Tactical Analysis: Bayern München 3-3 RB Leipzig

Bayern Munich 3-3 RB Leipzig
Bayern: Musiala 30’, Müller 34’,70’
RB Leipzig: Nkunku 19’, Kluivert 36’, Forsberg 48’

In a game which beforehand had Bayern as the clear favorites to win, Leipzig not only took a point away in Allianz Arena, but were also very close to win the game as they had the lead twice during the game. There are no surprises to what Nagelsmann is able to achieve and it was known beforehand that Julian has a very good statistic against Bayern. In a very high intensive game with lots of transitions and high-pressing the game finished in a fair draw.

We all know by now that Nagelsmann is able to adapt accordingly to the opponent and able to adjust his strategy and structure in order to achieve advantages during the game. RBL started in a 4-3-3 structure while in possession of the ball with Gulacsi in goal, a backline of Angelino, Upamecano, Konate & Mukiele as the defending line. A central midfield of with Adams as the #6 and Sabitzer, Haidara as two #8’s, while Kluivert and Nkunku occupied each flank, playing wide but also dynamically moving into half-space areas. Forsberg acted as a ‘’false 9’’ dropping deeper to support midfield players and create a ‘’diamond’’ centrally.

(Leipzig in their 433/442 formation and Bayern in their 4231 formation)

But without possession, Kluivert had an important role as he in deeper areas would continue ‘’acting’’ as a winger providing defensive support in wide plays but did also have the role to create a 4-4-2 structure and create a forward pair together with Forsberg in high midfield pressing or attacking pressing situations. As RBL tried to put pressure on Bayern as early as possible, the two strikers were often seen in a 4-4-2 structure and in these cases, Haidara and Nkunku acted as the two wingers with Adams & Sabitzer as double 6s.

(As seen here, the structural change from 4-3-3 to a 4-4-2 when in defending)

RB Leipzig pressing vs Bayern Positional Play

As shown in the graphics above, Forsberg & Kluivert tried to cover central passing options as they created access towards the two central defenders of Bayern. The trigger for RBL pressing is when the defender in possession either progress with play towards space in front or when the pass is being played side-ways to the ball-far CB.  In these situations one of the strikers puts pressure to force Bayern wide as the ball-far striker shifts across and covers the ball-near Bayern midfielder.

While forcing the pass to wide-zone, Nkunku presses the fullback as Sabitzer, Adams shifts across. The 6s had a very important role and especially Adams was superb in his actions from covering the passing options to attack the ball-near inside player of Bayern. He was also vital in his way to leave ‘’deeper’’ covering areas and press the player which the ball-far striker was responsible to cover.

The backline shifts across too and try to situationally man-mark the Bayern winger with the fullback on local ball area. In cases of being beaten in pressing, the backline of Leipzig were very aggressive in jumping out and put pressure on the potential ball receiver of Bayern.

Leipzig did also have situations of 4-1-4-1 especially in the 2nd half, which I will explain later in the text.

(As we can see here RBL in a 4-4-2 with Kluivert pressing Boateng, while Forsberg shifts across to situationally cover the #6 positioned player of Bayern)

(The same pressing structure but different player activating  ‘’pressing’’ trigger and pressing the central defender)

Bayern could have created better structures for progressing more ‘’clean’’ and controllable past Leipzig’s 1st pressing line but did not. There where very few occasions of when Bayern would drop wide with one of the two #6s in order  to create a 3vs2 situation against Leipzig’s two forwards.

Instead Leipzig had great success in forcing Bayern to long plays forward without much control quite early in Bayern’s build up play due to the control of the two #6’s of Bayern via cover-shadow from Forsberg & Kluivert.

(It was in this way which Bayern scored their 2nd goal of the game, when as seen above: Musiala drops a bit wider to receive the pass as he created a situational 3v2 situation and is able to progress with the ball more cleanly and attack the next defending line of Leipzig with control)

Bayern tried to create situations of overloads via flanks and ”rotating” movements in order to decrease the spatial cover of Leipzig players in defending. One situation which was common was Müller drifting wide in order to occupy Sabitzer to drift wider and open up a diagonal passing option for the fullback to play to an inverted winger (Sane) which was not used to their advantage.

