In his first season at the club, Hans-Dieter Flick has seamlessly achieved success with Bayern Munich in stunning fashion, reaching the Champions League final for the club’s first time since Jupp Heynckes was at the helm in 2012-13. The former Bayern player achieved widescale success as Germany’s assistant coach, even winning the World Cup as Joachim Low’s assistant in 2014. With all his experience at international management, Flick has now taken his former side to new heights, creating the most exciting Bayern Munich team since the days of Ribery and Robben. In the 2019-20 Bundesliga season, Bayern won 26 of their 34 games, scored 100 goals in the process and won the league by 13 points over arch-rivals Borussia Dortmund. In the Champions League, they’ve fared arguably even better, winning all 10 of their games and scoring 42 goals in the process. That’s right, they’ve averaged over 4 goals per game in the toughest competition in club football this season. So, as we prepare for Sunday’s 2019-20 UEFA Champions League Final, here is a Tactical Analysis of Hans-Dieter ‘Hansi’ Flick’s Bayern Munich.
SYSTEM OF PLAY: 4-2-3-1
With a great mix of experience and youth, Hans-Dieter Flick has taken on the same approach formation-wise as his predecessor, Niko Kovac, and adopted the 4-2-3-1 formation. However, Hansi Flick’s 4-2-3-1 looks very different from Kovac’s and it shows on the pitch in Bayern’s meteoric success this season under the German manager.
In our tactical analysis of Tuchel’s PSG, we talked about the German’s willingness to give every single player in his squad a chance at contributing to their Champions League success. Hansi Flick’s Bayern Munich is a bit of a different story and Die Roten have featured a much more consistent set of the same eighteen players. This consistency in the squad has allowed Bayern Munich’s players to develop a considerable degree of chemistry and has also helped to develop the confidence of players like Alphonso Davies and Serge Gnabry, who have been given full trust to go on and express themselves.
At the base of the 4-2-3-1 is World Cup winner Manuel Neuer (as ever). Although the German has certainly seen better days, his role in the squad cannot be understated. The 34-year old is still the same sweeper keeper and key mechanism for playing out from the back that he always was. Further, with only eight goals conceded in the tournament thus far and Bayern reaching the final, the man who used to be considered the greatest goalkeeper in the world has probably climbed his way back up toward the top of those charts again. In front of him, Bayern Munich have put together a back-four few would have expected to achieve this level of success. David Alaba’s become Hansi Flick’s first-choice and quite honestly, his best centre-back, despite hardly ever playing a game there before this season. Thanks to an early season injury to Niklas Sule, the Austrian’s partnered the aging Jerome Boateng, who many thought would be phased out of the starting eleven by the arrivals of Benjamin Pavard and Lucas Hernandez. In the fullback positions, 19-year old Canadian Alphonso Davies has been one of Bayern’s key players this season, while Benjamin Pavard has offered a new stability to Bayern’s defense at right-back.
In front of the back-four, Thiago Alcantara and Joshua Kimmich have frequently interacted together as a double-pivot, allowing Thomas Muller to do all his creative brilliance further forward. Leon Goretzka and Philippe Coutinho have had to play second-fiddle to this illustrious trio, but could be extremely useful options in the final. Serge Gnabry’s been one of Bayern’s best players for the second season in a row, and his most frequent partner on the opposite flank has been Kingsley Coman. Ivan Perisic has also proven to be an excellent addition to the squad this season and may play in the final, being the more experienced out of the two wing wizards. Finally, Polish striker Robert Lewandowski has truly cemented is place in the Bayern Munich history books this season as one of the club’s greatest ever players. If Die Roten win the Champions League, Lewandowski will be the only option for the Ballon d’Or. Point blank. Game, set, match.
