Tactical analysis: suspicious Vidal hurt Bayern's defense in Freiburg

FC Bayern may have defeated SC Freiburg convincingly, with a 4:0 scoreline, on Sunday but tactical concerns remain in Munich after 20 scary minutes of football from Arturo Vidal.

Not a 4-1-4-1

Surprise! What was announced as a 4-1-4-1 formation turned into something else after kickoff. First, this illustration is based on the info that came out on FC Bayern’s feed.


On the pitch, though, we saw a shape that was closer to a mixture of 3-4-3 and 4-something. Thiago Alcântara and Corentin Tolisso spent a lot of time coming back in the middle near Arturo Vidal. Sadly, finding graphics for average positions is getting harder and harder…
6:25
Having more men in that area of the park normally helps to seal it, but Bayern’s early defending was not better. The Bavarians were hit by a few fast and furious Freiburg counterattacks. They almost conceded and things often broke down in central midfield.
Regularly featured in those plays: Vidal poor handling of his defensive midfield duties. In the first 20 minutes, he misjudged the timing of his interventions.
You can easily see the pattern twice in the 8th minute of action. Teammates ahead are basically doing zone coverage to try and cut off passes. Vidal comes up to meet the potential target of a pass.
7:17
The problem with Vidal’s interventions is timing. He often goes up too fast and too far, leaving space behind himself and forcing the defense to fill the gap. On the play below, No.23 is not in a good position and Mats Hummels has to make a risky challenge.
7:40
A few minutes later, Vidal repeats his mistake further up the pitch. He comes forward to interrupt a play and misses. Behind, at the edge of this screenshot, Jérôme Boateng will have to deal with a speedy counter that will lead to a fantastic left-footed save by Sven Ulreich.
11:27
Same problem in the 16th minute. Vidal sees a high aerial ball aimed at an attacker, goes up and mistimes his challenge. Freiburg start flying once again.
15:57
Although not a defensive player, Corentin Tolisso showed more discipline when dealing with threats in the midfield. Below, he works from behind a Freiburg player, takes a few cautious steps and kicks the ball as the pass comes in. The screenshot shows the play a split second after hitting the ball.
23:05

Final thoughts

The 4:0 win in Freiburg was very satisfying thanks to the way Thomas Müller lit up the team, but a few tactical patterns need to be corrected.
Arturo Vidal’s play as a defensive midfielder can be both spectacular and disappointing. This inconsistency can hurt the team down the road. Now, Jupp Heynckes has to take a look at the problem and either provide a fix in Bayern’s formation or in the way certain players behave without the ball.