Tactics corner: Dino Toppmöller's low-lying Eintracht Frankfurt block shoots down Thomas Tuchel's Bayern Munich


Dino Toppmöller set-up his Eintracht Frankfurt side perfectly in the 5-1 victory over Bayern Munich, while also adhering to Die Adler's principles. In the end, it was a tactical masterclass that his counterpart Thomas Tuchel could not deal with.

Upon Bayern's visit to the Deutsche Bank Park, Toppmöller decided to field his starting XI in a 4-4-2 formation. While his team used familiar patterns, the boss' little tweaks caused plenty of confusion for his opponents. "We were expecting a back four," said Tuchel after the match. "Once the game started, it was clear it was indeed a back four, but on the team sheet it looked like a back five instead." The Bayern head coach then went on to admit that this misunderstanding meant that he gave his players too much incorrect information prior to kick-off.

But how did Frankfurt put their plans into practice? In reality, it was not too dissimilar to how they usually play: in a 4-4-2 out of possesion, with compact lines and a tight defensive block. Left-footed Willian Pacho lined up at left full-back instead of Philipp Max, while Aurélio Buta started on the opposite flank. The inclusion of Pacho, a centre-back by trade, appeared to have led Tuchel to assume either Ansgar Knauff or Éric Dina Ebimbe would feature as a left wing-back, but they both took up wide midfield positions instead.

Frankfurt's out-of-possession set-up allowed them to nullify Bayern's threats. - DFL

Flexible marking

Considering Bayern began the match with two strikers, two central midfielders and four in defence themselves, Frankfurt were able to use man-zonal marking against their opponents. However, even though the Bavarians switched things up as the game progressed, the hosts were able to modify their own shape accordingly.

It was particularly interesting to see Frankfurt deciding not to mark tightly, instead allowing Bayern plenty of space on the ball. In fact, only Joshua Kimmich was closed down with speed and intensity given how he often dictates proceeedings for his outfit. Farès Chaïbi was the man tasked with keeping the Germany international quiet, although Omar Marmoush helped out whenever Kimmich dropped deeper to make himself available.

Frankfurt did, at times, afford Bayern space between the lines, but this was a clever trap. By tempting Die Roten to bypass the midfield with long-searching balls, they gave their defenders time to step out aggressively and attempt to intercept. Simultaneously, the midfield then dropped back to suffocate any player who picked up possession from such situations, allowing Frankfurt to win the ball back and attack themselves.

This was already noticeable in the fourth minute, when Robin Koch and Tuta pushed out to close down Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting and Harry Kane respectively. This high-risk strategy left big gaps in behind, with the entire backline, therefore, needing to display plenty of discipline, but it allowed Toppmöller's men to turnover the ball on a more regular basis.

Frankfurt were brave as they stepped up high in their attempt to win the ball back early. - DFL

Strong nerves and accuracy

The 4-4-2 formation is, on paper, the most basic in football. However, it is, therefore, crucial to implement the simplest instructions perfectly. Had either Koch or Tuta lost one of their aforementioned duels, Bayern would have had a fantastic opportunity to take the lead early on.

The midfield also needed to be defensively solid. Tuchel attempted to beat the zonal press by overloading that middle of the pitch - Leroy Sané and Alphonso Davies moved in from the left to take up more central positions and join Kimmich and Leon Goretzka. In response, Frankfurt moved into a midfield five, thwarting another Bayern tactic as a result.

One moment, in the 25th minute, though, showed just how quickly things can change if each and every player does not stay concentrated. Mario Götze moved out of position when Kingsley Coman played a ball in to Goretzka, who was consequently free to pick his pass. Tuta was, therefore, forced to commit to a tackle, allowing the former Schalke man to play Kane in behind. You do need a bit of luck when facing the record champions, of course, and they were lucky on this occasion as the England captain fired wide. It was ultimately a huge let-off for Götze, who didn't repeat that mistake for the remainder of the afternoon.