LEWANDOWSKI & MULLER PARTNERSHIP
Few players in world football have the same level of understanding as Thomas Muller and Robert Lewandowski. 8 of Lewandowski’s 34 Bundesliga goals were assisted by the German international this season, more than any other duo in Europe’s “top-five leagues”. The two just constantly seem to be in cahoots over how to disrupt the opposition defense – whomever they play against. Individually, their stats are pure insanity. Lewandowski scored 34 goals in 31 Bundesliga matches, assisting 4. Muller scored 8 goals, assisting 21, in 33 Bundesliga matches. Lewandowski’s never scored more; Muller’s never assisted more.
In the Champions League, Lewandowski’s scored 15 goals with 5 assists in 9 matches, while Muller’s popped up with 4 goals and 2 assists in the same amount of matches, but far fewer minutes. The understanding between the two players has been so good that it’s kept Philippe Coutinho out of the starting lineup. Muller is both fantastic at starting moves and ending them. On long-balls over the top, he is frequently the one to flick them on for a speedster to chase onto and finish, or for the big man up top – Lewandowski himself. Further, when Lewandowski finds himself trapped with no route forward, the German international is always there in the right position to help out, allowing Bayern to retain possession in dangerous areas.
Thomas Muller doesn’t always play like a traditional ‘number 10’ despite being in that position and frequently takes up positions alongside Lewandowski, rather than in behind. With Alphonso Davies often bombing forward, this also allows Serge Gnabry to take up more central positions, where he finds himself in fantastic positions to find the back of the net and be another key creator for the Bavarians. Of the team’s 100 Bundesliga goals, you would expect a high level of variety. But it is still impressive to note that Die Roten have scored 76 “open play” goals this season, 5 on the counter attack, 10 set-pieces and 6 penalties. Of those 76 open play goals (meaning strictly open play), it would be hard to find too many where at least one of the two big men up top weren’t involved. If PSG are going to struggle with any two players on Sunday night, it will likely be the Raumdauter and Golden Boot winner.
In addition to building their attacks around Lewandowski & Muller, Bayern Munich love to attack down the wings. This is evidenced by their average of 25 crosses per game in the Bundesliga and Champions League this season (the second highest in both competitions). 37% of their attacking possession comes down the right, compared to 34% on the left and 29% in the middle. Given that PSG attack down their left side most often and Bayern Munich attack down their right-side more often, the players on that side such as Gnabry, Bernat, Mbappe and Pavard look set to be the busiest on Sunday night. Interestingly enough however, their key crosser of the ball is actually defensive midfielder Joshua Kimmich, which explains a bit more why the Bavarians favour their right-side in attack. Only Thomas Muller created more chances for Bayern than Kimmich in the league, and with the 25-year old playing more minutes than Muller in the Champions League, nobody’s created more for their team in European play. When discussing Bayern’s wing play, it’s hard to ignore Alphonso Davies’ significant contribution, but Kimmich definitely deserves more credit than he gets for contributing to this style of play from the Bavarians.
Now with that said, Alphonso Davies has been a brilliant addition to Hansi Flick’s starting eleven this season and with his Flash-like speed has completed more take on’s per game (3.7) than any other Bayern player in the UEFA Champions League. In the entirety of the Bundesliga, only his teammate Thiago Alcantara, who oozes silky dribbling skills right onto the grass, has completed more take on’s – 3.0 per game to Davies’ 2.8. Kingsley Coman is also known for his dribbling skills and that might be why the Frenchman and Serge Gnabry have increasingly switched sides. With Coman operating on the right more and Gnabry, who is less likely to engage in 1v1 situations, switching over to the left, Bayern have a skillful superstar on both sides of the pitch, looking to take players on at every opportunity. But again, Davies’ ability to get up and down the line has also allowed Gnabry to take up more central positions, where he often finds himself in the box alongside Lewandowski and Muller, causing a massive headache for the opposition. When you add a player like Leon Goretzka to that mix, who is almost Frank Lampard-esque with his smartly timed runs into the box, it’s easy to see why Bayern score so many goals and utilize crosses as a mechanism for making goals happen.
