Thomas Tuchel proved there are few tacticians out there to match him as Bayern Munich beat Borussia Dortmund 4-0 in the Klassiker on Matchday 10. - © IMAGO / ActionPictures
Thomas Tuchel proved there are few tacticians out there to match him as Bayern Munich beat Borussia Dortmund 4-0 in the Klassiker on Matchday 10. - © IMAGO / ActionPictures

Tactics corner - how Thomas Tuchel led Bayern Munich to a Klassiker triumph


Bayern coach Thomas Tuchel lived up to his reputation as a tactical master as his side smashed their way to a 4-0 win at Borussia Dortmund. picks out the four key items of tactical trickery that led to the resounding Klassiker success...

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Thomas Tuchel's legendary tactical acumen was always going to be put to the test in the eagerly awaited Klassiker. Edin Terzić's Dortmund were unbeaten in the Bundesliga since April and looking a very tough proposition as late in their solid 4-2-3-1 formation. The Bayern Munich coach proved to have all the trump cards though as his side ran out 4-0 winners in a sensational display.

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Watch: Harry Kane hat-trick sees Bayern beat Borussia Dortmund 4-0

1) Getting men in the centre

For all the multitude of options for a modern football tactician, there is often nothing like the key principle of targeting an opponent's weak spot. Dortmund's loss of experienced captain Emre Can in the key defensive midfield role due to injury was always going to be a difficult one for the hosts to compensate for. Thomas Tuchel's Bayern proved to be merciless at exploiting this chink in the armour of the previously unbeaten runners-up.

Within the opening 25 minutes (generally the clearest time for seeing what tactical strategy a team has set out with), Bayern channeled a whopping 70% of their attacks through the middle. Dortmund had hoped to gain sufficient cover in defensive midfield with the pairing of Salih Özcan and Marcel Sabitzer - nominally enough perhaps to combat the trickery of Bayern's sole central attacking midfield outlet in Jamal Musiala - but not with Leon Goretzka deployed in more of an advanced role as Bayern's 4-2-3-1 became a 4-1-4-1 formation in possession.

Goretzka and Musiala operating between the lines of midfield and defence was always likely to be a handful, but it became an unstoppable force when Harry Kane dropped from his centre-forward position to operate as another option in the No.10 zone and became a playmaker. 

It would take a big defensive focus to thwart Tuchel's deployment of so many skillful operators in the middle - and the Bayern boss gave his central attacking stars reinforcement by pushing his wingers, Leroy Sané and Kingsley Coman, very high and wide. Dortmund were left with an impossible dilemma of whether to abandon the flanks to the dangerous widemen or leave enough space for havoc to be wreaked in the middle. When Kane got on the ball, Bayern had an attacking five bearing down on the hosts' goal, with the wingers and Musiala frequently chasing behind the defence. 

Bayern played an attacking 4-1-4-1 formation in possession - DFL Deutsche Fußball Liga

2) Switching attacking positions

In order to add extra attacking bite to what was clearly a very potent positional idea, Tuchel ordered Bayern's attackers to continually switch positions. The most notable was Musiala advancing into the centre-forward role when Kane dropped back between the lines and operated as a playmaker. 

You could see the effect of such attacking rotations right from the start. While Bayern's opening goal may have come from a Dayot Upamecano header from a corner, the attack that led to the award of the corner was a classic example. Dortmund had a handle on the centre at this stage and closed the spaces down well, so Sané dropped a little on the left flank to help Alphonso Davies keep the ball circulating further back. To ensure there would still be pressure applied high and wide to the Dortmund defence, Goretzka then moved out to the left from his attacking midfield role to take Sané's position. 

After the ball was cut back by Sané to Davies, the winger sprinted forward into a central attacking position. Davies cut it back to Minjae Kim, who laid it off to Upamecano, Kane found himself in space between the lines to receive a long pass upfield. The England captain turned and played through to Musiala, who broke into the area with Sané in a move that led to a cross being turned behind for the corner. 

Watch: Harry Kane's 'special night' in Dortmund 

3) Tuchel ready for Terzićball

Borussia Dortmund are also a side generally fond of forcing their way through the middle. To combat that, Tuchel instructed his stars to form a very compact 4-2-3-1 when out of possession. This saw Sané, in particular, dropping in from the left and closing down the space that Marco Reus wanted to play in - after Reus started as a right winger in Dortmund's 4-2-3-1, but in reality operated from a more central position. Right-back Marius Wolf was often the free man in Dortmund's attacks. Bayern did a sterling job at blocking off passes to Wolf though and getting men on him when he did win it. 

It was clear from the opening minutes that Coman was dropping back frequently on the right to form a back three or five for Bayern. That allowed Davies to step out from his usual duty as a left-back of tracking the opposing winger in order to press Wolf when he gained the ball.  

Bayern dropped back into a 3-4-1-2 at times when out of possession - DFL Deutsche Fußball Liga

Edin Terzić reacted by his side falling two down at half-time by bringing on a third centre-back in Niklas Süle. The chief idea in this was undoubtedly to provide the platform for a 3-2-4-1 in possession designed for Dortmund to probe out wide after they had gained no joy through the centre. Donyell Malen was switched to wide on the right and tasked with penning Davies back, but Bayern reacted well by switching into their more defensive formations.  

Terzić shook things up in the 57th minute by bringing Karim Adeyemi on for Malen and going permanently for a back three - on and off the ball. Tuchel knew just how to respond though. When Upamecano was forced off in the 60th minute and replaced with a midfielder, Aleksandar Pavlovic, the Bayern coach found two more central defenders to help see out the lead. Goretzka dropped into what would from now on become a back five. Noussair Mazraoui played on the right in front of the defensive line, while Coman became a wing-back for the rest of the encounter. Kane, Musiala and Sané remained positioned as a threatening front three in front of the new defensive midfield duo of Konrad Laimer and Pavlović.

The back five proved to be another masterstroke in keeping a lid on Dortmund's ambitions to attack out wide, while maintaining solidity in the centre.

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4) Bayern's variety seals the victory

Dortmund's half-time changes were also designed to seal the space in the centre that Bayern had battered their way through in the first period - with three centre-backs and two defensive midfielders. Tuchel's champions had a response for that move too though - by getting attackers increasingly down the flanks, especially the right.

Whereas the hosts started with two players on either flank, they now had just one on each. Kane's second goal that made it 3-0 in the 72nd minute showed how just how effective this tweak was. Mazraoui moved from in front of the defence to out wide and attacked Adeyemi. Coman moved ahead of him and drew Dortmund centre-back Nico Schlotterbeck to the sideline. Musiala then peeled another central defender away on the right in Mats Hummels. A quick combination with Coman between the lines followed, and the Frenchman played through for Kane, who left his marker, Sabitzer behind, and finished in style. 

Thomas Tuchel and Bayern therefore found a response for every tactical question Edin Terzić and Borussia Dortmund could pose to them. The champions' Klassiker plan took them into a brilliant early lead and the tweaks that followed comprehensively thwarted their rivals' attempts to battle back - before the flexibility of their attacking approach sealed the deal and the massive win.

Nik Staiger