The Bayern Back Three
This is my first upload of a tactic, so any suggestions, help or comments is appreciated.
The back four is almost a stalwart of football in the modern game. Very few teams are able to utilise a back three and play it to their advantage. A few years ago the back three was seen in resurgence, used by teams such as Udinese and Napoli in Serie A. It was also often used in the premier league, under managers Roberto Mancini at Manchester City and Roberto Martinez at Wigan Athletic. Most significantly however it was used by Pep Guardiola at Barcelona during the first stage of his tactic development into the famous Tiki-Taka we all know today. This season we have seen a greater comeback of the back three, with several teams playing it during the world cup it has transitioned to club teams across Europe. Juventus have used the back three for many years now during Antonio Conte’s reign to great success in Serie A and we have seen this once again used at times in the beginning of Massimiliano Allegri’s reign. Back in the Bundesliga however we once again see Pep Guardiola using a back three at Bayern Munich. This back three of Pep Guardiola’s is what I’m going to analyse and do my best to replicate now.
Pep’s Tactic is all about creating space for an extra player and this is exactly what a back three does. When played against a back 4 you get space at the back for an extra player. This was visible when Bayern Munich played Roma in the Champions League this year. This is because of the lone striker who is played. He will be marked by the opposing team’s two centre backs. From the image you can see that this creates an extra man in defence of Bayern Munich (red). The other team will find it difficult to do anything in these situations, because when attacking this extra man you leave behind a midfielder who can attack your defence on a counter. Leading to other players covering and disrupting the shape of the team. This leaves extra men free in midfield for Bayern. When defenders go to pick up these free midfielders they leave wingers or potentially the striker free for a pass to be played into them. This is particularly dangerous when full backs are played high up the pitch for the opposing team. It’s all about drawing a mistake out of the opposing team, and this is why Bayern play a patient, probing possession game.
This however is not just a standard back 3. That would be far too simple for Pep Guardiola.
So what are the key features?
He plays a back 4 when starting the game with and extra full back in midfield, Lahm when exploiting the right, Alaba when exploiting the left, with either Rafinha or Bernat slotting in where appropriate. The idea is that the extra man free draws a player from the opposing team out of position. This is made much more simple by the fact the left hand side of the pitch is a 3 on 2 situation for Bayern. Leaving 1 of the 2 left backs free or even the winger. The free winger would perhaps draw one of the opposing 2 central defenders out of position leaving the striker free to play in behind them.
The midfield is an interesting one. Javi Martinez was originally played as the holding midfielder/extra defender in a sort of Half Back role. However with the arrival of Xabi Alonso we have seen an extra feature to the way in which Bayern play. Alonso does not just sit in front of the two central defenders. When out of possession he drops back behind the two central defenders, acting as a last ditch defender sweeping up the balls the defenders are not able to intercept. However when in possession he plays much more like the Xabi Alonso we know. Operating in front of the back two, he passes the ball, dictates play and allows other players to push higher up the pitch. Bayern Munich play a possession game and Alonso is perfect for it. Bayern (at the time of writing) have the highest possession statistic in the whole of Europe with an average of 66.2%. Therefore Alonso is not needed in the sweeper role all that often, but is there to defend against counterattacks. The role would be much more suited to Javi Martinez but with his injury Alonso is filling in this role well.
So how does this line up in Football Manager 2015?
The mentality Bayern always have is either to attack or control the game. This is up to the user of the tactic. But I personally have this set to control until crucial parts of the game at which time I play attacking. The shape Bayern use is fluid. The wingbacks push up the pitch and contribute to play in the second and final third of the pitch. Whilst the extra wingback in midfield roams, and fills in for them when the team is not in possession and wanders into the flanks when in attack. I do not set this to very fluid, as I believe it leaves them too vulnerable in shape as more players look to make more of an impact further up the pitch.
In the team instructions there are many different instructions from each category, possession, penetration, shape, defending and general.
In possession I have the retain possession instruction. This goes with control mentality and will allow Bayern to dictate play, keeping the ball. Work ball into box and play out of defence are also enabled. This enables Bayern to be patient and probing, and means if a way cannot be found through they pass it back to defence and start again whilst keeping possession. They will not always work the ball into the box due to player instructions but I will get back to this later. The only other instruction I have enabled in possession is run at defence. This instruction is much more for full backs and wingers than anyone else on the pitch, but this is changed in individual player instructions which I will get to later.
In the penetration category I have two instructions set. Either exploit left or right flank depending on which side is playing the extra full back. This enables Bayern to play the 3 players vs 2 player advantage I was talking about earlier. To enable full backs to play even further up the pitch I also have the look for overlap instruction set.
The shape I have set to play narrower, much higher defensive line, and roam from positions. The play narrower allows the squad to remain narrow, and makes it easier for the defenders to remain tight at the back. However the wingers and the wing back on the exploited flank will be wider in their individual instructions to stretch the opposition, pulling defenders from the flanks to the middle and from the middle to the flanks, generally disrupting the opposing teams shape.
With the defending category, I have set close down less. This will prevent the team’s shape being disrupted as players will back off into position until a time becomes appropriate to intercept or win the ball. This prevents the shape of the team being disrupted, as well as stretching the opposing team the length of the pitch, giving wingers space when the opponent’s wing backs push forward. To force mistakes from the opposition prevent short GK distribution is also enabled. This will make the Bayern striker disrupt short passing between the goalkeeper of the opposition and his two central defenders, forcing him to pass long and utilising the extra man Bayern have free.
