How did Bayern score against Wolfsburg?
The better question would be how did they only score three times but anyway, only makes my job easier…
Intros are overrated, you’re only here for the pictures anyway. Let’s begin with the first and by far most complex goal.
It began with I think a free kick but Bayern didn’t waste any time with that. Arjen Robben has the ball now with two passing options (could even mention the van Gaal triangle again), the unmarked Xherdan Shaqiri in a central position (dotted blue line) and Philipp Lahm right near the sideline (blue line). Robben goes for option #2. Just as important as that decision is the off-the-ball movement of Bastian Schweinsteiger (yellow arrow) who moves to take over the current position of Franck Ribery (red arrow) who’s on his way to the wing to save Lahm and Robben from being outnumbered and to provide them with a vertical option.
Lahm played the ball back to Robben immediately and the Dutch winger has multiple options again. He decides for the vertical pass to Ribery, through two Wolfsburg players who could’ve intercepted the pass with some effort. But there’s a lot more wrong with Wolfsburg here than just effort. The defender near Bastian Schweinsteiger is moving away from him (yellow arrow), planning to occupy the deserted zone (yellow area) in front of Shaqiri by creating another deserted zone around Schweinsteiger. This leaves the center back (Naldo I think) to take care of two opponents (red lines). A clearly suboptimal situation that could’ve been solved had one of the two guys right behind Martinez (green circle) moved back to Schweinsteiger.
Robben, Ribery, Robben…the Dutchman has the ball once again, now just at the edge of the box. And, once again, he has several options and, once again, decides against the pass to Shaqiri (blue dotted line). Instead he passes the ball (red line with dot) to Ribery who is running to the goal line (yellow arrow). Josue, the man marking Robben, has absolutely no chance here. Who can be blamed, though, is the central defender, although even this blame is difficult since the key mistakes happened earlier. He can choose between moving to the flank to welcome Franck Ribery (blue arrow), this however would leave the area right around Schweinsteiger completely unmarked (blue area), and the second option, the one he chose, to stay near the goal scorer (red line), leaving the red area all for Ribery.
Maybe a second later, the same defender in the spotlight again. Does he now attack Ribery (blue arrow)? Does he stay right next to Schweinsteiger (yellow line)? No, he decides to keep his focus on Mario Mandzukic (red line), granting the other two Bayern players access to a scoring chance. Bastian Schweinsteiger converts, finally 1-0 FCB.
Second half, still only one goal, still wondering how, when Mario Mandzukic declares that enough is enough.
Schweinsteiger with the ball in his own half, Wolfsburg’s midfield fully committed to shutting down the side the ball is at. As the yellow lines show you, four players are near the central midfielder, making a short pass almost impossible. However, apparently totally unaware of Schweinsteiger’s ability to play a long pass, the only green you can find at the left flank is grass. The red area demonstrates how much space there is for Holger Badstuber and Xherdan Shaqiri. Insane. Simple. The ball is passed to the left-back.
Now comes the, in my opinion, key moment of this buildup. That Badstuber will pass the ball to Shaqiri is obvious but he realizes that the Wolfsburg defender’s position is too central (the yellow arrow shows you were he should’ve been), leaving the red area unmarked and available for a pass. So, instead of playing the safe ball (yellow dotted line), Badstuber’s pass is aimed so that Shaqiri can pick up pace before accepting the ball (blue line), making this attack a lot faster and thus a lot more dangerous.
Shaqiri then does a brilliant job against Naldo, almost embarrassing the veteran defender. With space to take a cross, our focus shifts to the center. Mario Mandzukic is marked by an opponent (red circle) but positioned closer to the ball. Usually this is an advantage, yet this time it’s not because there’s another Wolfsburg defender in a decent position to prevent a short cross to reach Mandzukic (yellow line). But…
Mandzukic is damn smart and realizes that (or just felt like trying something different, who knows). While his direct opponent simply moves in a straight line (blue arrow), Mandzukic adds a quick slant to his route (yellow arrow) to get behind the defender and now only needs a decent long cross to the red area to have a big scoring chance. Exactly that happens, 2-0.
A bit later, another Mandzukic header made it 3-0, finally an appropriate result for that match.
Xherdan Shaqiri with the ball, surrounded by three opponents, sees the unmarked (red) area and moves to that position (yellow arrow), avoiding the pressure. Because of the smart movement there is now an obvious option, a pass to Mario Mandzukic (blue line). Now here’s the big thing: I already mentioned it for the second goal, Wolfsburg’s plan apparently was too force a tight match. And boy was that approach horribly executed. It looks like they forgot that there is no horizontal offside and, like with Badstuber and Shaqiri earlier, it’s Mario Mandzukic and (not in the picture) Philipp Lahm all by themselves on the right flank. The big green line indicates where Wolfsburg’s width stops, they are literally covering only half of the pitch. And all that with Arjen Robben currently outside, his absence either saved Wolfsburg from an even bigger embarrassment or caused all this because it made them think that’s all the danger on that side gone.
Now the only Wolfsburg player in that half of the pitch has to attack Mandzukic (red line), causing a huge (red) area to be deserted. No blame for him, though, he’s already fucked. Mario Mandzukic (again: smart) notices the sprinting Philipp Lahm (that huge yellow arrow in case you’ve missed it) and lets the ball roll through between his legs (blue line) instead of stopping it like most would (blue dotted line). All aboard the train to Wolfsburg’s box.
Lahm runs and runs and runs and finally is in a good position to take a cross. His direct opponent could’ve been a bit more aggressive, a bit closer to him (red dotted line) to block the attempt. The man inside (based on the horrible hair it’s Pogatetz) also should’ve been in a different position, he’s way too far away (blue dotted line) from Mandzukic who simply has to move towards the goal (yellow arrow) and hope for a decent cross to head home. 3-0. Celebrations for Bayern, medicine balls for Wolfsburg.
To sum up, Wolfsburg were horrible. Always too far away from the opponent, always with crazy positioning. Magath’s game plan went painfully wrong. Width, lots of off-the-ball movement and smart vertical passes were the big keys for Bayern, two lovely crosses finished it off. A perfect match for having Shaqiri on the pitch instead of Kroos. But this would’ve been three points even with Mitchell Weiser.