Bayern 1-0 Dortmund: Bayern dominate

February 27, 2013

The starting line-ups

Arjen Robben’s superb goal won the game, but Bayern’s nine shots on target to Dortmund’s one demonstrates the home side’s overall dominance.

Jupp Heynckes used the XI that triumphed over Arsenal last week, with one exception – Franck Ribery was out, so Robben started on the left. Daniel van Buyten was alongside Dante again.

Jurgen Klopp was unable to call upon Mats Hummels, so Felipe Santana played alongside Neven Subotic. Kevin Grosskreutz got a start in midfield.

This wasn’t a fascinating tactical battle, but Bayern were by far the better side – pressing well, mixing short intricate passing with longer balls, and featuring good variety and movement in the centre of midfield.

Dortmund shape

For the second consecutive game against Bayern, Klopp decided to go with a 4-3-3 rather than Dortmund’s more natural 4-2-3-1. It was a similar type of compromise – in the previous meeting he used right-sided midfield Jakub Blaszczykowski in a more central role with Ilkay Gundogan to the left of a midfield three, here he did the reverse – left-winger Krosskreutz played as a left-sided shuttler, with Gundogan playing to the right. Sven Bender sat deep.

There’s nothing wrong with reactivity against a side as powerful as Bayern, especially when they dominate the midfield with three talented passers, but it does suggest Klopp isn’t confident in Dortmund’s ability to outplay Bayern with their natural game. His selection was interesting – by using Grosskreutz, rather than Nuri Sahin, in the centre of midfield, he retained the ability to switch back to 4-2-3-1 (and maybe left Heynckes wondering what shape he’d use).


The key difference in the first half was the level of pressing. Dortmund didn’t close down high up the pitch – partly because they looked tired, partly because it can be difficult to press a four-man defence with a three-man attack if the side isn’t used to it, and partly because Klopp doesn’t want his players to press so heavily this season.

“I have learned a statistic,” Klopp told UEFA recently.” Teams that run too much lose, and teams that press reduce their chances of winning the game. Now I know why [last season's Champions League failure] happened. We ran more than our opponents and we pressed them all over, as high as possible. If I have a share in the success, I also have a great share in the failure at European level. But we have all learned.”

But Dortmund’s lack of pressure allowed Bayern to build passing moves from deep – Bastian Schweinsteiger dropped very deep into left-of-centre positions to start attacks, and Dante was able to move forward on the ball – more on that later.

Bayern, on the other hand, were more proactive high up the pitch. Mario Mandzukic didn’t have a tremendous game in the penalty box, but he started Bayern’s pressure and forced Dortmund to concede possession cheaply in their own half – in that respect, they certainly missed Hummels.

Bayern areas of strength

In the opening moments, Toni Kroos seemed to find too much space – like in the previous meeting between the sides – and had the game’s first proper chance, failing to convert a simple opportunity when Roman Weidenfeller diverted a cross-shot towards him. There was nothing particularly tactical about that chance, but it did come from Kroos being left free, with no-one in particular tracking his runs. However, Bender did a decent job in the deep midfield role for the rest of the game, preventing Kroos getting too much space between the lines.

Instead, Bayern did two things well. First, both Schweinsteiger (despite him starting deep, and left-of-centre) and Javi Martinez both stormed forward into the inside-right channel, catching Dortmund out with their runs from deep, just as they’d done to Arsenal. This shouldn’t really have happened – Dortmund had enough men in the centre of the pitch to cope – but Bayern presumably felt comfortable to push men forward, safe in the knowledge that Dortmund weren’t using a number ten to exploit the space in midfield. Bayern’s best move of the first half came when Schweinsteiger chipped the ball for Martinez, straight ahead of him in the right channel, and the Spanish midfielder volleyed at Weidenfeller.

Second, Dante strode forward and constantly thumped long diagonal balls towards Thomas Muller, who challenged Marcel Schmelzer in the air successfully three times. There were various problems here – Schmelzer being poor in the aerial battles, Santana not moving across to take charge, and Dortmund allowing Dante forward in the first place.

On the other side, Robben started making runs in behind, although his goal came from a long-range strike, out of nothing.

Dortmund were disappointing. Their shape didn’t completely cope in midfield, although the presence of two advanced wide players did pin back Philipp Lahm and David Alaba well – neither influenced the game as effectively as they did last week against Arsenal. However, their lack of a number ten was obvious. Dortmund triumphed in the German Cup final last season against Bayern because Kagawa stayed high up close to Bayern’s deepest midfielder, then immediately sped in behind on the break. Dortmund didn’t have anyone in that role, and failed to play quick attacking transitions.

Dortmund improve

Having been battered in the first period, Dortmund improved after the break. This was a little reminiscent of the weekend’s Milan derby, with Bayern (playing the AC Milan role) taking their foot off the gas after a dominant first half, despite being only 1-0 up. Maybe they were trying to slow the tempo, but Bayern played with less intensity, and pressed less frequently.

Dortmund were more proactive, though. They were more positive in everything they did – closing down more energetically, and pushing their full-backs high up the pitch. The first move of the second half saw Schmelzer caught out yet again from a long ball to Muller (this time from Schweinsteiger) but throughout the second half, the left-back got around this problem by pushing high up the pitch, forcing Muller back. Muller’s tracking wasn’t great, and he was the first player Heynckes removed.

Bender / Gundogan drop in

Dortmund also built passing moves from deep. Key to this was the movement into deeper positions from Gundogan and Bender, who both had spells dropping between the centre-back. This got around Bayern’s (now half-hearted) press, allowed the full-backs higher, and therefore the wide players inside, and saw Dortmund keep the ball better.

Indeed, Dortmund’s best passing move of the game – when Marco Reus  shot past the far post on 58 minutes – came when Gundogan had dropped deep, Bayern’s midfield responded by moving up the pitch and leaving space behind, Dortmund knocked quick passes around them, and Gotze drifted into that space between the lines to create the chance. That simple concept – a holder dropping between the defence – can create so many new passing angles.

Klopp replaced Grosskreutz with Blaszczyskowski, with Gundogan moving from right-centre to left-centre. Blaszczyskowski played higher up, but Dortmund still weren’t quite a 4-2-3-1. Julian Shieber replaced the underwhelming Reus, and had a very good late chance – but Klopp was unable to significantly change the shape of his side through substitutions.


There was no standout tactical feature of this game – Bayern passed well, pressed well, featured runs from deep in midfield, and took advantage of Dortmund’s weak left side of the defence.

It was more about overall dominance from a superior side – after all, Bayern are a staggering 17 points clear of Dortmund in the Bundesliga. After such a poor recent run of results against Klopp’s side, it seemed important that Bayern emphasised the difference in quality with an assured performance in a direct clash between Germany’s big two – by the time Bayern travel to Dortmund in May, the league will have already been won.

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