Bayern Munich: Tactical takeaways from 4-0 win in Der Klassiker

Bayern Munich players celebrating win against Borussia Dortmund at Signal Iduna Park on Saturday. (Photo by Ralf Ibing - firo sportphoto/Getty Images)
Bayern Munich players celebrating win against Borussia Dortmund at Signal Iduna Park on Saturday. (Photo by Ralf Ibing - firo sportphoto/Getty Images) /

In the aftermath of the disastrous loss to Saarbrucken last Wednesday, Bayern Munich travelled to Signal Iduna Park on Saturday to face Borussia Dortmund in the Bundesliga. Nothing less than a victory in Der Klassiker would have sufficed for Bayern.

To the relief of the Bavarian faithful, Bayern proceeded to trounce Dortmund in what was arguably their best performance of the season.

From a mostly optimistic perspective, let us look at the key tactical events and takeaways from Die Roten’s win in Der Klassiker.

Limited personnel didn’t hold back Bayern

Bayern and Borussia Dortmund lined up in a 4-2-3-1 formation. Apart from skipper Emre Can, Dortmund had a strong squad available for Der Klassiker. Meanwhile, Die Roten were missing Joshua Kimmich due to suspension and center-back Matthijs de Ligt through injury. With de Ligt unavailable, coach Thomas Tuchel and the medical staff decided to take the risk with Dayot Upamecano, not fully match-fit, as de Ligt’s replacement to partner Kim Min-jae in central defense.

Noussair Mazraoui was also back in the starting lineup after missing the game against Saarbrucken due to a minor injury. Leon Goretzka was also declared fit for the game, but he had a protective cast on his hand. There were no changes in the goal and attack for Bayern. Despite being ravaged by injuries and suspension, Bayern managed to field a strong team at Signal Iduna Park.

Bayern scored early and never looked back in the game

The match started at a brisk pace, but Bayern were sharper and quicker than Dortmund. In the fourth minute, Upamecano headed in the opening goal after Leroy Sane delivered a dangerous cross from the corner. Coman was looking to make it two from the edge of the box three minutes later, but his left-footed shot was high and wide.

Nonetheless, in the ninth minute, following a magnificent counter-attack, Harry Kane got the second for the visitors. From the left flank, Alphonso Davies played the ball out to Sane who then cleverly released Goretzka through the middle with a one-time back-heel flick. Goretzka returned Sane’s favour by playing a through ball to release him on the left flank. The German winger squared the ball first time for Kane to make it 2-0 with a tap-in from six yards. This passage of play set the tone for Bayern as their speedy wingers exposed Dortmund’s lack of pace at the back on more than one occasion.

Impressive display from Laimer and Goretzka in the center of the park

Konrad Laimer and Leon Goretzka successfully controlled the midfield without necessarily dominating possession. They defended well and supported the attack whenever there was space for them. They successfully interchanged the six and eight roles throughout the game with Goretzka more often being the number eight. In the 36th minute, the German midfielder made a threatening run in the box. He eventually unleashed a thunderous volley that missed the target by a few inches after some neat bit of play from Kingsley Coman to deliver the cross.

Bayern’s defense was solid in a hostile environment

Since Upamecano was making his first appearance in over a month due to a hamstring injury, it wouldn’t have been surprising to see a few shaky moments from him. However, the French defender showed no signs of rustiness. Along with opening the scoring, Upamecano thwarted Dortmund’s attack for the better part of 60 minutes until he was substituted.

Meanwhile, Kim Min-jae also delivered a commanding display. Apart from a nervy moment against Dortmund’s Youssoufa Moukoko, the South Korean defender was in sublime form on Saturday. The defensive duo and the rest of the team defended exceptionally well to keep the clean sheet.

Bayern conceded possession in the second half but looked threatening in the final third

Dortmund got the second half underway, but within a minute of the re-start Bayern took control and Harry Kane played Jamal Musiala through with only the keeper to beat. However, Dortmund’s goalkeeper Gregor Kobel denied Musiala with a brilliant save at the expense of a corner.

With Dortmund being vulnerable on the counter, Bayern efficiently managed the game. They conceded possession to the hosts but looked threatening in the final third with quick counter-attacks. In the 56th minute, Neuer was forced into a brilliant save to deny Marco Reus from the center of the box. However, the shift in tactics were ultimately successful as Neuer was not called upon to make another save for the rest of the night.

Tuchel made a big change at the hour mark as Upamecano was substituted by Aleksandar Pavlovic. The French defender was planned to play only an hour since he was returning from a serious injury. Pavlovic slotted in the midfield, while Goretzka replaced Upamecano in the central defense.

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Harry Kane scores yet another hat trick

Jamal Musiala was not on the scoresheet against Dortmund, but he played a crucial role in Harry Kane’s second goal that sealed the win for Die Roten. The German midfielder released Kingsley Coman on the right flank. Coman squared the ball for Kane in the box to do the rest.

The English forward completed the hat trick late in the game. Pavlovic intercepted a pass in the midfield and sent Harry Kane through for Bayern’s fourth goal of the evening. It was Kane’s third hat trick of the season.

Food for thought going forward

A wounded and short-handed Bayern once again showed great strength in character to bounce back from the humiliating midweek loss against Saarbrucken.

A lot of what Die Roten displayed on Saturday needs to be captured in a bottle and uncorked and refilled with regularity going forward.

The fact that Bayern didn’t suffer due to Kimmich’s absence will give both Kimmich and Tuchel a lot to think about. Tuchel has previously insisted that he needs a natural number six, while Kimmich has consistently admitted that he is a number six.

For now, the pressure on Tuchel may have dropped but any more disappointing results between now and the winter transfer window could bring him back under intense scrutiny.