Tactics Explained | Bayern Munich & Jupp Heynckes’ Treble


In 2012/13, Jupp Heynckes steered Bayern Munich
to an unprecedented treble of the UEFA Champions League, the Bundesliga, and the
DFB-Pokal, becoming the first German side to achieve this. Bayern also broke numerous records during
the season, including recording the most points, 91, the biggest lead over the
second-place team in the league, 25, and winning the Bundesliga with 29 wins in the season
and in only 28 match-days. Bayern played a 4-2-3-1 formation, with a
preferred back four built around the pace and physicality of Dante and Jerome Boateng, a midfield double pivot of Bastien Schweinsteiger
and costly new signing Javi Martinez, and a fluid attacking four. Franck Ribery and Arjen
Robben would arguably have been the first-choice wingers, playing either side of Toni Kroos. However, Robben and Kroos both spent parts
of the season injured, requiring the intelligent, adaptive Thomas Muller to play central or wide. Up front, Mario Mandzukic generally
started, scoring 15 league goals but also contributing hugely in other aspects of his
play. Bayern were a side built on intelligent defending
and utilisation of space. Manuel Neuer,
already redefining the goalkeeping position, allowed Bayern’s central defenders and full-
backs to push high with his sweeper style of keeping. But Bayern actually didn’t try to play an
offside-based defence, as noted by Rene Maric. Instead, Dante and Boateng would man mark,
even if that disjointed the defensive line somewhat, relying on their pace and strength
to beat forwards in a foot-chase and on the superb screening provided by the midfield
to create shielded areas into which the opposition struggled to pass. Indeed, this zonal shielding, or cutting off
passing channels, was something at which Bayern excelled, using their positions on the pitch
in concert with pressing to limit opposition passing options and maximise their chances
to win back the ball; this was an adaptable of Barcelona’s style the previous season, inflected by some of Louis van Gaal’s coaching
philosophy, and worked well. Bayern also developed a counter-press, perhaps
in response to success of Jurgen Klopp’s Borussia Dortmund. Heynckes encouraged a counter-press when the
ball was lost, but also instructed his players, especially full-backs
Philipp Lahm and David Alaba, not to revert to marking or the positions they would occupy in a low block, but rather to continue forwards
into a press. This meant not only that Bayern could counter-press
effectively but also that they immediately found themselves with numerical
advantages if they could win back the back.​ This was, in part, facilitated by the superb midfield pairing of Bastien Schweinsteiger and Javi Martinez. Martinez, who had played most of the previous
season as a centre-back at Athletic Bilbao, was a skilful tackler who managed
to convert many of his tackles into Bayern possession, rather than ceding the ball again
or giving up a throw-in. He was also adept at
tactical fouling, had the energy to get forwards and support if required, and filled in
intelligently as a third centre-back if both full-backs were engaged further up the pitch. This was a fluid side, positionally and spatially,
evidence of the influence of Marcelo Bielsa’s philosophy that players should be able to
operate wherever they are required to on the pitch. The front four exemplified this, as Mandzukic
showed the abilities in pressing and disrupting the opposition, as well as his
usefulness when drifting out to the left, that has
been a hallmark of his current use at Juventus. While Mandzukic pressed, it was not uncommon
for Ribery to end up in the striker’s role, or Muller, but Bayern could also drop into a 4-4-2 or 4-4-1-1 with Mandzukic up front and the wide players tracking the opposition full-backs, even Arjen Robben. Similarly, in the centre, while Martinez tended
to sit deep but shuffle left or right if required, Schweinsteiger played ahead of him on either
side and also swapped with whoever played in the ten role, usually Muller or Kroos, with the latter dropping into space; this was a reaction to whether the opposition were man-marking the ten. It’s also worth noting, as Jonathan Wilson
has, that Bayern could play a possession-based style in the Bundesliga, with plenty of short,
tidy passing on the front foot, while changing for Champions League fixtures against better
or more tacticaly astute opposition, and using the physicality of Martinez and Mandzukic,
a deeper line, and an aggressive counter-attack. By dictating the use of space on the pitch,
defending intelligently, and pressing or counter- pressing situationally and with great acumen,
Bayern created a fearsome defensive apparatus which also acted as a springboard to attack. With players of great individual
quality, but a collective understanding shaped by Heynckes with shades of Bielsa’s influence,
Bayern swept all before them in 2012/13.

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