RB Leipzig's and Bayern Munich's 1-1 draw was both an entertaining encounter and fascinating tactical contest between two fierce title contenders. bundesliga.com takes a closer look at one of the games of the season so far…
With Bayern taking an early lead through Robert Lewandowski's strike before RB Leipzig levelled the ledger near half-time with an Emil Forsberg penalty, the result ensured Leipzig remained top of the table with a two-point cushion on the fourth-placed champions.
With so many compelling tactical mechanisms and ideas on display from both teams, these two bright coaches in Julian Nagelsmann and Niko Kovac proved why their teams are always formidable opponents to face off against.
Watch: Highlights of the 1-1 draw that kept Leipzig top!
With Bayern going with their now customary 4-2-3-1 and Nagelsmann deciding on fluid 3-5-2, the early stages of the clash offered some interesting developments. Looking to control possession, there was a lot to like about how Bayern found ways to beat the press after Leipzig had initially made life difficult for them.
Leipzig's pressing setup against the Bavarians started with the two forwards - Timo Werner and Yussuf Poulsen - keeping tabs on Bayern's two central defenders - Niklas Süle and Jerome Boateng. Leipzig angled their pressing to usher the visitors towards playing out to the flanks. Once this happened, they'd ramp up their pressure and look to hem in their adversaries, as they'd shift aggressively to the ball near side and hope to close off any forward passing options.
Leipzig's central attacking midfielders, in Forsberg and Marcel Sabitzer, would push up and press the Bayern fullbacks depending on the side of the pitch the ball was on; Konrad Laimer, playing behind the aforementioned pair, would then monitor Joshua Kimmich and Thiago Alcantara. Die Roten Bullen's central defenders would look to track any dropping movements from Thomas Müller or Lewandowski, while the fullbacks would keep an eye Bayern's wingers.
While Nagelsmann would have been pleased with the early results, the movement of Kimmich and Muller eventually saw Kovac's men find joy in progressing upfield down their right-hand side. Doing a great job of narrowing Forsberg's position, Kimmich would often draw him in to press, which would inherently leave huge spaces for Benjamin Pavard, playing at right-back with Kimmich once again in midfield, to burst into. Kingsley Coman - playing high and wide and, unusually, on his natural right-hand-side - pinned Marcel Halstenberg and compounded Leipzig's early difficulties.
Cleanly beating the press with a 3v2 overload
Kimmich's movement and awareness key to bypassing the press
Alternatively, Müller would drop into the half spaces and cause marking issues and help generate ideal 4v3 or 3v2 numerical superiorities, the self-proclaimed Raumdeuter often serving as the free man.
Good 3v2 mechanics to beat the press down the right
Müller serving as the free man as Bayern create a 4v3 diamond
In addition, by using the up-back-through principle, which essentially provokes a press from the opposition before exploiting the space behind, this enabled Bayern to engage in some slick combination play to free up a winger or Lewandowski in behind the Leipzig backline.
Bayern's threat in behind was another huge weapon of theirs in this contest. Possessing blisteringly quick wingers in Serge Gnabry and Coman, plus the ultra-intelligent Lewandowski and Muller, this quartet persistently posed a threat with their blend of dynamism and nous.
On top of angling and directing their runs superbly, the way Gnabry would push infield generated dilemmas for Leipzig as to whom should mark whom. This gave the hosts huge headaches, for they had to deal with at least three Bayern attackers looking to burst into the box to be an option.
Bayern's frontline attacking the Leipzig backline in a 5v4
Moreover, with the likes of Kimmich and Thiago as providers, these two pass masters were ideal candidates to oblige their colleagues' clever runs.
Coman's super blindside run spotted expertly by Kimmich
Kimmich supplying his attackers nicely
Coman's brilliant run being obliged by Kimmich's neat pass
Bayern Goal Analysis
Looking to recover possession immediately after it was lost, Bayern's counterpressing was another highlight, and one that was key in limiting Leipzig's effectiveness in transition. It also allowed them to win the ball back in promising areas against Leipzig who were preparing for a counter of their own.
Bayern's opener offered a fine example of how important this aspect of their game can be, as Müller ferociously pressed then dispossessed Lukas Klostermann down Bayern's left.
Muller's brilliant counterpressing prior to Bayern's goal
Once he'd recovered possession, Müller then played Lewandowski in beautifully with a precise through-ball before the Poland captain did the rest.
Müller's superb through ball assist
Although this aggressive gegenpressing is something Leipzig have become renowned for, Bayern showed their rivals how effective they too are at implementing this unheralded chance creation method.
Goal Analysis Leipzig
As the first half drew to a close, Leipzig got the reply they were looking for, brilliantly capitalising on an uncharacteristically errant pass from Thiago, who accidentally fired his pass straight to Werner. Noticing Sabitzer free in the 10 spaces in front of Bayern's backline, Werner then played a lovely, piercing pass towards the in-form Austria international.
Sabitzer finding space prior to Poulsen winning the penalty
Recognising Poulsen was making a run behind him, Sabitzer's ingenuitive dummy let the ball roll into Poulsen's feet, and the Dane was subsequently fouled by the backtracking Lucas Hernandez. The resulting penalty was duly slotted home by Forsberg to restore parity at the break.
Sabitzer's smart dummy before Poulsen won the penalty
One feature of the goal that deserved special mention was how the runs of Poulsen and the advancing Halstenberg pinned the Bayern central defenders to create room for Sabitzer to be initially located by Werner.
Second half changes
Despite his team getting back into the contest near the interval, having recognised his team getting outplayed for large chunks of the first half, Nagelsmann opted to change to a more familiar back four for the second stanza.
Shifting to a back four in the second half gave Leipzig and extra man in central midfield and gave them a solid foundation on which to work their way back into the game. Now enjoying stronger connections, their front two - four when in possession - thrived as they combined cohesively and were in ideal positions to attack crosses and through balls in behind. Persistently asking questions of Bayern's backline with their coordinated movement and subtle switches, Leipzig were a far more dangerous proposition.
Much better central presence to attack the Bayern backline and combine in close quarters
Another crucial component associated with the change in Leipzig's shape came from how they could compete much better for second balls. An area that Leipzig excel in typically, their enhanced central presence meant they were suitably positioned to recover possession either high up or in midfield zones so they could attack again with sweeping, fast attacks.
Leipzig's strong second ball structure
Leipzig's pressing notably improved too, with them doing a much better job of limiting the away side's ability to bypass their press. Covering Kimmich and Thiago with more certainty, plus doing a neat job of blocking pass lanes using their cover shadows, they restricted the supply line far more successfully.
Leipzig's second half pressing setup limiting options for Bayern
Coordinated press making life difficult to get through them
Die Roten Bullen were consequently able to force their opponents into errors and rushed decisions, with this serving as the catalyst for many quality chances on goal.
Hemming Bayern in and closing forward pass routes
Finding more joy on the counter attack to boot, Leipzig posed a far bigger threat in a formation that they're so well versed in. Knowing precisely where to run to stretch their foes' defence and be situated in ideal locations to provide the ball carrier with options, Leipzig masterminded some interesting 5v4 and 4v4 situations against an unset, retreating defence.
In a game full of intriguing tactical elements and excitement, and one where both teams had periods of ascendancy, this was another testament to the quality of these teams, and we seem to be set for an extremely competitive title race this campaign.
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