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Bayern Munich 4-1 Chelsea, Champions League: Tactical Analysis

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Breaking down Chelsea’s season-ending defeat in Munich

First half

Bayern made another strong start, just as in the first leg. Their aggressive pressing allowed them to defend high up, while their possession was comfortable at the back (Chelsea standing off) and provided the platform to move forward with the ball.

Chelsea had great difficulty once again, taking extra touches and not wanting to receive or play with the ball under pressure. This made it easier for Bayern to press up as a team — central midfielders closing down the first touch of Chelsea’s central midfielders with back to play, while the backline always pushed up upon passes back to Chelsea defenders.

Bayern’s high line would catch Chelsea offside on direct play from the back, and while switches to the wings would allow opportunities to hold the ball and allow the fullbacks to come into the game and move forward into the final third, this did not happen often enough.

Chelsea stood off in a 4-4-2 defensively, so Bayern had the central midfielders dropping between the central defenders to split them, while the fullbacks moved up. This allowed Thiago time and space on the ball to play forward passes into the frontline, or for them to find the fullbacks and move up the wings. Chelsea kept Mount, nominally on the left wing, higher up and central and looking to press Boateng when he had the ball. But this left Kimmich in space to receive the ball on the wing and start attacks.

From the left, Bayern usually looked to use the speed of Davies’ overlapping runs (Perišić balancing runs forward) while on the right they had Gnabry moving inside, leaving the wing free for outside runs behind from the front two or Gnabry himself. With a narrow position, the rotation of Gnabry and Müller would also cause Chelsea problems, with Thiago playing the ball forward to the feet of the frontline, and Müller finding Gnabry facing Chelsea’s backline to set up the pass for Lewandowski to win the penalty.

Kovačić losing the ball would see Bayern countering and scoring to extend their lead, which would be another example of uncharacteristic play. Bayern’s pressing is very fast and aggressive, but Chelsea were creating their own problems once again (again, just as in the first leg).

Chelsea were a little better after the second goal, with Mount and Hudson-Odoi switching wings. From the left, Hudson-Odoi could carry the ball forward and cut inside and even had a goal ruled out, while defensively he held his position to stop Bayern continuing to easily find Kimmich in space on the right to break Chelsea’s lines. Mount had better opportunities to press from the right without leaving the opening for the fullback (Kanté out to cover and Bayern’s front two not joining attacks on the left as often as the right). Chelsea would go on to finally score against Bayern before halftime, with Abraham in position and alert to score from Neuer’s error, but it would be the only goal they’d manage over two games.

Second half

Chelsea switched to a 4-3-3 for the second half, with Kovačić holding and Barkley and Kanté playing higher up. They approached the half with more aggression and determination with the ball, while the intensity of Bayern’s pressing dropped off.

The speed of the game was slower with possession at the back for both teams. Chelsea created some better situations with the ball to reach the final third, but Bayern were still capable of changing the speed of their attacks and created the best chances.

In the later stages of the half, Bayern would go on to score another two goals through crosses from both sides of the box, though the tie had been over long before.

Conclusion

A game that was a big ask proved to be far too much of a task for Chelsea. Chelsea again had problems dealing with the pressure of Bayern and not having a solution defensively to cope with their possession. The heavy defeat brings an end to the strangest of seasons.