Bayern 2-0 Roma: Ranieri’s side show shocking lack of ambition

September 17, 2010

The starting line-ups

Bayern dominated the game from start to finish, but it took a superb Thomas Müller goal to break the deadlock.

Bayern lined up in their usual 4-2-3-1 shape. Hamit Altintop started on the left in the absence of Franck Ribery, whilst Ivica Olic was the lone forward.

Roma played a conservative, narrow 4-4-2 formation with Francesco Totti and Marco Borriello upfront. Aleandro Rosi made a rare start at right-back, so Marco Cassetti played on the left. Matteo Brighi was used in a right-sided midfield role.

The pattern of the game became apparent early on – Bayern were  going to dominate possession (as they showed so well against Wolfsburg), Roma were going to sit back with two banks of four, and play for a point. The two forwards stayed high up the pitch, with neither Totti nor Borriello looking to drop back into midfield to help win the ball back.

This was the key feature of the game, because it meant Mark van Bommel and Bastian Schweinsteiger had all the time in the world to sit deep and pick a pass – especially considering Roma’s midfield was sitting so deep. Schweinsteiger completed 105 of 112 passes during the match, and was the key figure in the first half.

Lack of chances

They were still finding it difficult to create chances, however. Toni Kroos was barely in the game, whilst Hamit Altinop rarely looked to play an ambitious pass, seeming slightly lost on the left-hand side since Roma were defending narrow and showing him down the line.

Roma’s lack of ambition when going forward was remarkable, although maybe to be expected considering they were essentially playing four central midfielders across a flat midfield four. Totti was lethargic and was generally crowded out when balls were played into his feet in a trequartista position, whilst balls over the top for Borriello often saw him up against three Bayern players. At one point, he received the ball in a promising position in the left-hand channel, and there were no teammates within thirty yards of him – and no-one looking to break forward to provide an option either.

In fairness, Roma were defending reasonably well, as Bayern struggled to raise the tempo of the game and put the Roma centre-backs under any real pressure.

Second half

After half-time, Louis van Gaal switched Thomas Muller and Hamit Altintop, which had the effect of making Muller more of a presence in the game. Diego Contento got forward into advanced positions from left-back, meaning Roma were slightly more stretched, and Muller had room to come inside and shoot. Roma seemed slightly more keen to close down Schweinsteiger and van Bommel in the second period, but this created room for Kroos – and Bayern’s improvement in the second half in terms of creating goalscoring chances owed a lot to his stronger presence in the match.

He was pushed out wide when van Gaal made a double substitution, taking off Olic and Altintop and introducing Mario Gomez and Miroslav Klose, clearly feeling he could dominate the midfield with just two central midfielders, and wanting an added goal threat.

The goal eventually came from Muller, with a superb swerving half-volley that sneaked into the far post. That was  essentially came over – Roma were never going to be able to get back in the game – though Klose poked in a Holder Badstuber free-kick to make sure of the win.


A routine win for Bayern, but this Roma performance was more alarming than a simple 2-0 defeat away at last season’s European Cup finalists. Roma were terrible, a shadow of the side that was so attack-minded and successful for the first half of 2010, and Ranieri’s decision to move to a 4-4-2 formation looks dreadful. What did he make of the game?

“We were far more attacking last season, but tonight we waited for Bayern too much and were simply too passive. I was not disappointed with the side, but we do have to be a little more determined to make ourselves heard and support the strikers. The strength of Bayern is keeping possession and then developing on the wings with Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery. Without them, they struggled. We did very well in defence, but didn’t manage to develop our own attacking moves which are also built on passing. The team is accustomed to playing without a real centre-forward, but we have to change, as we cannot always leave Totti there on his own. We’ve got to work on this and will find the right solution, as it’s pointless having signed Adriano and Borriello if we then play with just Francesco Totti and lots of midfielders.”

Francesco Totti was more brief, saying, ”We played the old catenaccio. We defended for the entire game, not even having a shot on goal. You can’t play this way.”

Such was the nature of the defeat, combined with Totti’s reaction, sections of the Italian media are already suggesting Ranieri’s job is under threat - with Marcello Lippi and Leonardo being linked with the role.


Only one side wanted to win the game – and they eventually did, with a stunning goal from Muller. Ranieri is probably right in his assertion that Bayern struggle without Ribery and Arjen Robben, but he shouldn’t take this as some kind of justification for his tactics.

Granted, had Muller not come up with his strike, a 0-0 would have looked a good result for Roma, but it is extremely rare to see a team be so cautious – sitting back and defending is fine, but if you offer nothing whatsoever on the counter-attack, you invite constant pressure and more often than not, the breakthrough will come.

Bayern should be commended for their ball retention and their patience. Kroos grew into the game, but needs to have an impact throughout the 90 minutes if he’s to justify van Gaal giving him the central playmaker role.

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