Borussia Dortmund may have won the first Der Klassiker of the season 1-0 at the SIGNAL IDUNA PARK on Matchday 11, but the result on Saturday was never in doubt after Franck Ribery put Bayern Munich ahead early. Two goals from Robert Lewandowski and one from Arjen Robben eventually helped the champions to a resounding 4-1 win, but just how did they do it?
After all, no current coach has enjoyed more Bundesliga victories against Bayern than Dortmund’s Thomas Tuchel, who boasted four against the record champions at kick-off. bundesliga.com trains its microscope on the latest instalment of Der Klassiker to analyse the tactical reasons as to why he was unable to extend his record…
Ribery gets the better of Passlack
Unlucky to find himself on the losing side when Bayern beat BVB 2-0 in the Supercup back in August, Felix Passlack may well have been licking his lips at the chance to prove himself again against Ribery. The veteran Frenchman, 16 years his marker’s senior, had other ideas, though, putting in a game-high 39 sprints and 84 intensive runs, giving Passlack a torrid time before his withdrawal for Douglas Costa after 74 minutes.
While a left-winger outrunning every player on the pitch would usually lead one to expect a glut of crosses from that left flank, Ribery, a six-time Bundesliga champion, defied expectations. Instead of trying to beat Passlack on the outside, and thus offer the BVB defender the chance to win a tackle on his stronger right foot, the Frenchman spent most of the game cutting inside, opting to play the final ball from a central position.
Ribery only put in a single cross from a wide area, choosing instead to roam centrally, and reaped his reward when he scored the opener from a central position inside the box after only four minutes. The Frenchman also played the through-balls – from central positions – that led to Robben's goal and Lewandowski's second-half penalty. Little wonder many are saying that Ribery is ageing like a fine wine.
Robben outdoes Marc Bartra and Marcel Schmelzer
Tuchel's back three in Munich (from right to left, Matthias Ginter, Sokratis and Marc Bartra) was likely inspired by the successful back three in the reverse fixture in Dortmund (which BVB won 1-0). On that occasion, however, Bayern lined up with Thomas Müller on one side and Ribery on the other; this time out, Carlo Ancelotti could once again call upon Robben. The Dutchman clocked a world record 37km/h in helping the Netherlands dismantle Spain 5-1 at the 2014 FIFA World Cup and, despite being 33, retains much of that pace.
Having been schooled at Barcelona, Bartra is a ball-playing centre-back par excellence but also a player who prefers to be central, and not wide in a back three. The reason for that is his turn of pace to get out wide and stop the danger at source is not one of his stronger attributes (which often leads to him overcommitting in the challenge, as seen for Bayern's third goal). Dortmund captain Marcel Schmelzer knew this, and his lack of trust in Bartra meant he spent the first half camped in a deeper position than he should have been in a 3-4-3, but still in a no-man's-land. That space between them was perfect for Robben to exploit.
Watch: hear what Robben made of Bayern's victory in Der Klassiker:
Bayern's numerical advantage in midfield
Julian Weigl's unavailability, however, was perhaps the biggest blow for Dortmund in Munich. The 21-year-old's ability to keep possession is already world-class (as pointed out by Toni Kroos). Alongside Thiago, Weigl is one of only two midfielders to boast a pass completion percentage of 90 per cent or better in the Bundesliga this season.
His injury-enforced absence forced Tuchel’s hand, with Gonzalo Castro – normally a box-to-box midfielder employed to protect and do the dirty work alongside Weigl – asked to drop deeper and sit in front of Dortmund’s back three. Where Thiago had Xabi Alonso and Arturo Vidal for company, Castro was isolated, with Raphael Guerreiro playing closer to Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang up front than to his supposed central-midfield colleague.
Bayern made the most of the three-versus-one numerical advantage in eye-watering style: Vidal enjoyed a game-high 129 touches and completed 102 passes; Alonso finished with 121 touches and 98 passes completed; Thiago 99 and 79. Sebastian Rode replaced Castro at half-time, but their combined total at full-time was 47 touches and 37 passes. Tuchel recognised the need to add more manpower in midfield, bringing Mikel Merino on alongside Rode after 69 minutes, but by that time the horse had bolted, with the score at 4-1.
Watch: Xabi Alonso reflects on Bayern's dominance in Der Klassiker: