Hertha – Bayern tactical analysis: verticality reloaded

Hertha – Bayern tactical analysis: It was not the match of the year, but the Bavarians made once again their case as an efficient vertical attacking team.

When they took to the pitch, Hertha Berlin knew that they had a weak defence, especially inside the penalty area. They tried to make up for it with relentless team efforts.

The most successful tactics were employed in the first half, on which I will focus for most of this piece. There isn’t that much to say about the lack of effort in the second half, since it is not really a tactic in itself.

Formation and Berlin’s defence

Pep Guardiola pulled another trick out of his 4-something bag. Look at this deployment. Dante and Boateng in central defence. Juan Bernat and Rafinha on the flanks. Mario Götze pulling back, sometimes near Xabi Alonso. Franck Ribéry in the middle, Müller on the right, Robben in front of Ribéry and Robert Lewandowski on the left flank. While players kept moving, this shot reflects the formation pretty accurately.

formation
Unusual

If you noticed anything, you saw Hertha forming a pocket as Bayern went forward to attack.

pocket
Trying to trap FCB.

They had two or three guys applying weak pressure on the ball carrier in the middle, leaving a little space between themselves and the back four. With a little movement, Bayern was able to pick that pocket, finding spaces to pass the ball, either to the flank or to the middle, inside the central defence.

pocket
Opening up. Look at the three runs that FCB can make.
pocket
Spaces. Three runs are possible on the right.

Vertical passes

As I said in my preview, the old lady doesn’t defend very well in the penalty area. In this game, the weak spot proved to be low, in the center and on the left, from the attacker’s viewpoint.

Introducing vertical passes, a weapon that inflicted damage, although Bayern’s lack of finishing prevented the boys in black from scoring more than once.

Franck Ribéry was sharp in the passing department, often feeding balls to Juan Bernat, Arjen Robben, Robert Lewandowski or Thomas Müller.

My favourite is the following snapshot since it illustrates precisely where Bayern had the opportunity to make its passes go through the defence. Ribéry spots Robben slightly to the left, ready for a run. He sends it forward and Robs will go on to create a chance.

Ribéry to Robben
Where it counts.

Same pattern with Bernat, although this play is lower in the final third. Ribs has Bernat running and he delivers right where the wing-back can take the ball and have a shot on goal.

Ribéry to Bernat
Lather, rinse, repeat.

Another option was using the middle of Berlin’s pocket, as Jérôme Boateng does on this play.

Boateng
Finding his man.

Of course, there is nothing wrong with allowing the opponent to have the ball, only to counter effectively. Here, Arjen Robben is threatening.

flank
Wide open
Ribéry to Müller
Ribéry to Müller this time.

Shorter range: Ribéry deals with two guys and he unloads a pass to Müller, who will miss.

Ribéry to Müller
Bring it closer

1:0 Robben. In the end, however, a simple backheel was Berlin’s undoing. Thomas Müller left the ball for Robben on top of the penalty area. Defenders failed to put pressure on him, allowing him to curl a nice shot on goal.

Robben goal
You can’t let him have this kind of space.

The dangerous high line

I often talk about Bayern’s high line of defence with podcast mates Scott and Susie. The tactic is risky, but it can pay dividends. Why?

Let’s start with the risks. It only is obvious that if you stop running back to defend, you may pay the price for it on the counterattack. Here, FCB watches the ball carrier instead of covering attackers.

high line
Oof

However, a disciplined high line can cause offsides. On this corner, the defence and Müller do their jobs well, preventing a goal with the offside trap.

high line
Offside

You can even pull it off on the counterattack, if you have the stomach for it. Perfectly timed offside trap, and Berlin’s frustrations accumulate. They are outplaying us, but we’re still finding ways to prevent their chances from counting.

high line
Gotcha!

This doesn’t mean I appreciate the lack of effort shown in the second half, but sometimes you just have to be a little smarter than your opponent.

Finally, my beloved triangles. Don’t you think there are advantages when your team uses that shape when passing the ball?

triangles
Space galore with four triangles.

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