Bayerns strengths in attack are their interchanges in flank & half-space areas which I call ”triangle supportive” movements. As one player attacks /position one space, the other adapts to the movement/positioning. A very visible principle is the principle of positional play that Bayern use: almost never having more than 2 players in the same vertical line and 3 player in the same horizontal line. Due to this, Bayern are able naturally and dynamically create ”triangles” or ”diamond” support in these areas in order to solve the situations.

(As Coman collected the ball and passed back to Süle, Alaba pushed higher while Coman drifted inside)

(As mentioned earlier, Müller have roamed into the wide zone while Alaba have occupied a higher position with Coman being inverted. Let’s imagine that they would play from their normal positions then Alaba would be at Müller’s position, Coman at Alaba’s, and Müller at Coman’s position. But the constant rotations and interchanges allow for this dynamical movement to succeed as we can see how a triangle is created with max two players on the same vertical line and three horizontally. If we analyze Leipzig here, Alabas movements have occupied the fullback and forced him out of position with large distance between central defender)

(As Alaba continues his run he also drags Mukiele out of position and opens up the half-space for Coman to occupy. As Haidara put pressure on Müller, it is now the #6 of Leipzig: ‘’Adams’’ who shifts across to put pressure which is logical movement in a 4-4-2 defending, but due to the rotations of Bayern, Leipzig arrive in worse timing with larger distances between them in defending)

(As Coman passes to Alaba, Müller occupied the half-space again while Coman is positioned in a higher vertical line. Alaba passes to Müller who combines with Coman and continues his run into the half-space that is now created, after passsing it to Coman. Coman is then able to drift inside as Müller occupies Adams and eventually find Musiala in-front of Leipzig penalty box, where Bayern scores their equalizer. We can notice from this situation how the positional play of Bayern affects RB Leipzig’s structure in defense and how much loss of compactness Leipzig have in this situation as Sabitzer has large distance to Adams)

(Here is another sequence of where we can analyze the ”triangle supportive” play of Bayerns positional play. Here Pavard is positioned in half-space, Müller infront between the Leipzig defending lines and Sane in the wide zone. Again the principle of maximum two players at the same vertical line can be seen here)

(As Pavard passes to Sane, he continues his run forward as Müller in the 1st sequence and occupies Sabitzer which drags him out of central areas. This while Müller rotates and comes inside to take his position in the vacated half-space. Even though this did not directly lead to a goal, the fact that Sabitzer and Adams where drawn out of positions with lack of central coverage, affected the distances of Leipzig in defending as Bayern were able to play it first back to Boateng who could switch side to Süle who could easily play easy past the two strikers who had to coverage behind them)

(Example with the Musiala dropping wide as shown earlier in the text)

One other major detail which caused issues for RBL was Bayern’s more direct plays behind Leipzig’s attacking & midfield pressing lines as the space between Leipzig vertically was too big which Bayern could exploit due to the backline ”reatreating” more instead of having a higher starting position. Bayern tried to overload this space with 5 players in central areas inside and two fullbacks pushing higher up in an asymmetric 2-1-4-1 structure.

(As seen here, the ”overload” of Bayern players behind RB Leipzig’s midfield line)

But this is also from what sequence RBL could create many counter attacks against Bayern as Bayern have a very high positioned structure in the team while in possession with weak balance structure is something which Leipzig tried to exploit. It was also maybe one of the reasons why Leipzig changed to a less effective and passive structure in defending, namely the 4-1-4-1 formation in 2nd half.

Bayern Pressing vs RBL 4-3-1-2 in possession

Bayern’s very aggressive and successful pressing approach was used against Leipzig too with some success as Leipzig had very few ‘’controlled’’ and ‘’clean’’ possession phases, as Bayern most of the time forced Leipzig to a long ball forward or loss of possession. Bayern had some variations in their pressing and the roles but with the main principle of forcing play inside in attacking-pressing.


