Bouncing around MD 31 games part 1

working our way through this weekend's matches, clearing up some issues in the top 5

Hi, there! Matchday 31 is over and many questions have been answered. No, I don’t mean the ones about VAR and handball calls. But here are some notable things that happened in the Bundesliga, from clashes at the top of the table (part 1) to mid-table matches and the outright relegation battles (part 2). As per usual, I’ll get in to some tactical details further down the page.

  • Bayern overcome brave Borussia

    Bayern have climbed the last hurdle, overcoming a surprisingly possession-heavy, but ultimately tiring Gladbach in a fun match. Both sides missed key ball progressors (Zakaria and Thiago) creative setup men who can finish (Thuram injured after 6 minutes, Müller suspended) and goal scorers (Plea and Lewandowski), in what looked like a microcosm of the season: Gladbach surprised (me, who expected a 343 with Jantschke and got a 4231) the favorites, but then Flick adjusted his midfield pressing (one of Alaba\Boateng stepped up to Stindl) turned the tides on the flanks with Davies and Coman coming in and Bayern won the game late.

  • Gladbach’s courageous buildup approach was about their constant overloads in the first phase. Whether it was Neuhaus or Kramer or Yann Sommer on the ball, they constantly created 3v2s vs the inexperienced and ineffective Zirkzee/Cuisance (this could’ve been his revenge game had he finished his chances). Who knew Flick would miss Lewy and Müller mostly in pressing and I certainly expected a different game, one in which BMG would try to go over the top vs the press to Thuram or Embolo more so than constantly building out of the back. It was staggering to see how Flick’s high pressing calling card was being challenged and I don’t recall Bayern losing the possession game (45-55%) for an entire half, because their press was timid and beaten so often.

    The other reason, as the wonderful Cam Meighan pointed out in his breakdown, was Lars Stindl, whose brilliant spacial occupation between the lines kept Kimmich and Goretzka from being able to press higher effectively. Stindl’s positioning also forced the Bayern wingers to defend in the halfspaces (to deny Stindl) and thus Gladbach could progress. Add in Jonas Hofmann popping into the halfspaces, Perisic and Lucas being overrun by Lainer and Herrmann and you had Gladbach’s recipe for success. Unfortunately for Marco Rose, luck didn’t go their way - the Hofmann offside call, Embolo missing both of his chances (especially that rebound) and Yann Sommer committing a fatal faux pas. The Pavard own goal could be considered lucky, though the chance would have been buried.

    Gladbach also missed two opportunities early in the 2h and once Flick adjusted - Coman kept Bensebaini from attacking, Davies was a thorn in Lainer’s side, Gnabry could press better centrally - and an exhausted Gladbach eventually submitted into a 541. You can see above - and I had to look hard to find a decent buildup scheme in the 2h for the Foals - how much higher and more ambitious Bayern pressed. In the end, much like the season itself, Flick’s tactical changes and some individual performances from younger players undergoing crucial development (Davies, Coman, Goretzka) won it for the Bavarians.


  • Dortmund were anything but fun against the fighting Uwe Röslers of Ddorf, but delayed the Bavarian celebrations (for a few days) thanks to a walk-off header by Erling Haaland. Aside from the Hakimi counterchance, this was BVB’s worst offensive performance, but the credit should go to Rösler for playing a mid to low block 5-2-3 that shut the mighty BVB attack down. They worked their tails off - ran 116kms to Dortmund’s paltry 107.5 - and perhaps deserved a point (though that VAR call on Guerreiro was all-time LOL) if for a little more luck via Skrzybski and Haaland.

  • Meanwhile Leverkusen zagged when they should’ve zigged. B04 had the advantage of playing Schalke as well as the last game of the weekend. Peter Bosz’s side knew about Gladbach losing, but their uninspired performance and some crazy defensive effort by Weston McKennie and co, meant that they split the points. David Wagner fielded one of the youngest Schalke sides ever - Can Bozdogan, Nasim Boujellab and Ahmed #freeKutucu all started - and ran 121 km and pressured\blocked all attempts, while occasionally countering:

(defensive stats via fbref at

Tactically, it was a standard 442 (maybe a first for Schalke?) vs an asymmetric back 3 for Leverkusen: Wendell played not as a LB but a conservative LCB, while Weiser played his attacking role (not too well). In the central Aranguiz was the lone pivot with Amiri almost a second higher pivot behind the midfield four of Schalke. Demirbay played deeper in the left halfspace, while Havertz was higher, with Diaby providing width and lots of failed dribbles wide left and Lucas Alario often lost among the S04 back line.

In the second half, Bosz put Wendell as a de facto LB, but the only thing it achieved was nearly breaking the world record for meaningless back 4 passes, 419 to be exact (Schalke had 301 attempts) with no Leverkusen player getting over TWO box passes…

The ineffective and not quite healthy-looking Havertz was subbed off alongside Amiri, but neither Volland nor Sinkgraven (finally back at LW, but probably because Bellarabi and Bailey were unavailable, the latter due to the birth of his baby) helped much. Paulinho did offer some late game trickery, as well as some frustrating end product, while 17 yo whiz kid Florian Wirtz curiously remained on the bench, as Bosz only used 4 subs….

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