We all know Pep Guardiola, manager of Bayern Munich is a very intelligent man. He likes to keep his opponents guessing about what formations he is going to play and what players he will field. He often leaves out stellar players such as Arjen Robben simply to confuse opposing managers. In Bayern Munich’s match vs Manchester United he played a 2-3-2-2.
Yes that formation is as ridiculous as it sounds! I hope the graphic below tries to explain it a bit better.
The Formation – A Throwback To The 50’s – The 2-3-2-3
The main aim of this formation was to help Bayern dominate possession. They did this very successfully by clogging up the midfield. They played 5 midfielders! Lahm and Alba were playing a dual role. When Bayern were in possession, which was 59% of the time, Lahm and Alba abandoned their full-back roles and joined Kroos in the center of midfield. Other analysts might disagree but I feel Kroos was the deepest of the Bayern midfielders. However on the rare occasion Manchester United did get the ball in the opposition half, Lahm and Alba simply shuffled back to their full-back roles.
Alongside Alba and Lahm, Kroos formed the solid midfield base. I might add that Kroos was absolutely fantastic. He might not get all the headlines but I feel he was the difference tonight for Bayern. He kept the midfield ticking over and protected his back 2 valiantly. He completed more passes than anyone on the pitch and was joint highest tackler for Bayern alongside Lahm.
In front of him in more attacking positions were Gotze and Muller. They played as the two CAM’s, particularly Gotze. The former Borussia Dormund midfielder had a disappointing afternoon despite having a 91% pass completion rate. His team mate alongside enjoyed a more successful match. Muller was causing problems as he played as a ‘False 9’ at times. He had quite a free role and drifted everywhere across the pitch. However his favoured role was often partnering Mandzukic, who was their only out and out striker. This gave our CB pairing of Smailing and Vidic an extra problem. Muller was often found inside the box however when needed dropped back and joined the Bayern midfield men.
The Problems It Caused For Guardiola
A major problem that Guardiola made for himself was that by playing Lahm and Alba in midfield he left his flanks wide open for attack. It allowed our pacy wingers, Welbeck and Valencia in particular, to run right at Bayern Munich. I felt most of our joy come from the wings and on the counter attack was where we were most threatening. The strength and energy of Welbeck and Valencia proved to be a handful for the Bayern defenders. On Valencia’s wing was where we caused a lot of problems. On Welbeck’s wing we were unable to cause as many because Welbeck tucked in and acted as the main target man quite a few times.
I previously said that Gotze had a bit of a disappointing game. This was not down to his personal performance but more of a result of the system Bayern were playing. Bayern clogged up the midfield area and Gotze simply did not get enough time on the ball due to there being so may options available around him! With Kroos, Alba and Lahm making up the midfield base and Muller sometimes dropping back as CAM, it made Gotze almost redundant. He was simply a cog in the efficient Bayern machine. For a player Bayern payed £32.5 million for, I expected a bit more.
One of the biggest problems this formation had was that it forced Robben and Ribery to play by the touchline to provide Bayern width. Although still very effective, Robben and Ribery are at their best when they are allowed to cut in and have a shot at goal. which Robben did. They were unable to do this for the majority of the game because they had no overlapping full backs in Lahm or Alba. This is because they were in midfield.
To be honest, the solution was really quite simple! Stop trying to act so smart and start to simplify it! Pep did exactly that when he brought on Rafinha. When they brought on the RB, Bayern went from a mind boggling 2-3-2-3 to a modern 4-2-3-1.
With Rafinha on, Alba dropped to his LB position and Lahm formed a midfield duo with Kroos. One of the major advantages it formed however was that it allowed the Bayern wingers to tuck inside as the full backs would be providing the width through overlapping runs. This little tactical switch allowed Robben to cut inside and score the third Bayern goal,
It also meant that Bayern were able to step up the speed of the game. With less men in the middle of the park, the midfield became less congested and the game opened up. This played into the hands of Bayern Munich who enjoy high tempo games. It was the polar opposite of what David Moyes wanted.
With tired legs, his defenders could not cope with the increased speed and momentum. The high tempo is what resulted in the Bayern goals. It was a clever change by Guardiola, a calculated change, but one that would not have been necessary if he had simply stuck to the basics!
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