Napoli 1-1 Bayern: all the action in the first half

October 18, 2011

The line-ups until the 81st minute. Lavezzi and Cavani often switched.

These two sides seemed to settle for a draw in the final stages – they remain in the top two positions in Group A, the toughest in the competition.

Walter Mazzarri went with his first choice XI with one caveat – Juan Zuniga played instead of Andrea Doessena as the left wing-back, although he is seeing a lot of playing time this season anyway.

Jupp Heynckes’ selection was also his most-used players this season with a single exception – Jerome Boateng played instead of Rafinha.

This was a peculiar match – a very interesting tactical battle in the first half with the two goals both owing much to the formations and positioning of the sides, and then (in tactical terms) a completely dead battle in the second.

General formations

Both sides played their usual formations and in their usual style. Napoli sat back and looked to play predominantly on the counter-attack, although the early goal meant they had to come out of their shell and press much more, which they did reasonably well. Bayern were all about keeping the ball, something they did much better in the second half – at 1-0 up they weren’t patient enough with the ball, and could have tried to slow the tempo a little more.

3-4-3ish played 4-2-3-1, though Napoli were frequently more like 5-4-1 without the ball. Clearly, the issue in terms of the formation match-up was Napoli having three centre-backs marking one striker. They did that well – Mario Gomez was poor – but the problem game higher up the pitch, as Napoli had one less player in midfield.

Problems tracking Kroos

The man who enjoyed space as a result of Napoli’s midfield disadvantage was Toni Kroos, who drifted into deep positions, and then made dangerous runs to the edge of the box. Bayern went ahead after barely three minutes because literally no-one was watching him – the midfielders watching others, the centre-backs not switched on to the threat from deep.

Napoli then tried to readjust in two ways. They had to be more proactive at winning the ball back (as discussed many times before, a counter-attacking side can’t afford to concede the first goal unless they are prepared to change their style) but they also had to find a way to track Kroos. The man given the task was Hugo Campagnaro, and though he wasn’t completely moving up into the midfield zone when Kroos moved deep, it worked reasonably well. After all, he’s the Napoli centre-back who is used to moving higher up the pitch anyway, so the fact Kroos played left-of-centre in this regard played into Napoli’s hands. Had he moved over to the right, and forced Salvatore Aronica up, there may have been more problems.

Kroos came very deep to get the ball, and won four free-kicks when Campagnaro was uncomfortable tracking him into the opposition half

Problems tracking Maggio

The other issue happened in a related area of the pitch. When Napoli won the ball, they pushed the wing-backs forward, and in particular Christian Maggio down the right. This made sense – he’s more of a natural on that side than Juan Zuniga is on the left, so was more likely to provide good overlapping runs. Furthermore, Thomas Mueller does a decent amount of work defensively, whilst Franck Ribery tends to do little.

Kroos usually moved deep into midfield without the ball, so Campagnaro didn’t need to watch him. Instead, he could move out and pick up Ribery, whilst Maggio motored on. And then, who was watching Maggio? Not Ribery – the responsibility fell to Philipp Lahm, but since his man was Marek Hamsik, he was overburdened down that flank.

Hamsik, in keeping with his performances in big games recently, was quiet on the ball, but did good work with movement to open up space for Maggio. Eventually, Maggio created the equaliser – Lahm defended poorly and was beaten far too easily – although it was an own goal, turned in by Holger Badstuber.

Maggio received the ball in more attacking positions than Zuniga on the other flank

Second half

The game changed little for the second half, with the same formations and the exact same line-ups until the 81st minute, an extremely long period into a match without a substitution. This summed up the mentality of the managers, more than happy with a point – although the value of a draw was perhaps reduced with Manchester City’s late winner – and they also ordered the sides to play more defensively.

Our two key man from the first half both played deeper. Kroos focused on helping Bayern keep the ball, which they did very well, whilst Maggio was more defensive-minded. Both sides had chances, but a draw was coming from a long way off.

Conclusion

A nice, logical game where both the goals came (at least partly) because of tactical reasons.

Unfortunately, the game was a victim of context – a group game where the two sides were happy to preserve the status quo in the second half in order to remain first and second in the group. This was a shame, as the game could have turned into an excellent encounter.

Had the game remained open – let’s say both sides had needed a goal to go through to the next round – where would it have been won? Probably in the Kroos-Campagnaro-Maggio-Ribery-Hamsik-Lahm zone, and – at a guess – maybe when Maggio moved high up and Campagnaro became exposed to the forward runs of both Ribery and Kroos at the same time. Alternatively, the game could have been decided by discipline – we had nine bookings, but surprisingly no red.

Napoli 1-1 Bayern: all the action in the first half

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