Are you not entertained? FC Bayern offered a monstrous performance to flatten FC Schalke 04 on Saturday with a choice of tactical formation that once was seen as incompatible with the squad.
That is, ladies and gentlemen, something to celebrate after this 5:0 win.
Making the pundits lie
According to popular narrative, 4-3-3 cannot function at Bayern. Hansi Flick adopted that particular lineup with a central midfield formed by Thiago Alcântara, Joshua Kimmich and Leon Goretzka, and it worked. It produced bright sparks, despite having Thomas Müller out of position at right wing.
Kimmich found himself at the heart of the central midfield, being the pilot in the cabin. Bayern’s competence on the ball, strong game of position and accurate passing made this formation appear as a credible option for Flick in the future.
What’s the secret ingredient in the recipe?
It will take further observation to come to a clear conclusion, but my hunch is that having two technically accomplished ball passers in Kimmich and Thiago helps tremendously. They provide mobility, sense of orientation and ability to pull the strings from any area of the pitch.
4-3-3 is a possession formation to begin with. Midfielders such as Goretzka, Javi Martínez and Corentin Tolisso bring power to the game. They can play a role in the 4-3-3 scheme, but there may be a point in “power” midfielders being in the minority in the deployment. At least if the match requires a high level of control.
Feeling the blues
For all the credit we must give the Bavarians, Schalke showed their limitations in this match. FC Bayern held the ball for a lofty 76% of the time. Despite constant withdrawal of their players in their own end, the visitors were hardly able to prevent buildups from leading to quality scoring chances.
The second goal denied by VAR was a lovely case of a clueless defense failing to anticipate the next pass and mark potential recipients. I don’t care much about the offside. Schalke defended without a sense of orientation.
The second goal that counted on the scoresheet is another example. Thomas Müller was given all the space he needed for an easy finish off Leon Goretzka’s header. It doesn’t undo the quality of his work, but it provides a condition to convert the chance under low pressure.
Schalke were often caught out of position in one-on-one situations. They only produced one shot on target according to WhoScored data, and only one quality chance according to the naked eye. It took them 40 minutes to make a genuinely threatening play.
Such inability from Schalke to truly challenge the Bavarians helped make the Reds look good. Smaller teams with an iron will have made previous matches more complicated to manage.
Lady Luck’s moods
Football, like any elite sport, is a game of fine margins. The smallest element or event can make or break you. It can turn a close match into a rout. One of these factors is Lady Luck.
A early bad parry by Markus Schubert was a gift from the Royal Blues, leading to the opening goal by Robert Lewandowski. It may have broken the Ruhr side’s back before they could try anything.
The second Bayern goal that actually counted was also the result of luck, with a Goretzka shot oddly deflected by Thomas Müller. VAR withdrew the goal due to offside, but Lady Luck’s shadow was still on the pitch.
A little luck may have helped Bayern on their way to a convincing win. It could also have turned the match into an even bigger blowout.