By Stevie Grieve
Bayern Munich under Guardiola have changed significantly since the treble winning team under Jupp Heynckes, but one thing which has returned this season is the direct passes over the top of a defence in attacking transition. This was an aspect missing last season but with Xabi Alonso, David Alaba, Xherdan Shaquiri able to play accurate passes over 40m, and players able to run behind a defence in Robert Lewandowski, Arjen Robben and Mario Goetze, they have the ability to do so.
Pressing results in regain and instant forward pass resulting in a goal
As Bayern press from the front, Bayern like to make play predictable. Here they leave the pass to the full back available but as the CB is under pressure, both CM’s turn and move away to recover the expected loose ball. Instead, the CB recognises the offered pass, but makes a bad decision to pass short into the Bayern press.
Shaquiri is in position to treble up with any of Robben and Lahm or Lahm and Alonso for any loose balls played into the line of Robben, Lahm and Alonso. This can block any exits to the far side.
The ball is recovered by Lahm from the CB’s pass, resulting in a goal for Lewandowski.
Pressing on the side results in loose ball recovery and direct switch to attack the full back
Around the pressure area, Bayern always cover around the zone with at least 3 players, covering all exits and giving a good chance at recovering the ball. Here, the pass inside is intercepted by Lahm.
Lahm turns after intercepting the ball and instantly looks for the diagonal long pass over the defence and into the run of Robben on the far side, resulting in a shot at goal.
Space coverage around the 1v1 results in goal from direct pass over the defence
Bernat presses the ball and gives little space, forcing the FB into a fast decision – he tries to pass through Bernat and into the CF who is marked by Alaba.
As Bernat and Alaba are marking, Bayern have 3 players spare around the ball who are spare and can recover loose balls – Dante can double press anything on the blind side of the CF or cover Alaba if he is dragged away into the corner. Alonso blocks the central pass while closing down the space to cut inside to, while Shaquiri blocks the backwards passing lane, and can close down the space.
Alonso recovers the ball to give to Shaquiri
The forward pass is blocked, and bounces to Alonso, who is the only player who can recover the ball. He gives Shaquiri more time to make the forward pass by releasing 1st time.
Shaquiri has enough time to take a touch then drill a pass over the top of the defence for Lewandowsi who is already on the move. He takes a touch to control before scoring.
Positioning in counter-pressing results in goal from space of displaced centre back
Robben in a wide area will regularly play 1v1 diagonally to attack the goal and shoot, or he often looks to pass horizontally into the half space where an opponent player is tempted to leave position to press.
As the player presses, they leave a space in their defensive unit, allowing Bayern to counter-press and attack the space created by using the pressure against the opposition.
To set up the counter-press, a player must directly be in position of where the ball will be lost and then double press to regain v that player; here, Pizarro (yellow circle).
Using the counter-press to set up a scoring chance
As Rode covers behind Pizarro who has decided to move, Rode is the recovery player who will pass 1st time forward to Pizarro. From here, Bayern want to attack the half space where the CB has pressed from.
As the ball is recovered, Rode passes forward quickly and Bayern go to goal and exploit the space.
Pizarro creates the space needed for Robben to score
As Robben attacks the FB and displaced CB, Pizarro makes extra space by making a diagonal run to offer a pass through the pressing players. This would result in a pass across goal, so the CB goes with him, leaving a huge space infront of goal which Robben uses and scores.
I feel that Bayern using more direct passes over the defence, especially in transition from the midfield zone will result in more scoring chances, and in this game they showed that Robert Lewandowski is a player who will benefit from a more direct style of play, similar to Dortmund.