Player Roles, Instructions and Who I Recommend You Play (Exploiting the Left)
Manuel Neuer (Sweeper Keeper-Attack)
The best goalkeeper in the world. He regularly is found at the half way line when Bayern are at full flow. To get the best out of him I have set him as an attacking sweeper keeper. With the following instructions. Throw it long, distribute quickly, and ease off tackles. If you watch Neuer he often collects the ball and looks to throw the ball out as quickly as possible the throw it long and distribute quickly instructions will allow him to carry this out in game. He is also very smart and picks his moments to tackle opponents as a sweeper keeper, being careful not to expose his net and not to get a red card, ease of tackles will see this happen in game.
Xabi Alonso (Libero-Attack)
Often behind the defence, often in front depending on the situation. With the following instructions. Dribble less, close down less, ease off tackles and more direct passing. I have chosen these instructions to aid the team. Dribble less leaves him with less time to lose the ball in his own area, the direct passing allows him to find those defence unlocking balls from deep which could lead to a counter attack. The close down less allows him to retreat to him more defensive position and so that he is not drawn out of position, whilst the ease off tackles stops him making rash tackles when deep which could lead to red cards or penalties, and allows him to choose his moments to tackle in that crucial sweeper role.
Both Centre Backs: Jerome Boateng and Mehdi Benatia (Limited Defender-Cover)
I play both centre backs the same way. The limited defender keeps them in the role of a simple defender looking to defend. They will not spend time on the ball like a ball playing defender, they will only seek to defend. Their instructions are fewer risky passes and close down less. Fewer risky passes will help the team keep possession by not losing the ball in those crucial areas of the pitch, and close down less will allow them to get back into position without disrupting team shape. Close down less will be very crucial as the team instruction push much higher up will make their average position much higher up the pitch. We do not want to get caught out in these situations as we would not get back in time if we were closing down more. Therefore closing down less enables these two centre backs to remain solid at the back.
Philipp Lahm (Wing back-support)
Lahm is the player on the right that gives the team a back three at times, as well as playing on the right flank. This flank is not the flank that is to be exposed in this version of the tactic. So his main role is not to push up too high, and mainly to keep the ball and pass it around from the back. His instructions are therefore shoot less often, close down less, sit narrower and cross less often. Shoot less often and cross less often are to keep possession of the flank we are not looking to expose. Because we want Lahm at times to slot in deeper alongside the two centre backs I have added the instructions sit narrower and close down less. This also keeps him solid at the back. This also counter balances the run at defence team instructions, as he will run at defence when in possession and get back when not in possession, whilst not getting too far up the pitch with his supportive mentality.
David Alaba(roaming playmaker-support)
Alaba has several instructions in his roaming playmaker role. Close down more, move into channels and run wide with ball. Run wide with ball makes him run down the left flank with the cover of the “true” left back, he will not just give the team extra defensive steel on the left flank but also creates that 3 vs 2 player situation I mentioned before. The move into channels aims to pull players away from either the left back or left winger to provide a free man further up the pitch. Close down more aims to win the ball back further up the pitch in a bid to protect the left back and the centre backs.
Juan Bernat (wingback-attack)
There are only 2 instructions for Bernat. Shoot less often and [close down less. The aim of Bernat is to run wide and cross balls into the middle which he will do because of his role and mentality. Shoot less often will give better use of the ball and keep possession. Close down less will allow him to get into his left back position when needing to defend without being pulled out of position. This again counter balances the run at defence team instructions, as he will run at defence when in possession and get back when he is not. He can rely on Alaba on this side to close down anyone in front of him while he retreats.
Bastian Schweinsteiger (box to box-support)
The only instruction for Bastian is to dribble less. This dribbling less will allow the team to keep possession with Schweinsteiger passing it instead of being given to time on the ball to be closed down.
Franck Ribery (inside forward-support)
There are three instructions for Ribery, shoot more often, roam from position and stay wider. This is how Ribery players in reality. Cutting in and shooting. He stays wide to stretch the opposition, and will roam into the centre when space becomes available to him. Due to exploiting the left flank there will be times Ribery finds himself in space due to the 3 on 2 situation. If he does not find himself free the run at defence instruction will allow him to dribble more and beat defenders in 1 on 1 situations.
Arjen Robben (Inside forward-attack)
Perhaps an enigma in the team Robben plays a lot more for himself, a typical individual star of the team. His instructions are shoot more often, dribble more, roam from position and stay wider. Stay wider will stretch the opposition, roam from position will allow him to look for space in which he can attack the opposition. Dribble more is for his own individual star quality, which will allow him to attack opponents in 1 on 1 situations. We are not exposing this flank in this version of the tactic so much more often he will need to play for himself. Shoot more often will allow him to shoot in those situations in which he finds space.
Robert Lewendowski (false 9-support)
Lewendowski is an interesting addition to the squad made by Pep this year. A powerful and strong man who can hold the ball up for the wingers cutting inside and can also finish on his own. For these reasons I have the two instructions shoot more often and hold up ball enabled.
So how does that shape up?
Exploiting the left
Exploiting the right
The exploiting the right tactic is very similar to the exploiting the left tactic, with the same player roles on the other side, and the game plan is the same.
There will be times were you line up with a back 4. This goes with the patient play. Wing backs will not push up immediately but will instead wait for the right opportunity and your formation will look like this.
How it looks
Conclusion and download
I hope you enjoyed reading about Bayern’s tactics and enjoyed my interpretation of them. You can download the tactic by clicking on the download link below. Unzip the file to Documents\Sports Interactive\Football Manager 2015\tactics
Test the tactic and let me know what you think. This tactic is by no means perfect and other players would fit into the tactic in different ways, but I believe this best represents how Bayern Munich play in the most true to life form.
Thanks for reading.