Date:Wednesday May 16 2012
In my last article on Bayern Munich I promised a tactical overview for the CL final.
What follows is only my personal opinion, but I`d like to believe that my opinion is based upon a reasonable amount of knowledge regarding Bayern`s own tactics, its collective philosophy, its individual players, and the decision-making of their manager, Jupp Heynckes.
I`d like to start with Jupp Heynckes. He was a striker in his day—a great one, in fact—and he wholeheartedly advocates attacking football. As a manager he has worked for over thirty years, the majority of which has taken place in Germany, though he`s also worked in Spain and Portugal. Most notably, he won the Champions League with Real Madrid in the late 90s. That`s important: as a manager Jupp Heynckes has won a CL trophy.
Heynckes` career with Bayern has been a strange one. He managed the club for four years (1987-1991), returned as a caretaker manager after Klinsmann`s sacking in 2009, and finally got the job after Bayern lost patience with the completely bonkers Van Gaal in 2011. As a manager he has won seven trophies—not a huge haul in such a long career, but his longevity suggests ample experience that dwarfs Roberto Di Matteo`s career.
Now let`s look at how Bayern plays. Generally it`s a 4-2-3-1, and I fully anticipate that lineup in the CL final. I expect the following: Neuer/ Rafinha, Boateng, Tymo, Lahm/ Kroos, Schweini/ Robben, Muller, Ribery / Gomez. There is a very slight chance that Van Buyten will start over Tymo, but I highly doubt it. Bayern doesn`t have great options from the bench. Olic may feature if Bayern needs a goal late on.
Under RDM, we`ve seen the benefits of this system. If used properly, it screens the defense but also enables quick counter-attacks. Schweinsteiger, who`s still not 100% from an injury, will run the show from midfield. He`ll be paired with Toni Kroos, who will likely get forward when he can, much like Lampard. If we can pressure those two, Bayern`s attack will be severely compromised. This system relies heavily on wingers—and Bayern have some of the world`s best. Robben and Ribery both have pace and guile; both are also good crossers of the ball. Similarly, when Lahm gets forward, he can put in a perfect cross. If you ever marvel at the scoring records of Mario Gomez but still feel he`s not an elite striker, consider that he has players around him who are experts at putting the ball at his head or at his feet. If you can stop Bayern`s wide play and force them to operate in narrow spaces, they will have problems.
Bayern also has a tendency to play with a high defensive line. You need quick CBs to make this happen—and this is partly what killed them against Dortmund, a squad with loads of pace and who can pass with a kind of ruthless efficacy you`ll rarely encounter in football. To make matters worse for Bayern, Tymoshchuk will likely play CB. As a DM, he isn`t quick and he`s relatively short. But he is a smart player and a good tackler; he`s just not a CB. Boateng doesn`t exactly inspire Bayern supporters either—a capable player but prone to lapses of concentration.
Chelsea strangled Barca`s width and forced them to operate centrally. We saw the result. But the result was only made possible because the Chelsea players were tactically disciplined and they managed to shoot with amazing efficiency. Plenty has to go right to pull off that kind of strategy.
Considering our success against Barca, will Chelsea employ the same plan? I think we will, though because Bayern`s midfield isn`t as strong as Barca`s we`ll get more of the ball. That is both good and bad depending on what we do with it. Bayern can counterattack as well as anyone (Dortmund and Real Madrid are the exception, in my opinion). If we give away the ball we will be in trouble. Bayern are also good on set pieces. Robben, Kroos, Schweini, Ribery, Lahm—they can all create problems. Gomez, of course, is strong in the air. I want Cahill to mark Gomez on set pieces.
Chelsea will line up in a 4-2-3-1. My expectation, assuming that Cahill and David Luiz return, is that we`ll see: Cech / Bosingwa, Cahill, David Luiz, Cole/ Mikel, Lampard/ Torres, Mata, Kalou/ Drogba. I do believe Torres and Drogba will both play, but that primarily amounts to a lack of options. Danny is too sloppy in his passing, Malouda is generally a disaster (and he`s nursing an injury anyway), and Ramires isn`t available.
If one of Cahill and David Luiz can`t make the final, Bosingwa will be placed centrally and Paulo Ferreira will play at RB. Not ideal, though Bosingwa is strangely more reliable at CB than he is at RB. If neither can make it, well, I`d rather not even entertain that idea.
So I`ve written plenty about what we can do to stop Bayern—let`s look briefly at what we can do in attack. First and foremost: get Drogba the ball. He`s strong and he`s brutal in big matches. He can bully Bayern`s CBs. Torres will probably play as a RW and drift in centrally. If he starts at LW the same idea can be applied. I`d like to see DD and Torres exchange space, to drift centrally when the other player moves out wide.
The benefit of this is it creates confusion among an already confused Bayern defense; also, if we can keep the ball, it will keep Lahm occupied—and that is a very good thing. Lahm will want to get forward and cross the ball. Stop Lahm and you hurt Bayern on the left side. You in turn hurt Ribery, who will play ahead of Lahm. Mikel has a hugely important role, especially if we`re missing one of our natural CBs. He will have to help to start the attack but he`ll also need to keep a careful eye on Muller, a player who can run forever and who knows how to find space inside the box. I`d like to see Lampard feed the ball as much as possible to Mata, our playmaker who has thus far not excelled in the CL. I think it`s down to fatigue and he`ll be well-rested by Saturday. Bayern don`t have any obvious defensive answer for Mata; and if their defense is sweating any of DD, Torres, or Kalou, Mata is clever enough to exploit space left behind.
If you`ve read this far, I thank you for your patience. I feel as if I`ve barely scratched the surface here! The reality is that every Chelsea player will have to be at his best. For the love all things holy, we need Bosingwa to show concentration against Ribery. We need Cech to be as alert as ever. We need Cole to annoy Robben. We need our CBs to be fit! We need young Mata to have the game of his life. I could go on and on. And for those who feel really confident about the final, think again. Bayern`s performance against Dortmund was a massive embarrassment for them—it rightly suggests a major blow to their domestic superiority. This is both good and bad for Chelsea. Bayern don`t take lightly to be embarrassed. In the second round of the CL they lost away to FC Basel 1-0. At the return leg they won 7-0. An angry Bayern is a dangerous side to contend with. They will rightly be nervous against Chelsea; they will also feel tremendous pressure to deliver at home. But they will be prepared. Make no mistake of that. This is a side that got past Mourinho`s Real Madrid. Do not underestimate them.
It`s been a bizarre season. The final for us represents not only our first Champions League trophy. If we win it, we trump Tottenham for fourth spot in next year`s tournament. For many of our players, this is likely their last shot at the CL trophy. If we win it, RDM may actually keep his job. Winning the CL will also make a difference in our transfer dealings this summer; it will certainly make a difference with pressures from the FFP looming. We win, we win big. We lose, we lose big. I won`t be sleeping the night before!
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Date:Wednesday May 16 2012
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