Lyon 0-3 Bayern: Lyon disjointed, Bayern take advantage

April 27, 2010

A resounding victory for Bayern, a disappointing end to France’s exciting adventures in European football this season, and an underwhelming display from Lyon in their first European semi-final.

Lyon started with a 4-2-3-1 formation, with three out-and-out attacking players lining up behind Lisandro Lopez. Sidney Govou was recalled in place of Ederson, whilst Jean-Alain Boumsong replaced Jeremy Toulalan, a centre-back in the first leg, at the back.

Bayern’s shape was the formation they’ve played in 90% of their games so far this season. Franck Ribery was suspended, so Hamit Altintop replaced him on the left. Martin Demichelis was fit enough only for the bench, so Holger Badstuber came in, with Diego Contento staying at left-back.

Lyon’s front four was fluid and interchangeable – their wingers always swap, but today sometimes Cesar Delgado popped up on the right, sometimes Lopez would come to the left. The general rule seemed to be (much like at Valencia) that the front four were entitled to switch as they liked, as long as the two players that ended up in wide areas defended in that zone when Lyon lost the ball.

In truth, they didn’t need to do that much defensively – Bayern’s full-backs stayed at home, and until the sending-off in the second half, rarely looked to link up with the front players – it was generally four Bayern players attacking against six Lyon defensive players.

The one exception to this rule was on Lyon’s left, where Arjen Robben was a constant threat against Aly Cissokho, and the French left-back needed assistance from another player, considering Lyon’s two centre-backs were concerned with two Bayern strikers. With that in mind, it may have been an idea to tell Michel Bastos to remain on the left to double up against the Dutchman, for Bastos is excellent defensively (he plays left-back for Brazil) and made some crucial interventions when he found himself in defensive positions.

Lyon’s problem was that there was a huge gap between their front four and the rest of the side. There was no ‘link’ player – no Kim Kallstrom or Miralem Pjanic – and the distribution from their two holding players was generally very poor. They simultaneously were too attacking and too defensive. Too attacking because they had four players high up the pitch looking to create something themselves rather combining to open up Bayern; too defensive because they played with two holding midfielders against a side who rarely (if ever) looked to break through the centre.

That said, they were an occasional threat when they got possession in the final third. And it was almost always in the same fashion – switching the ball from flank to flank with a ball to a player unmarked at the far post. Bastos missed a glorious chance in this situation, Delgado overhit a pass when Govou could have been in, and later on Dalgado himself and Bafetimbi Gomis had opportunities in this manner.

This situation largely seemed to arise because Bayern’s full-backs come so high up the pitch to meet the opposition winger – Robben and Ribery (or Altintop today) don’t do much defensively, and so Lahm or Contento get drawn up the pitch to the ball, the other three defenders shuffle across to cover, and the far side becomes exposed.

Bayern played well and won the game easily without doing anything exciting tactically. Thomas Muller was, as ever, key to their system defensively, constantly harassing Lyon’s central midfielders when they got the ball, with Ivica Olic getting through his usual amount of running upfront. Many have questioned how Bayern can afford to play two out-and-out wingers in a 4-4-2 system – the reason is that part of their running has been outsourced to the forward, and their sheer attacking threat in wide areas subdues the opposition full-backs sufficiently.

Bayern also got the ball to their wingers in space. Robben was a threat but Altintop also had an excellent game in an unfamiliar role. As previously remarked on this site, the fact that Bayern play wingers in a 4-4-2 rather than a 4-3-3 means they pick the ball up in a deeper position than, say, Pato and Ronaldinho at Milan. Therefore, they can pick up speed before running at defenders. When a 4-4-2 plays a 4-3-3 or 4-2-3-1, the wide players in the 4-4-2 are so vital (as Stuttgart showed when they outplayed Barcelona earlier in the competition), and Robben and Altintop were excellent tonight.

Stupid sending-offs in both legs cost Lyon their chance, but overall they were dreadful. Bayern’s defence is relatively weak, and to not score against them in 180 minutes is a severe failing – Manchester United and Fiorentina managed it four times each in their respective ties – and they too, were both down to ten men for part of their respective ties. Indeed, that has been a feature of Bayern’s three knockout ties – the opposition getting players dismissed. Perhaps this is no surprise when they are captained by a man as cynical as Mark van Bommel. No player in the modern game has such a reliance upon the concept of free-kicks – conceding them in ‘professional” fashion to prevent counter-attacks, winning them by running into players and getting them booked, shackling them for the rest of the game.

Bayern march onto the final when they will be second favourites – surely the key to getting at them is to put pressure on their backline from the outset. Lyon never did that in 180 minutes, and were deservedly beaten.

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