kimmich and Müller. Alaba has 3 different options to play the pass to his players. 42% of Bayern’s total attacks came from the right side.
Lyon’s counter-attacking play and Bayern’s buildup
As mentioned above, Lyon defended deep in a 5-3-2 formation, the idea was to relinquish possession in order to create better goal-scoring opportunities. For the first 17 minutes of the match, Bayern kept a high line and during the offensive phase of Bayern, both the fullbacks were up, the holding midfielders didn’t drop in the defense. Lyon tried to exploit the gaps created by fullbacks.
In the image below, we see an example of this, Here, both are fullbacks are up, the holding midfielders didn’t drop in the defense to cover that space and with just one pass the counter-attack was on. But as the match progressed one of Bayern’s pivots would drop in the defense to stop the counter-attacking play from Lyon.
In this game, Lyon had only 34% of the ball possession but they had 9 attempts.
The image below highlights Lyon’s 5-3-2 shape during the defensive phase.
In addition to this, Lyon’s pressing was not as intense as Bayern’s pressing. At times, they allowed Bayern’s center-backs to carry the ball forward and offered very little resistance. Lyon pressed with 5 men, as we can see in the below image, Thiago was pressed by Depay but Lyon allowed Alaba to carry the ball forward and he has multiple options to pass. In addition to this, during the build-up phase, Müller would often drop in the central area to create a 2v1 situation in the midfield.
Although Lyon’s Counter attacking play did baffle Bayern but the poor finishing from Depay and Ekambi let them down. Throughout the season Bayern’s high pressing and the attacking play have been truly brilliant and exhilarating, but there is also one vulnerability to this Bayern’s system, their high line, something PSG could and would try to exploit in the champions league final. It would be interesting to see how Flick’s Bayern would line up against PSG in the final. Overall, it was a brilliant performance by Bayern as they ended Lyon’s fairytale.