Mario Götze made one positional error, and was almost punished by Bayern. - DFL

Toppmöller's confusing tactics contribute to opener

While zonal marking can help when on the back foot, it also means opponents can quickly regroup in transition. As such, Frankfurt's players attempted to get around this early on by using different movements, such as diagonal sprints, to force Bayern to either hand them over to a teammate or to shake them off completely.

This was the case when Marmoush broke the deadlock. Right-winger Knauff dropped wide, pulling Davies out of position in the process, before running into Sané's area. The latter was quick in reacting to the threat the former Borussia Dortmund youngster posed, but that allowed Buta to push into the now unoccupied space, and Davies was unable to see the danger quick enough. Buta then had time and space to pick out his cross, which eventually ended up in the back of the net after some penalty-area pinball in the 12th minute. Even at that early stage of proceedings, the flanks were an obvious weakness Frankfurt could look to exploit.

For the second goal shortly after the half-hour mark, Marmoush drifted out wide, taking Dayot Upamecano with him, while Dina Ebimbe temporarily replaced him up top. Knauff again caused havoc with his running, and was covered by Minjae Kim. With both centre-backs now not where they should have been, Dina Ebimbe had the freedom of the 18-yard box and, when Knauff got the better of Kim to work the ball into the area, the Frenchman buried the ball with aplomb to finish off the move.

The movement of Omar Marmoush, Éric Dina Ebimbe and Ansgar Knauff was crucial throughout. - DFL

Tuchel's adapt bring momentary solutions

After his team conceded a third, Tuchel instructed Coman and Sané to switch sides, which initially caused confusion for Frankfurt's defensive structure. Like the opposition, Coman moved diagonally, but the pacey Buta defended those runs well, even when left one-on-one with the 27-year-old.

Sané, though, brought a different dimension to Bayern's attacks down the right. While Coman is a more traditional wide player, Sané is more comfortable playing in tight spaces, and his quick feet allowed him to beat Pacho and Dina Ebimbe's central pressure to free up others. Around the 40th minute, he was able to wriggle out of trouble and release Choupo-Moting, and Eintracht had problems clearing the resulting cross.

That incident forced Dina Ebimbe to move back and defend Sané more closely. This, though, created room for Noussair Mazraoui and Kimmich in dangerous areas, and it was this space that Kimmich used to curl a beautiful effort into the top corner. Disarray in the Frankfurt defence thanks to the problems caused by Sané meant the goalscorer wasn't closed down despite being so close to edge of the box.

Watch: Frankfurt 5-1 Bayern - match highlights

Toppmöller deals with Tuchel's challenges

Fortunately for Toppmöller, Bayern's goal arrived shortly before the interval, allowing him to adapt to his opponent's changes. The 43-year-old found a solution, too: instead of letting Dina Ebimbe become more passive, Pacho was more involved. If he had to face up to Sané, he prioritized protecting the inside channel. Dina Ebimbe, whenever he came to his aid, also closed the central area instead of trying to win the ball back immediately, as versus Coman. Sané instead looked to get to the byline, but the heart of the back four was always ready to intervene. In such a position, Sané is not at his most dangerous, and was, therefore, allowed to keep the ball while hugging the touchline.

Another Tuchel idea at the break had no impact on Frankfurt's 4-4-2: the introduction of Konrad Laimer and Raphaël Guerreiro - two players who can also take up more central roles - at right and left-back respectively was meant to give Goretzka more time to contribute to the build-up play and link things up.

Frankfurt, though, did not let this deter them, with Knauff covering when Guerreiro rushed forward and forming a five-man midfield block when necessary. Against the advancing Laimer, Dina Ebimbe pressured from a more central area, and this helped to restore the three-goal lead. Knauff initially accompanied Guerreiro, before looking after Coman. On the left, Dina Ebimbe followed Laimer into the centre and waited until Hugo Larsson had recovered to take over. The Swede was then proactive in stealing the ball from Upamecano and started the swift counterattack that led to the fourth strike.

The effort, in particular, perfectly encapsulated Frankfurt's spot-on tactics: a compact 4-4-2, positional and situational shifting to nullify Bayern's threats, discipline throughout the team and being bold to take advantage of opponent mistakes as soon as possible, before attacking with creative movement and speed.