LONG BALLS FROM MIDFIELD & CENTRE-BACK
Unlike PSG, Bayern spend a considerable amount of time in their opposition’s third. This may contribute to their higher ratio of shots from outside the eighteen yard box, but it doesn’t necessarily explain the fact that PSG find themselves in their opposition’s eighteen yard box and take more shots in that zone than Hansi Flick’s side. PSG are certainly more patient when they have the ball, but when they go forward it appears to be very purposeful. The same could probably be said about Bayern Munich, but that patience comes closer to their opposition’s goal. Bayern also play ball over the top more often, which aligns with their slightly higher possession statistics. Other than Manuel Neuer, these long-balls primarily come from Joshua Kimmich and Thiago Alcantara into the physical presences of Lewandowski and Muller, or into space for speedsters like Gnabry and Coman to run onto. Jerome Boateng and David Alaba also look to spread the ball long the same amount as their two central midfielders, but to a slightly less successful extent. In the Bundesliga, Thiago Alcantara has completed 6.2/8 long balls per game, with Joshua Kimmich completing 5.8/7.5. By comparison, Alaba completed 5/8 and Boateng 4.9/8.5. All of which by the way, are pretty impressive percentages. In the Champions League, Thiago and Kimmich have arguably been even more impressive, completing 8.3/10.6 and 5/6.8 attempted long balls per game respectively. It is also important to note that should Corentin Tolisso come off the bench or make a surprise start instead, he has the same positive approach to his play and could trouble PSG in the exact same manner.
PRESSING FROM THE FRONT
A feature of almost all of the best teams in the world these days, Bayern Munich press from the front with intensity and aggression. This has been a particularly positive feature of their play under Hansi Flick in comparison to Niko Kovac, where their press lacked the same ferocity. The 4-2-3-1 aids perfectly in their diamond shape in the press, with Thiago and Kimmich rarely needing to become engaged due to the intensity from the front four. Not just are they fantastic at winning the ball back high up the pitch, they are one of the best in the world in that regard. Their high-press was on full display in the semi-final against Barcelona, in which three of their first four goals came within 10 seconds of winning the ball back from high intensity pressure. PSG may not want to play out from the back to the same extent as a result. As we talked about with PSG, the Parisians’ eagerness to push their fullbacks high up the pitch may also become an issue thanks to the intensity that Flick’s wingers will undoubtedly provide in the quest to win the ball back. PSG will likely attempt to play out utilizing a very narrow approach, with both Marquinhos and one of Verratti/Paredes dropping in. That will mean Bayern’s wingers have less distance to cover in winning the ball back and Thiago Silva + Verratti/Paredes may look to go longer more often. Unfortunately for PSG, David Alaba and Alphonso Davies might collectively be the best pairing in the world at recovering from balls over the top, even with Bayern’s insanely high line. Fortunately for PSG, they look to make these long passes down the left-hand side more often where Bayern’s slightly slower Boateng, Kimmich and Pavard will need to cover instead. Mbappe’s threat in behind will undoubtedly be something for the Bavarians to keep a close eye on, particularly if their high pressing system fails to flourish to the same extent it did in the semi-final.
That said, given Hansi Flick’s impressive pressing statistics this season and their increased goal-scoring from winning the ball back within 40m of their opposition’s goal, PSG will be in real danger when playing out from the back throughout the match.
Hansi Flick has dramatically improved Bayern Munich this season. The Bavarians are better at winning the ball back, better at finding the back of the net after winning the ball back and just look on all accounts more dangerous going forward than they did under Niko Kovac. With the fantastic partnership of Robert Lewandowski and Thomas Muller, plus the rising talents of Alphonso Davies and Serge Gnabry, Bayern Munich have so much to offer going forward and could hurt PSG from any angle in the final. With this Tactical Analysis now complete, I must say that my money would be on Bayern Munich heading into the final, as PSG will have to rely on a bit more star-power than the incredible team-engine that Hansi Flick has worked tirelessly to create at the Allianz Arena.
So there it is! A brief Tactical Analysis of Hansi Flick’s impressive Bayern Munich ahead of Sunday’s Champions League Final. Be sure to check out our analysis of their opponents – PSG and see more of our Tactical Analyses. Thanks for reading and see you soon!
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