Bayern Munich Pressing

By Stevie Grieve

Bayern Munich seem to have changed to a new 3-4-2-1 type of formation this season, possibly to combat teams playing a low 4-2-3-1 or 4-5-1, overloading midfield with 6 players while having 3 players in deep positions to circulate possession from a deep position with penetration to 2 central players behind the opposition midfield, who can both drift wide in Muller and Robben.

In the game against Wolfsburg, Bayern pressed relatively well, directing play to one side and forcing Wolfsburg into predictable longer passes as the short range passing lanes were covered, while dealing with longer passes before they happen.

Blocking passing lanes with the immediate pressure


As the ball is transferred wide from kick off, Bayern immediately try to close every short passing lane and force a long ball or a diagonal backwards pass which could be intercepted.


As Bernat closes in, he blocks the easy pass down the line, and tracks the dribble inside. As the dribble inside is made, only 1 pass lane is open, which Lewandowski and Muller would be ready to pounce on any passes into here. The RB plays safe and goes long.

Containing a zone behind the pressure


Bayern look to direct play to one area, where the play can be covered and overloaded. Behind the pressure, on the side away from the directing, they have 4 players arcing around the pressing zone.

Each player covering has their body shape angled to ensure they can press quickly if the ball breaks out of the pressing zone.

Lahm covers the predictable pass


Lahm can see where the pass will be played and drops off early to cover the pass.

 Containing Play in 1 zone


Here, Bayern contain play in one zone, less than ¼ of the field with 6 players in a 3-1-4-2 block. All 1st and 2nd line passing options are covered man-man, while Muller and Robben’s body shape control the space around the marking zone.

Containing play in one ‘corridor’


Traditionally a lot of coaches would be heard saying ‘defend in 2 corridors’ while Bayern here are trying to contain and keep the ball in 1 corridor, minimizing the amount of ‘exits’ available.

Robben and Muller press from wider areas, closing down the central space, offering one passing lane which has 2 players around it to play 2v1 on the side.

Robben regains possession in the 3v1 as all exits are closed and the ball isn’t released


With all exits blocked, the player tries to turn back on his right side. As this happens, Robben presses from the blindside; winning the ball and starts a counter attack, leading to a goal within 8 seconds.

By Stevie Grieve. (Follow on Twitter @steviegrieve)  Stevie is also the author Coaching the 4-2-3-1Coaching the 4-2-3-1 Advanced Tactics and From Futsal to Soccer

Holes in the 3-1-4-2 System of Manchester United

By Stevie Grieve

New Manchester United Manager Louis Van Gaal has taken over a struggling side from last season, but despite the criticism that David Moyes endured, Louis Van Gaal’s premier league start had delivered 1 point from 2 winnable games. This was followed up by a 4-0 humiliation from MK Dons. Despite fielding largely a reserve side, it did contain experienced first team and internationalists in Javier Hernandez, Danny Welbeck, Shinji Kagawa, Jonny Evans and David De Gea.
In the 3-1-4-2 attacking system, there are space to exploit in transition, or when the midfield press high. When the ball is played wide into the full backs, this may entice the already high positioned wing-backs to press high and

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How Bayern Uses the Overload Tactic to Success

By Stevie Grieve

Bayern Munich opened the new Bundesliga season as Champions but without a fully fit squad and missing several key central midfielders, including Toni Kroos who was sold to Real Madrid. In central midfield, they had unknown teenager Gianluca Gaudino and David Alaba, not an ideal pairing on paper if you don’t realise that David Alaba is one of the best footballers in the world in several positions.

In attack, they had a potent from 3 in Robben, Mueller and new signing Robert Lewandowski, players who will always create and score chances.

The game plan for Bayern Munich was to nullify the threat of Kevin de Bruyne and Ricardo Rodriguez down the left side by limiting their space in transition, while pinning them back while Bayern were in possession by dominating the zone with a flood of players and a constant attacking presence.

Bayern set up – Flood the right side and look for 4v3 on the side

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As we can see, Bayern would have 4 players wide on the right side, which enables them to

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Creativity in the Final Third By Real Madrid

By Stevie Grieve

Real Madrid went into the European Super Cup match against Sevilla on the back of a summer of spending on big names Toni Kroos, and James Rodriguez. It will be hard for Carlo Ancelotti to balance his squad trying to accommodate Sami Khedira, Xabi Alonso and Angel Di Maria within the starting 11, but this is a task the biggest manager must face if they are to be successful. Angel Di Maria brought balance and stability to the team, and a high assist ratio, something which Mesut Ozil brought to Cristiano Ronaldo (it seems as though assists aren’t enough to stay at Real Madrid).

With the players they have, creativity and quality in the final 3rd is not in short supply.

Ronaldo goal from Bale early cross – eliminated the possibility of the full back recovery


As Ronaldo switches play to James, Bale is wide to offer an outball should James be pressed. The main aspect of this scenario is that the

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How to Beat a Four-Man Midfield

By Stevie Grieve

Borussia Dortmund lost to Bayern Munich in the 2013 Champions League Final, the 2014 German Cup Final, and lost Robert Lewandowski to their domestic rivals on a free transfer. They have however, now won the last 2 German Super Cups.

