Tactical analysis: Bayern outwit PSG in engaging strategic battle

Die Roten played an uncharacteristically patient, organized game to nullify the pacey attack of PSG. The strategy proved successful as Bayern Munich registered a satisfying 3:1 win over the group leaders.

Less possession, more control

Bayern gave up their customary possession game last night. Manager Jupp Heynckes chose structure and organization to deal with PSG’s fast counterattacks. Out went high pressing, replaced by a medium-block 4-5-1.

4-5-1 formation without high pressing.

The ploy worked to great effect. Kylian Mbappé and Neymar were unable to use their pace in attacking transitions. The visitors were forced to build up slower offensive moves. Bayern’s resolute backline did the rest, ably supported by the five-man midfield screening it.
Allowing PSG to build up. Counterattacks avoided.

Chance creation from wings

When the hosts did have the ball, they used the wings to create chances. This had a two-fold advantage. Firstly, it reduced the probability of conceding counterattacking chances on losing possession. Secondly, it allowed Bayern’s overlapping full-backs to join attacks.

Chance creation from wings. Alaba forward, James wide.

Lewy joins the party.

James Rodriguez constantly drifted to the left wing to join Franck Ribéry and David Alaba. Bayern’s first two goals came from his crosses, the second of which was a direct assist. On the other wing, Kingsley Coman had the license to run at defenders. The French winger was in scintillating form and comprehensively beat Dani Alves to assist Bayern’s third goal.
The Ribéry-Alaba partnership was an interesting side-show. Franck, returning from a knee injury, played a reserved role in the attack. He attempted less take-ons than usual, instead allowing Alaba to attack more. His defensive work rate, on the other hand, was high.
Ribéry and Alaba. Reversal of roles?

At this point, it would be an injustice to not mention the role of Mats Hummels and Rodriguez. Hummels bypassed PSG’s high primary press effortlessly, while Rodriguez often came deep to receive his forward passes and redirect them to the wings.
Hummels and Rodriguez. Key to Bayern’s buildup.

Tolisso excels in goal-scoring midfielder role

Corentin Tolisso played virtually as the second striker on the night. As it turned out, his role was the final step in Heynckes’ plan to beat PSG.
The French midfielder would pass out to the wings during buildup, and then make late runs into the box to accompany Robert Lewandowski. While Rodriguez drifted out to the left wing, Tolisso took his place in the hole behind the striker. He proved to be the crucial extra man in attack and scored two goals.

Tolisso the auxiliary striker. PSG midfield fail to recognize the threat.

The fact that Tolisso was opposite Julian Draxler certainly helped matters. The German winger’s lack of defensive awareness was exposed by his counterpart’s attacking runs.
Tolisso joins the attack. Draxler’s lack of defensive awareness exposed.

Final thoughts

Heynckes’ plan to beat PSG was based on solid principles. Nullify the opposition’s counterattacking threat with organisation. Pass the ball out to the wings to create chances and then have a central midfielder join Lewandowski in the box to convert them.
The role of every player was clear-cut, yet deceptive to the opposition. Hummels operated as a regista, Ribéry played in a restricted role, James was the ‘third winger’ and Tolisso was a striker with his starting position in central midfield. Talk about a complex tactical structure!
In the end, Bayern gave PSG a dose of their own medicine by giving up possession for defensive stability, inviting the opposition to commit forward and exploiting the spaces created. The Bavarians displayed admirable versatility in playing style, which had gone missing in recent years. All credit, as usual, to Herr Heynckes.