Bayern's newfound attacking variety under Ancelotti

It’s hard to believe that Carlo Ancelotti has only been coaching Bayern Munich for a season. The team has taken to his particular set of skills and his tactical approach put me at ease. What changes did he implement so far?

The roles of the wings

Last season, we analysed Pep Guardiola’s impact on the team as compared to Jump Heynckes’. It was discovered that Heynckes had made Bayern focus heavily on the wings, as only 26% of their goals in 2012-13 came from the middle, and the rest came from the wings. Under Guardiola, the load was split a little more and 32% of goals came from the middle, and around 70% came from the wings.

Bayern’s attack during 2015-16 focused heavily on the wings.

It is thus interesting to note that under Ancelotti, there is more dynamism. The attack has focused on the wings more so than the middle (in particular the right flank). This shows us (besides the fact that Arjen Robben is a timeless beast) that the wings were quite important in pushing the game forward under Ancelotti and in setting up goals. Were they important in actually scoring those goals, however?

In 2016-17, there is even more emphasis on the wings in attack, but…

Yes, the wings are important this season too, but the way in which the team went about their attack has changed. It would appear that when we look at the shot directions (in the graphic below) the focus is on the middle of the pitch. A staggering 68% of goals have come from the middle of the pitch this season. Evidently, Robert Lewandowski has been crucial to fetch such numbers. While other players were crucial as they helped set up the goals, especially in passing the ball in from the wings, it was Lewandowski who actually scored most of these goals.

…shot directions in 2016-17 show the reliance on the middle.

Dynamism in goal types

Under Guardiola, we discovered that there was just one goal scored from a counter in 2015-16. Most of Bayern’s attack was heavily reliant on open play under the Catalan, with 47 goals being scored that way. This season we have found that there has been a lot more variety in the style of goals scored, with 57 goals being scored through open play, and 10 being scored through counters.

Additionally, we have had 16 set piece goals, which has been an improvement on the previous few seasons.

Type

Goals

Open play

57

Set piece

16

Counterattack

10

Penalty

5

Own goal

1

It should be kept in mind that there was certainly even more variety in the golden 2012-13 era under Heynckes: 64 goals came from open play but 9 came from counterattacks and 17 from set pieces.

In Guardiola’s last season, just four goals had come from set pieces.

This season, however, we are seeing a shift towards more variety in the types of goals scored. This is important for Bayern to do to avoid becoming stale and predictable in attack, which did tend to happen over the past couple of years (under Guardiola). Whenever an opponent had figured out how to exploit our goals from open play, we had suffered. With this new shift, however, Bayern stand a chance of adapting to different opponents’ playing styles and scoring more effectively.

Shot zones

Bayern’s shot zones in 2015-16

Bayern’s shot zones in 2016-17 show little change.

Bayern’s action zone areas have not changed noticeably this past season. Most of Bayern’s goals still come from within the 18-yard box, and although there has been a 1% increase on last season, this is not too drastic.

Another interesting statistic to watch out for next season will be possession: it has been gradually increasing for the past few years:

Season

Possession

2012-13

58%

2013-14

61%

2014-15

60%

2015-16

63%

2016-17

65%

Under Guardiola, Bayern played possession-heavy football which was a shock to absolutely nobody, but it was not always effective. This season, Bayern have indeed struggled to be clinical at times but it has been an improvement.

Possession has certainly increased on average under Ancelotti, but so has efficiency. This season the team had an average of 18.3 shots per game, with 6.8 of them being on target. They created more chances this season than the last as well – 510 in comparison with 494 the season before.

Looking ahead

These statistics tell us that there has been a slight shift back to Heynckesism (this is a word now) in that there is more variety in Bayern’s attacking style. No longer does the team rely solely on open play and leave themselves exposed to opposing teams defending deep and thwarting our chances.

Guardiola did wonders developing individual players. Under him, the squad became more fluid and dynamic in their positions and movements but not so much in their attacking styles.

What Ancelotti is now doing is building upon that and developing the attack. The new – and young – signings show that the club is also preparing for the future, when Arjen Robben and Franck Ribéry eventually retire as well. The squad now needs to build upon this attacking variety, especially in the final third, so they are not relying so heavily on Lewandowski.

FCB also need to improve the squad’s cohesion and improve efficiency in attack. If Bayern can do that and manage to build the the defence up to rock solid – a challenging task without Philipp Lahm, granted – they can be successful both domestically and on the European front in the very near future.