Juventus – Bayern Munich 0:2
Antonio Conte’s announced war led to another lost battle. Bayern survived the first attacking waves, came back with a strong performance and won.
The pressing battle
Juventus rectified the errors they made in the first leg in an interesting way. On one hand, they found a supporter for Andrea Pirlo. Paul Pogba dropped into right half-space again and again, offering himself as an open man for the defensive line. In addition, he situationally advanced to the centre into space opened by Pirlo when Thomas Mueller and Mario Mandzukic closed in on the latter.
Bayern’s 4-4-1-1/4-3-3 pressing did not really work out, and they had less access than in the first leg. Juventus’ central defenders were better supported which benefitted the Italians’ forward movement. Bayern formed their usual 4-4-1-1/4-4-2 in midfield and defensive pressing. Here, Toni Kroos was somewhat missed.
Munich’s pressing was nevertheless anything but weak. Because of their opponents’ pressure, Pirlo and Co. still played some bad passes, just like in the first leg. But this time, they were not alone. Bayern also had problems in their ball possession game and could not instigate many attacks. The Italians had changed their pressing a bit.
Last week, the Italian pressing was neutralized by Bastian Schweinsteiger’s tilting to the side. This week, however, Schweinsteiger kept to the right and tilted to the centre, for whatever reason –there are various possibilities (to supercharge space behind the more offensive Italian wing back, to cover forArjen Robben, etc.). This tilting to the centre was usually followed by Claudio Marchisio, which is why Bayern could not build up their play as effectively as they did in the last game.
Thus, balls passed into the centre meant immediate pressure on build-up play which shifted Munich’s offensive game further away from their opponent’s goal. Bayern of course tried to counteract this negative effect. Franck Ribery fell back again and again into left defensive half space, as he wanted to take over Schweinsteiger’s play-making role from there. But this was not possible because Juventus were also prepared for this approach.
Man marking and fluidity
Juventus applied some situational man marking, especially near the ball. This concerned all parts of the team, though with different interpretations. In the initial phase we could see man marking centre forwards covering the Bavarian central defenders. Later, they moved back slightly, kept some distance and only then pressed aggressively. There was similar marking even in midfield, such as the concentration on Schweinsteiger we already mentioned.
However, this strategy was most striking in defense. The half-backs Giorgio Chiellini and Andrea Barzagli pursued Franck Ribery, Mario Mandzukic and ArjenRobben in zonal man marking. They pushed out far in the vertical and pressed the respective striker who received the ball. As a result, there were often long periods when Bayern could circulate the ball either in the first or the last third of the pitch – but in the second third, they had significantly less time and space to do so.
Bayern employed extremely fluid play to counteract this effect as much as possible.Ribéry did not just fall back to the rear, but also moved to the offensive right wing, in space between lines, or on his usual position on the left wing. Robben also moved a few times to the centre or into right half-space, even if he did not move horizontally as much as Ribery did. Mostly, Robben took over the centre forward position in his free runs and was replaced by Mandzukic’s outward movement.
Bayern were thus very stable even when they lost the ball. They tried to negate Juventus’ man marking and were able to employ Robben as a gambling counter attacking player, even if it ultimately did not yield any significant results. Müller also moved to the right or tried to establish connections, but you could see a clear difference to Kroos’ play. Although Müller probably was a little more of a threat in front of the goal and moved more dynamically, he offered less connection in forward movement and less stability in the defensive.
Juventus used another special sort of man marking on the wing. Most teams that usually play with a back four and double positioning on the wings have clear allocations there. With Juventus, it was interesting to see the reverse: although there were also situational man markings, the wing backs often employed zonal marking.
The reason was simple: If the situation warranted it, they consciously moved back early to assist the bank of three in defence. This bank of five or “oscillating” bank of fourwas significantly more often employed than in the first leg. Juventus’ wings were therefore less vulnerable – it almost seemed to be the opposite.
David Alaba should have created offensive pressure, while Lahm consciously stayed deeper and acted as a “conductor” from the back or from defensive half space. Lahm repeatedly moved forward as a diagonal full back, tried to use space between centre and wing backs, and also served as a safe open man for the Sixes when Juventus pressed.
But the Bavarians employed a few (situational) man markings as well, although these were used less often and with more distance. Its only continuous application took place in the constant rotating man marking of Pirlo, mostly by Müller, but sometimes by Mandzukic. Simultaneously, the Bavarian central defenders shadowed Juventus’ centre forwards when those fell back, and tried to harass them.
