Bayern Munich vs Manchester City – Tactical Preview

Posted on September 27, 2011 by

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I love games like these. It should be a great test for a City side growing in confidence week-by-week. This is how the teams will probably line-up (Arjen Robben has been injured, so a place on the bench is most likely):

The basic shape for both sides will probably be a 4-2-3-1, but there are some important differences about the roles of the opposing “threes”. Firstly, Bayern’s attack provides more natural width than City’s does – especially from left-winger Franck Ribery. Silva and Nasri are passing, playmaking midfielders who do most of their damage by cutting in from their wide positions, so City can be over-reliant on their full-backs to provide the width. Micah Richards (or possibly Pablo Zabaleta if a more experienced alternative is preferred by Mancini) will be nervous about overlapping too often, though, for fear of leaving Ribery unattended. So Bayern might find it possible to quell some of City’s creative threat by keeping their midfield pivot of Tymoschuk and Schweinsteiger tight together in the centre of the pitch, protecting the back-four. Don’t be surprised to see Adam Johnson make an appearance if the away-side are chasing a goal. See, for example, City’s narrowness against Napoli – Adam Johnson (Number 11) was a 76th minute substitute:

Indeed, despite ultimately losing 2-0 at the Etihad Stadium on Saturday, Everton did a decent job of stunting City’s attacks by a) absolutely packing the centre of midfield and b) man-marking David Silva, City’s real creative fulcrum. David Moyes used four central midfield players (no conventional strikers) to limit City’s space in the areas they are most adept at creating havoc in. He also encouraged his wide-players (Seamus Coleman and Leon Osman) to stay relatively high up the pitch to try to discourage City’s full-backs from providing the required width. Ultimately, it took Balotelli’s deflected shot from the edge of the area to break the dead-lock, and then Moyes was forced to gamble by throwing on some strikers. See this Everton heatmap from Saturday, and bear in mind that numbers 8, 10 and 27 (Saha, Drenthe and Vellios respectively) featured only as late substitutes:

And then glance at this passing-map courtesy of The Guardian, and notice how few passes City were able to make in that key area in between Everton’s defence and midfield:

Another potentially significant difference in the roles of the “three” behind the striker, is that Bayern’s central player (Toni Kroos) tends to position himself more centrally, and slightly deeper than does City’s Sergio Arguero. This is probably partly because Kroos plays with more conventional wingers, but he can be a real creative force if given space by opposition midfielders:

Whereas Aguero, on the other hand, has been very impressive in his willingness to drift wide and create passing angles for the likes of Silva and Nasri. See Aguero’s heatmap vs Fulham (NB- the width is more noticeable in Aguero’s heatmaps vs Everton and Napoli, primarily because he couldn’t find any space centrally):

So, in tactical terms, the key differences are that a) Bayern’s wide attacking players provide more natural width that City’s do, and b) Sergio Aguero plays as more of a deep/wide forward, whereas Toni Kroos is more of a central attacking-midfielder. As we have seen, this has implications for the way that both sides must defend.

In terms of strategy, one can only assume Bayern will do what they normally do at the Allianz – get out and attack City will real pace and power. They can be a fantastically entertaining side to watch. Much depends on whether Mancini sticks with the bold, progressive approach he has favoured this season. He might, quite reasonably, prefer to focus on keeping things tight in defence to try to grab what would be an impressive draw away from home in the Champions League.

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Posted in: Europe, Tactics