In this series, we take a look at some of the most interesting matches in world football, providing you with an in-depth tactical analysis powered by Wyscout tools and stats. This time, our eyes were on Saturday’s clash at Signal Iduna Park: Der Klassiker. Lucien Favre’s Dortmund suffered a 2-3 home defeat against Hansi Flick’s Bayern.
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In a pulsating clash at the Signal Iduna Park, Bayern Munich came from behind to win 3-2 against Borussia Dortmund in Der Klassiker. With two excellent managers in Hansi Flick and Lucien Favre going head to head, it was certainly a fascinating clash on a tactical level.

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Bayern and Dortmund Lineups

To start with Flick’s Bayern, and they set up in their usual 4-2-3-1, with Robert Lewandowski, Thomas Müller, Serge Gnabry and Kingsley Coman forming a fearsome frontline. Joshua Kimmich and Leon Goretzka were the two central midfielders while Lucas Hernandez, David Alaba, Jerome Boateng and Bouna Sarr were the back four ahead of Manuel Neuer in goal.

Posing a constant threat with their movement, rotations and complementary understanding with one another, Bayern’s quartet upfront were a menace. With Lewandowski operating as the center-forward, Müller as the number 10 and Coman and Gnabry as the wingers, the way they subtly switched positions and performed opposite movements successfully manipulated the BVB backline. Always casting doubt in the minds of defenders on who to track in what area, this gave them the separation they needed to exploit spaces in front of and behind the defense.

The role of Müller deserved mention, for he expertly helped create overloads and connected attacks in wide areas, the half-spaces and in central areas.

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Lewandowski creating space for Gnabry by drawing two markers
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Bayern’s front four attacking the depth with top runs

Doing a fine job of pinning and drawing markers out of position, the fact the fullbacks and wingers interchanged only compounded issues for BVB.

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Bayern’s underlapping fullbacks and attackers occupying good areas

No matter who undertook what role, Bayern usually had three men in central areas and in the half-spaces, which forced the opposition backline narrow. In doing so, the fourth attacker, the far side winger, would maintain the width, offering a quality outlet for switches to be isolated 1v1. Indeed, how they won their freekick prior to their opener served as a fine example of how effectively they occupied central areas in the final third.

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Coman provides the width as the other attackers combine

When building out from the back, Bayern were confronted with a good Dortmund press. With the Bayern center-backs usually marked by Marco Reus and Erling Haaland, they got around this by moving the ball wide to the fullback, launching a long ball over the top or by getting a midfielder to drop deep to form a 3v2 overload. Sometimes an attacker like Müller or Lewandowski dropped into midfield, which also served as an avenue to beat the press.

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Goretzka helping form a 3v2 to beat the press
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Bayern 3v2 in the build-up

However, it wasn’t all plain sailing in this battle, as Dortmund’s front two did a sound job of curving their press to block access to Bayern’s central mids to force play wide and lock Bayern against the line. Favre’s men were also quick to catch on and track the dropping Bayern mid deep to give them numerical parity. Using a compact base 4-4-2 to protect the center, Dortmund did a solid job of sending Bayern towards the touchline, even if the Bavarian giants couldn’t be stopped all the time.

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Dortmund’s pressing Bayern successfully
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Dortmund pressing well as they use the touchline effectively

Meanwhile, upon shifting the focus to Dortmund, and the home side provided a huge threat of their own on the attacking end. Setting up in what was a 4-4-2/4-2-2-2/4-2-4 animation depending on perceptions, their backline consisted of Thomas Meunier, Manuel Akanji, Mats Hummels, Raphael Guerreiro and Roman Burki in goal. Then, Thomas Delaney and Axel Witsel were named in midfield. To round things out, their frontline was made up of Giovanni Reyna, Jadon Sancho, Reus and Haaland.

Boasting such an exciting attacking line, Favre implemented some good strategies to get the best out of them. Seeing as the Black and Yellows regularly pushed their front four high to occupy the Bayern defensive line, this left minimal room for error for the Reds.

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BVB attacking Bayern’s last line 4v4

Haaland especially took full advantage of any gaps between defenders or when they were briefly preoccupied by embarking on his customarily brilliant runs in behind. Timing and angling his movement to perfection and to exploit the blindside of opponents, the powerful, blisteringly quick forward was such a weapon for BVB. His prowess here can be seen in the graphic below, where his slick run was the catalyst for his goal.

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Haaland’s crisp run prior to his goal

Considering Bayern played with their usual high line, there’s no doubt Favre wanted to exploit this with his dynamic frontline, for they constantly went long to oblige runs in behind from Haaland and co.

Aside from the aforementioned, Dortmund attempted many switches of play in order to either isolate the ball far winger or fullback or generate 2v1s against the Bayern fullback. Using this tactic, there were many instances where encouragement could be drawn due to the technical skills of their wide men and how the fullbacks would shrewdly underlap to add some variety.

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BVB hitting a quick switch to create a 2v1 wide
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BVB winger and fullback 2v1 following a switch

Their occupation of the box was another highlight, as the home team did a fine job of pushing numbers into the area so teammates had options to aim for at differing heights and depths. Typically getting between three to five men into the area, this meant they could overload or have equal numbers, thus allowing them to drag opponents away from space to manufacture room for teammates.

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BVB with a strong presence in the box while creating a 4v3
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Dortmund preparing to attack the cross going 3v3 in the box

Interestingly, Dortmund’s opener combined many key elements of their game plan. Firstly, Sancho received in isolation out wide, as the underlapping Guerreiro formed a 2v1 vs. Sarr. Sancho then slid a neat ball into Guerreiro, who looked up to see BVB going 3v3 with Bayern in the box. Reus then smartly held his run back as Boateng and Alaba collapsed deeper, allowing him to generate separation to fire home his polished first-time finish.

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BVB’s first goal arrives following a good passage

Although no goals were directly scored from this, the presence of Witsel in the area crucially added some height and another quality option, as he motored into the box for the opener and many times during the second half.

Dortmund’s threat on the counter was also going to pose problems for Bayern. And so it proved, with BVB breaking forward on many searing transitions to create some huge chances. Getting numbers forward swiftly and running quality routes to attract markers, this, in combination with the pace of their moves and the high positioning of at least two of their forwards, saw them wreak havoc.

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Dortmund’s dangerous 5v3 in transition

Factor in their dribbling prowess and how BVB beautifully cut through the counter-press to get at Bayern’s high line, this heightened their threat. Despite being unable to score on the counter due to them missing a host of chances, it was pleasing to see these crisp transitions, which heaped pressure on Bayern’s backline throughout.

Even though Dortmund outperformed Bayern in Expected Goals (2.38 to 1.71), shots (15 to 11), progressive passes (96 to 78), long passes (72 to 58), key passes (12 to eight), deep completions (18 to five) and through passes (18 to eight), Bayern’s clinical finishing and experience ultimately proved the difference between the two sides in this tremendously entertaining clash.

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Dortmund key passes maps

“It was a sensational game,” proclaimed Flick. “There was an incredible amount of quality out on the pitch and there were a lot of chances at both ends. We were a bit more clinical, more efficient in front of goal. The win was more than deserved. Dortmund were dangerous when we made mistakes. We need to be more patient so that we don’t have situations like that as often.”

Favre, on the other hand, was left to rue the missed opportunities, lamenting: “Obviously there were a lot of things that we could have done better. We created a lot of chances, we countered and we could have won the game. We missed too many chances in the first half and we weren’t quite on it at times.”

Showcasing the immense talent these two teams possess, this top of the table clash undoubtedly lived up to expectations, with Bayern once again flexing their muscles to get over the line.


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