In addition, Ribery and Robben pressed of course on the opposing half-backs while Lahm and Alaba took over the wing backs. However, this practice was less intense than in the first leg: Juventus closed down potential gateways better with Pogba than with Arturo Vidal, and they offensively supercharged the offensive half-spaces with their Eights. This is another reason why the Bavarian full-backs had more to do than in the first leg, as they had to react to the wide Eights or even wing backs (Asamoah) moving in.
Later on, the full-backs played a little deeper, with more moderation and a tiny bit wider, resolving this mismatch to a large extent even with a positive impact on the offensive performance.
Counter pressing everywhere
Another factor that contributed to the high intensity and rapidity of the game (up to half time or up to the first goal) was of course the employed counter pressing, which was practiced intensively by both teams. It’s quite impossible to really analyse it, of course. After ball losses, Juventus’ players moved in close formation and collectively towards the ball, just as Bayern did.
However, this counter pressing as tactical factor showed the beauty of tactics and their impact on football – there were always tremendously tight situations to observe where a spectator had to wonder how they could possibly be resolved. The players’ individual class as well as intelligent collective movement on both sides made it possible that they freed themselves from such situations at a few times, with wonderful combination play in confined space.
They combined all the important basic aspects: technical quality, high athleticism and tactically smart movement, which led to the incredibly contested and exciting first half.
There were many other interesting minor aspects, as it is usual in such high-class games, including new answers to the five questions I posed before the first leg.
For example, the more vertical of the two Italian strikers, MirkoVucinic, tried to rotate quickly when falling back, instead of stopping the ball. A couple of times he was thus able to neutralize the outward movement of the Bavarian centre backs or even to receive a foul.
Another Juventus player showed something interesting as well: in the beginning of the match, Chiellini– as main central defender – moved forward a few times and was backed by the other two defenders, as it is common practice in a bank of four. Maybe Conte tried to shock Heynckes–Chiellini twice came forward well, but he could not benefit from this forward movement in the shadow of the wing backs and stopped doing it.
Juventus also played some long balls to switch sides to free themselves and to punish Bayern’s strong indention. The strikers’ movement in pressing was also interesting. They usually stuck to their positions in a 3-5-2. When the ball was played to a wing, the striker farther away from the ball dropped into midfield and moved closer to the ball.
This prevented the full-back from passing back, but Juventus had an extra player in midfield. This player was then able to press Bayern’s Six from behind and outside his field of vision. But this move had to be shelved as well. The Bavarians had no problems with twisting under pressure, switches to the other side with long balls or attacks along the wings. The latter in particular was not a problem at all, as there was no double cover available for Robben and Ribery in a wide position, Juventus notably having only one pure wide player per side. They were also supported by the full-backs.
The attack through the centre was more of a problem for Bayern. Here again there was an interesting tactical variant to observe. The newly crowned German champions repeatedly tried to play astute interface passes into the centre. The passes were immediately passed on to the outside. Because of the speed of these passes could hardly be intercepted. At the same time, the forwarding of these passes was very easily and safely facilitated. As a result, Bayern played passes in open spaces in the centre, Juventus moved together, and Robben or Ribery were free to receive passes on the wings.
The substitutions offered nothing spectacular – Conte substituted Quagliarella for Matri (more punch), Isla for Padoin (more punch), and Giaccherini for Marchisio (more dynamics and dribbling) without changing the system, while Heynckes, had to field Jerome Boateng because of the injury of Van Buyten. His other two substitutes were Gustavo for Ribéryin the final phase of the game (Schweinsteiger on the Ten, stable Double-Six), and Pizarro for Mandzukic.
It was a great game and a football feast – for those interested in tactics and everyone else. Even if the game increasingly levelled off in the second half, it was a decent display worthy of a top game and Champions League quarter-finals. In closing I would like to quote two of my colleagues, TE and MR, from their live analysis written for ZDF-Sport.de (read it here!):
Inspite of Juventus’ strict surveillance, Schweinsteiger’s statistics were ultimately impressive. He won 75% of his tackles – best odds on the field. He had over 103 ball contacts – most in the field. His assist to the final goal was the crowning achievement of his influential performance, especially in the second half.
Andrea Pirlo could hardly make his influence felt in these two games,as he was isolated by Bayerns’ pressing. Whenever he received a pass he came under great pressure. Again, his pass completion rate wasn’t great (78%), his long balls were barely received, and his team’s offensive starved for long periods. (…)Bayern revealed thus mercilessly the problems and the predictability of a concept relying on only one playmaker.
I’d like to give additional special praise to Manuel Neuer, Franck Ribery, Javi Martinez and Mario Mandzukic. And of course to PF, who translated this piece for us. I can’t thank you as much as you deserve.