Jurgen Klopp has made some slight changes to his team and the structure and these slight changes worked perfectly against the 3-4-3 of Bayern Munich.

Positioning against the Bayern build-up phase


With Bayern playing a 3-4-3 formation, they have great width to circulate horizontally, so to counter this, Dortmund

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Arsenals Game Plan to Beat Man City

By Stevie Grieve

Arsenal allow City to attack down the left; tempt Kolarov forward and use his space to counter via Sanchez


Arsenal expects that Man City will use Kolarov down the left, so Alexis Sanchez is not to track back. Instead, Mikel Arteta will shift over and cover the space with Debuchy. When City attack centrally, Arsenal will tease City to playing to the left side when Kolarov is deep, to entice him to get forward and into a crossing position. When the cross is dealt with, Arsenal instantly look for Sanchez in Kolarov’s zone, knowing that nobody is quick enough to catch him on the break.

Sanogo will play close to the right side so that Sanchez has someone to help him, and to help create space. With these 2 on the right, Ramsey, Cazorla and Wilshere can all rotate positions.

Push Debuchy high and get players between the lines; Leave left side for rotations


When in organized possession, Debuchy will always look to play high and stretch the width of the field, with Gibbs in a deeper role on the opposite side to make a back 3 in transition.

As Debuchy gets high, Arsenal will have Sanogo on the last line on the right side, Sanchez inside right between the lines, with Cazorla and Ramsey dropping deep then drifting between the lines from deep or from the left side.

As Ramsey, Wilshere and Cazorla are all comfortable in this zone, they all rotate positions to make it difficult to be marked or tracked on the left side. Arteta will stay deep and screen the defence to maintain the 3v2 advantage in central midfield.

Cazorla goal – 4 players between the lines, Debuchy high

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For the 1st goal, Cazorla and Wilshere are inside left, while Sanogo and Sanchez are in the places they are intended to be, with Debuchy high and out of image. Ramsey feeds the pass into Sanchez who passes 1st time to Sanogo who drops off from his marker.

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The ball breaks from Sanogo to Cazorla, who fakes to shoot with the right, lets it run across his body before shooting with his left foot from 20m.

Arsenal makes another counter attack behind Kolarov

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As Arsenal win possession, they instantly look for Sanchez who has half the field available to attack as Kolarov is still recovering from the previous attack. Arsenal have players between the lines as the midfield 2 are flat in transition with the back 4 dropping off, worried about the space behind them.

Arsenal allow the pass to go left then tease Kolarov to get forward and help Nasri

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Arteta closes down the space but doesn’t try to force play towards Gibbs. Instead, he lets the ball go to his left, as the back 4 get into position.

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As the ball is passed wide to Nasri, he wants to drift inside while Kolarov can’t resist getting forward despite Sanchez having broke away on the counter attack several times previously.

Sanchez half-tracks back as he is supposed to do, and stays in a position where he can be found from the defence when the cross is cut out.

Arsenal almost score from Sanchez’s 60m counter attack run

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Kolarov is again in the final 3rd, which is fine if you are able to cover his space which Sanchez keeps exploiting. They don’t place someone in his position for the transition, and again Sanchez can break.

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Sanchez receives a great pass from Chambers from Kolarov’s cross. City’s midfield don’t cover the spaces around the edge of the box, while nobody is near Sanchez in transition, which gives him space to run into again.

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Sanchez plays the 1-2 with Sanogo but the pass is poor and the chance is lost.

Alexis on the counter attack into Kolarov’s space results in the 2nd goal

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Kolarov is again tempted forward, despite several warnings, while City still don’t change roles in transition. As the ball is regained Arsenal instantly find Sanchez on the right again, he drives forward into the space and allows Sanogo to get into the same line as the defence. As he makes the run, the right CB drifts over to help, creating a gap for anyone running from deep.

Ramsey’s run into the gap created by Sanogo’s run

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Sanchez releases the ball behind the defense, dragging his marker with him.

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As Sanogo drags his marker away from Ramseys perfectly timed run, Sanogo brushes off the challenge before releasing to Ramsey who chips the ball away from the challenge from the recovering defender before smashing the 2nd goal into the far corner.

Arsenal exploit the space behind Kolarov and between the lines for the 3rd goal

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After Kolarov gets forward to attack, he can’t get back into position, so Arsenal try to get the ball in there as quickly as possible. Arsenal also look to get in the gap between the lines as Cazorla pulls wide which occupies the full back, and stops him from moving into the space to press.

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As the ball is passed inside, Giroud protects the ball before setting it to shoot from 25m.

In this game, Arsene Wenger was tactically excellent, while Manuel Pellegrini would say that he didn’t have his best 11 playing, tactically they didn’t deal with any of the threats Arsenal were quite clearly using over and over again. Had Pellegrini asked Fernando to play in the zone of Sanchez in and out of possession, and maybe asked Kolarov to not support the attack, the 3-0 defeat may have been prevented as it could have been much more for Arsenal.

By Stevie Grieve. (Follow on Twitter @steviegrieve)  Stevie is also the author Coaching the 4-2-3-1 and Coaching the 4-2-3-1 Advanced Tactics