In this week’s match analysis, we will analyze the clash between first place and third place Bundesliga sides, Bayern Munich vs RB Leipzig. This six goal thriller featured two of the best teams in the Bundesliga, competing for top spot in the league. Had Leipzig won this match, it would have seen them move into first place.
Two distinct tactical styles were on display during this match. Bayern opted for a relentless press when out of possession while Leipzig looked to sit back and absorb pressure when the ball reached their own half. However, Leipzig would press Bayern if the ball had gone deep into the Bayern half, as we will see. Bayern would rather build an attack out from the back and slowly better their position, while Leipzig looked to get the ball forward as quickly as possible.
Bayern Munich deployed a 4-2-3-1 and put out a full strength side featuring captain Manuel Neuer, full-backs Benjamin Pavard and Alaba, with center-backs Jerome Boateng and Niklas Süle. Pavard would often shift into central defense, acting as a right sided center-back and forming a back three when Bayern struggled to break through the Leipzig block. Leon Goretzka was joined by Javi Martínez who came off for 17-year-old Jamal Musiala due to injury. Kingsley Coman and Leroy Sané occupied the flanks, with Thomas Müller playing behind Robert Lewandowski. Oftentimes Müller would act as a second striker, making late runs from midfield.
RB Leipzig deployed a 4-3-3, which often transitioned into a 4-4-2 with Christopher Nkunku shifting from the front three into midfield. Péter Gulácsi started in goal, with Angeliño, Dayot Upamecano, Ibrahima Konaté, Nordi Mukiele in front of him. Marcel Sabitzer, Tyler Adams, Christopher Nkunku, Amadou Haidara made up the midfield. The forward line consisted of Justin Kluivert and Emil Forsberg. On with the show!
Under Hans-Dieter Flick, Bayern have been intelligent pressing machines. Below we see an example of this. Receiving the ball is Haidara. Before he even gets the ball Goretzka presses from behind, and Coman presses from the front while continuing to shield Mukiele. Lewandowski covers Konaté and Müller covers Adams. Haidara has no passing options in any direction and will therefore lose the ball. Bayern rely on players like Sané to run into the central space left vacant by his teammates and opponents, as we see below, so that when the ball is won by Bayern, they can be assured that they will have a player immediately ready and available tor receive a pass.
Now looking at RB Leipzig, we do not see many differences. The first similarity is that Leipzig rely on a player to wait in central space for when the team wins the ball. Below, we see just that. Haidara is in acres of space and an receive the ball if his side wins it through pressing. However, the key difference between the two sides in their press is that Leipzig will only press once Bayern have moved the ball deep into the Bayern half. The idea is that they are more likely to win the ball or force a turnover in possession by pressing the defenders and goalkeeper, than Bayern’s more technical midfield players.
Bayern used several different methods of building an attack out from defense. At first, they used a flat back four, with midfielders Goretzka and Martinez dropping deeper to deal with the Leipzig front men. On the ball below is Boateng. He can use Goretzka and Pavard if he’d like to move play to the right side of the field, or Martinez, Süle and Alaba if he prefers the right. Pavard often acted as a right sided central defender, or, as full-back that only added width to the defensive line. Using this system, Bayern outnumber Leipzig seven to five, ensuring an easy build up.
As Bayern moved the ball up the pitch, their players were given more freedom. Below, Boateng is on the ball. Forsberg shields Goretzka who stays between the midfield and defensive lines. Bayern cannot use him as a vertical passing option, so, they must go wide or backwards. Pavard is seen on the far right, drawing his marker. Martinez is seen on the far left, as Alaba pushes forward to provide attacking width. The difference here is that Martinez doesn’t have a marker. Kluivert follows Forsberg and the rest of the Leipzig mid-block, which leaves Martinez space to receive the ball and exploit the wide areas. Bayern used the wide spaces to get in behind the Leipzig mid and low blocks by overloading one side at a time.
This six goal thriller was not short of chances. Up first we see Bayern deploying Alaba and Sane as high and wide as possible. This is to draw the focus of the Leipzig full-backs. Müller drops in between the Leipzig defensive and midfield lines, drawing his marker Konaté out of position. Coman has come inside from the wing, so he and Lewandowski can go at the Leipzig defense in a two versus two attack. All Goretzka had to do was play an over the top pass and Bayern scored.
This attacking tactic was used several times by Bayern Munich because RB Leipzig did not adjust their defensive shape. Müller and Lewandowski drop between the lines, with Goretzka dropping between the Leipzig midfield and forward line to receive the ball. Alaba and Sané take up high and wide positions again to pull their markers out of position, giving their forward teammates more space to use. Süle again has many options.
Leipzig on the other hand chose to use quick transitions and risky vertical passes to counter-attack Bayern. Below we see a common idea: Forsberg drops deep to pick up the ball, wide players Nkunku and Kluivert run into the space behind the defense and stay wide, Forsberg passes it into the space. This Leipzig counter-attacking tactic was used frequently because of how effective it was.
Out of possession Leipzig deployed a 4-4-2 mid-block. Bayern have Sané and Alaba very wide on the right side of the pitch. Leipzig ignored them, allowing them to exploit this space. Bayern also played Müller and Lewandowski in between the defense and midfield lines. They are encouraged to play in the space between the lines, as well as the space between the central Leipzig midfielders.
Bayern also deployed a 4-4-2 mid-block out of possession, however, Leipzig approached the attack differently. Adams moves into the space between the forward and midfield Bayern lines, as well as the space between the Bayern central midfielders. Forsberg and Sabitzer come inside, closer to midfield. This draws Sané inwards, leaving space behind him for Forsberg and Sabitzer to attack should Leipzig decide to use that side of the pitch. Sané frequently avoids defensive duties and Leipzig knew this. Leipzig exploited this by deploying two attacking players to whatever flank Sané is on.
After analysis, we see that Bayern’s attacking threat relied on their technical players, intelligent pressing and tactical ideas. However, as rarely as it was, they remained vulnerable against one of the best counter-attacking sides in the world. This season in the Bundesliga is not so easy to call as only five points separate first and fifth place. Bayern have stiff competition this year and can’t afford to be careless like they were this week.
Leipzig are in third after this result, just one point behind second place Bayer Leverkusen. Under the leadership of astute tactician Julian Nagelsmann, the sky’s the limit for this team. Though, they will be disappointed to have not won this match as they found themselves in the lead twice.