Variant #1 

Lewandowski covered central space and Sane cover-shadow FB to put pressure on CB and force play inside. Müller is situational man-marking but stays between two players, midfield-player and RBL fullback incase of Sane being outplayed. Goretzka and Martinez situationally man-mark players, especially the ball-near player.  If RBL is able to beat the 1st line of pressure via defender attacking the space in front and progress, then the ball-far winger adapts his position more balloriented and presses from his side, creating a central pressing trap.

Bayern play with a very high-backline and show a tendency to not retreat ”enough” and collectively when press is ”beaten” but still prioritize to put pressure on the ball and prioritize play in front as the backline is very aggressive in ”jumping” forward to put pressure on the player in front.

(As seen here, Sane puts pressure on Upamecano while forcing play inside and having a cover-shadow on Angelino. Notice also the diamond structure in central zone by RBL)

It was very clear that RBL always tried to play out from goalkeeper in order to attract Bayerns pressing and trying to either find Forsberg who acted as a false-9 and in turn creating a 4v3 superiority situation in central areas or the pass past Sané to find Angelino (the left FB). Many attacks lead to direct longer plays by Leipzig which RB Leipzig tried to counter-press and use the advantage of Bayern’s high backline with longer plays behind. As Bayern situationally man-marked central oriented players with 3 players: (Sabitzer-Goretzka, Müller-Adams & Martinez-Forsberg) Haidara was almost always available for a potential switch pass which would in theory be the best possible solution to beat Bayerns press, but was not used efficiently by Leipzig.


Variant #2

Bayern changed their pressing variant as RBL were progressing via the fullbacks. Even though Leipzig did not create any dangerous or big impact via the fullback, Bayern tried to create better access to the fullback with Lewandowski pressing the CB and winger Coman the fullback instead. Müller shifted across as the 10 on Leipzigs #6 Adams.


This pressing structure exploited Bayern as the 6s behind Müller had to situationally man-mark the central players. As RBL tried to create a central overload in the central area with a diamond structure, Haidara shifted a bit wider which Martinez man-marked and successfully won the ball back. But with this structure Bayerns coverage and control of the central area was with no presence not efficient to control any potential counter-pressing sequence. It is also from this RBL scored their goal, as Bayern lost possession again with a weak defensive balance structure.

(Lewandowski puts pressure on Konate, Coman on the fullback Mukiele, while Müller shifts across. As mentioned Leipzig tried to create a 4v3 situation in central areas and here Haidara drops wider in order to either be ‘’free-man’’ or occupy a central player and open up the central zones even more)(As seen here of Bayern’s #6’s Martinez situationally man-marking Haidara’s movements)

(As explained, Bayern win the ball but attack with many players as Martinez who won the ball and is one of the more defensive oriented midfielder joins the attack too. This leaves big gaps centrally which Leipzig…)

(…could exploit after recovering possession and using the central overload in possession and ‘’false 9’’ position of Forsberg who would connect play further to inverted runs by Kluivert and Nkunku. As soon as Leipzig did have players facing play open, Nkunku and Kluivert tried to exploit the ‘’high’’ Bayern defending line with runs in behind. As seen in the sequence above where Nkunku scored exploiting the transition and weak defensive balance of Bayern) 

Bayern had one more variant as Müller would drop deeper and almost create a 4-3-1-2 structure in defending when pressing high, this in order to access the wide zones with two #8’s instead without losing control of the central zones. These variants were used accordingly in relation to the specific situation.
As mentioned RBL switched to a more rigid 4-1-4-1 structure in the 2nd half which did not give as much control as I think Leipzig could have had with a more aggressive pressing approach as in the 1st half. The 4-1-4-1 instead gave Bayern easier ways to progress and attack the next line of defense of RBL, as RBL became too deep in the late 2nd half.

A game which reminded me of the last time the both teams met where RBL still caused a lot of problems for Bayern in the transitional phases. A very strong performance from Nagelsmann Leipzig, who did not have a lot of possession but successful attacks.

One Comment Add yours

  1. Both Leverkusen and Hoffenheim have been outstanding in the Europa League
    All 6 teams have qualified for the next round
    A very proud moment for me and my fellow Bundesliga fans


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