Bayern 1-0 Lyon: Unremarkable game, fair result

April 21, 2010

Some unfavourable games for the goal-loving neutral can turn out to be the most interesting for the tactical enthusiast. Sadly, this wasn’t really the case tonight, as a toothless Lyon went down to a relatively subdued Bayern in a muted contest.

Bayern went for the expected side – Diego Contento at left-back and Danijel Pranjic in the middle. The Croatian sat slightly deeper than Bastian Schweinsteiger, tending to drift to the left to allow Contento to attack.

Lyon’s side featured a few surprises. Firstly, Jean-Alain Boumsong was not fit, so Jeremy Toulalan slotted in at centre-back, and Maxime Gonalons took the holding midfield role. Kim Kallstrom played a good passing role infront, whilst the major shock was that Michel Bastos was omitted, at the expense of the right-sided Ederson.

Claude Puel was maybe hoping that his first XI would be able to weather the initial Bayern storm, before introducing his wealth of attacking players on the bench. His side came under immediate pressure, however, and Bayern had three clear chances in the opening 25 minutes, none of which were converted.

Lyon’s main problem was that their wingers played so deep - sometimes it’s difficult to decide if a system like this is a 4-5-1 or a 4-3-3, but tonight Lyon’s shape was unquestionably the former, with the wide players sitting so deep when not in possession that they were sometimes playing behind Miralem Pjanic, the midfield player. Not only were they keen to assist their full-backs against the twin Franck Ribery / Arjen Robben threat, they also seemed to have part responsibility in picking up one of the Bayern central midfielders when the ball was on the opposite side of the park.

The effect of this was that Lyon constantly had no out-ball. They came into this game trying to play primarily on the counter-attack, but Bayern are very difficult to counter against through the centre, as they generally keep their two central midfielders very deep. The counter-attacking threat must come from the wide players, but Lyon could never find either in space when they won the ball.

Puel might feel he needed to be braver telling one of them to play higher up the pitch to give either full-back a problem – it would have meant Lisandro Lopez would have found himself less isolated – he was generally 30 yards away from his nearest teammates, and up against two centre-backs.

Bayern dominated without ever playing their best football. With Lyon’s wingers playing deep, Bayern’s free players were the full-backs, and both Philip Lahm on the right and Diego Contento on the left (who looks to be an excellent young player) had good games getting forward. The home side were able to stretch the back four well enough to constantly find holes in their defence, and Schweinsteiger, Daniel van Buyten and Ivica Olic all missed excellent chances, whilst Franck Ribery pulled a shot wide from a decent position.

The game looked to have taken a decisive twist just before half-time when Ribery was dismissed for an awful tackle on Lopez. Bayern moved Thomas Muller to the left-hand side and played a 4-4-1 shape, similar to how they rejigged against Schalke when Hamit Altintop was red carded, whilst Lyon stayed the same until half-time.

Having been so defensive in the first period, many would have expected an immediate substitution from Puel in order to take the game to Bayern, but there was no change in personnel from Lyon at half-time. It did seem like Pjanic was playing deeper in the second period in the ‘free’ area in front of Lyon’s defence (with Gonalons moving further forward) – but it was difficult to assess an, because soon Lyon were down to ten themselves, as Toulalan was sent-off for two bookable offences.

In fact, the half-time switch had been made by Louis van Gaal, withdrawing Olic and replacing him with Anatoliy Tymoschuk. Bayern had changed to something approaching a 4-2-3-0 system - with Schweinsteiger, Muller and Arjen Robben the furthest forward. After Toulalan departed, van Gaal inserted a striker, Mario Gomez, for Prajnic and reverted to the 4-4-1 shape.

The teams were essentially playing the same formation, but it was Bayern who adapted better, and deserved their goal through Robben – and should have won by more. van Gaal did well by stretching the game with a fluid, wide front three and this exposed Lyon’s tiredness and general disorganisation in defence, but at this stage the game was not about tactics – it was about fitness, desire and sheer ability.

1-0 seemed to be a scoreline the two managers were happy to settle for; van Gaal was content with a lead going into the second leg, and no away goals conceded, whilst Puel’s side never looked like scoring so were happy for the game to draw to a close at that scoreline. In the second half, they didn’t muster a shot on target.

It’s difficult to imagine who came out of this game happy. Bayern will feel they should have scored more, Lyon will be disappointed they played so badly and didn’t make Bayern pay for going down to ten men, the neutral won’t have been out of his seat, and the tactician finds relatively little to comment upon.

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