The fight for the championship title in the German Frauen Bundesliga this season promises to be very interesting. The 2020/2021 season may be the one in which Bayern Munich will finally break the 4-year domination of the VfL and beat their biggest rival on the way to the coveted trophy. Die Wölfinnen won the league in the previous four seasons, Bayern finished as runner-ups, just behind their eternal rival.
In the matchday 9 of the 2020/2021 Frauen Bundesliga season, FC Bayern Munich faced VfL Wolfsburg. The result of this game will have a decisive influence on who will ultimately win the championship title. So far 10 games have been played out of 22 which make up the entire season, so we are almost at the halfway point of the 2020/2021 Frauen Bundesliga season. On November 15, all eyes were on this duel. It was the clash of two teams, which have totally dominated the domestic football league in Germany for 6 years. Bayern hosted the current German champion and the finalist of the last edition of the UEFA Women's Champions League. And as it turned out, the team from Munich was not very welcoming to the visitors from Wolfsburg, as Bayern smashed Die Wölfinnen 4-1 and took another big step towards the title. Let's take a closer look at this match and dissect it into the prime factors to understand what influenced the course of the match and what decided on the final result of this match.
This is how both teams lined-up:
Both FC Bayern Frauen and VfL Wolfsburg Frauen played in 4-2-3-1 formation.
Both teams approached each other with big respect. At the beginning of the game, Wolfsburg was trying to put some pressure on their opponents. The first 15 minutes of the match were difficult to distinguish which side was the dominant side, but Bayern players seemed to be more calm and comfortable with the ball at their feet. It was a very physical game. And due to the what is at stake in the match, the kind that takes place not only on the pitch but also in the minds of the players. It was a game of nerves, the mental side played a key role in the course of the match and it seems Bayern was the team that dealt it better.
Bayern's great tactical discipline
Bayern from the very beginning stuck to their game plan. It was clearly visible in their actions on the pitch. The team from Munich managed to maintain their focus and discipline until the end of the match. Bayern played this game tactically very well. As a team, they positioned themselves to close all VfL's options with playing the ball from behind. They played with medium-pressing, saving their strength in that game and spreading them evenly by simply correcting their positions on the pitch. Bayern's forwards did not press against the VfL defence when the centre-backs were exchanging passes, but as the ball was moved to the centre of the field, there was an aggressive approach from Bayern players which very often resulted in stealing the ball from VfL's midfielders. Whenever the VfL's midfielders received the ball in the middle of the pitch, their possibilities were hindered by the tactically well-organized Bayern team.
The VfL midfielders had a very difficult task in this game because as soon as they received the ball, they immediately felt the presence of the opponent on their backs due to the aggressive team pressing used by the Bayern players. Bayern simply moved well as a team on the pitch and this intelligent team movement was the key to their success. This was particularly evident in the first half, as in the second half Bayern, apparently pleased with the result, gave up a bit of such aggressive pressing on the VfL central midfielders. Both Huth and Engen had a bit more freedom to play the ball, which immediately resulted in a few goal-scoring opportunities.
One example of this smart positioning of Bayern players on the pitch is shown in the picture below. It illustrates how Bayern cut off the possibilities to pass the ball to VfL's central midfielders. The Bayern players lined up so that they cut off every possible line of passing. We also see Buhl cutting off the possibility of playing the ball between Hendrich and Wolfsburg's centre-backs. Hendrich was forced to kick the ball forward. And thus Bayern, without much effort, forced Wolfsburg to give them the ball back.
What was Vfl missing in this match?
There was too little movement on the pitch from the VfL players. For the longest part of the match, it looked as if VfL had no idea, no match plan. The most visible problem was VfL’s lack of an idea to break a tight, well-organized Bayern's defence. Sometimes there was also an absence of precision in their passes and misunderstanding between the players in some situations. Wolfsburg created a few dangerous opportunities to score in this match, but either they lacked effectiveness or Laura Benkarth made another great save to prevent her team from conceding a goal. VfL Wolfsburg had trouble scoring a goal due poord decison making from their players. single situation on the pitch. Of course, it's hard to expect players to make the right choices in every single situation on the pitch. But this factor was another one that made the team of the current German champion unable to score more goals.
As you can see in the picture below. This is a situation in which Huth quite surprisingly decided to take a shot, despite the fact that the most appropriate and obvious choice would be to pass the ball to Wolter who had a lot of free space on the right side of the pitch.
This mentioned lack of idea was visible at several points, but one situation in the 9th minute of the match could be one of the most relevant examples. For nearly 40 seconds, VfL's goalkeeper, Katarzyna Kiedrzynek, and the duo of centre-backs Hendrich-Janssen exchanged 9 passes between each other. No objections to that, because playing calmly and building the action from the back is understandable and much needed in football. But that 40-second exchange of passes turned out to be pointless, as it resulted in Goessling making a desperate long pass blindly forward and Bayern players intercepted the ball without any problem.
VfL Wolfsburg's defensive passivity
At certain points in the game, Wolfsburg left too much free space on the pitch for the Bayern players. Wolfsburg were not using high-pressing, nevertheless, the amount of free space the players left for their opponents was too much. At this point, let's have a look at more examples to illustrate this drawback. We can see how much free space Lina Magull has around her in both situations. It seems impossible that it was a part of Wolfsburg's plan for this game to leave such room for Bayern players. It seems that the Wolfsburg players should have tried to disturb the Bayern players a little or at least try to reduce the distance to them and exert pressure with their closer presence.
Especially since the situation in the second picture is the beginning of Bayern's goal action, when Magull took advantage of free space she has been left with as she managed to take a precise pass forward to Klara Bühl.
A few seconds later Bayern scored their first goal. Magull had too much free space left for herself. VfL players should not leave as much free space for a player with such passing abilities as Magull possesses. Bayern's captain played a good ball to Bühl from Bayern's half of the pitch. Neither Huth nor Engen jumped even closer to the Bayern's captain, they were just watching her playing that good pass which landed under Bühl's feet. Buhl moved the ball to her right foot and passed it to Lohmann, who missed the ball. Fortunately for Bayern, Asseyi was right behind Lohmann's back and she finished that pass, turning the score 1-0 for the Munich team. It was all about that element of surprise which Wolfsburg was missing for the most of the game when they played fairly static. Bayern scored quite unexpectedly, but it was thanks to this quick action they were able to surprise VfL Wolfsburg.
The crucial role of central midfielders
There is another factor connected with the aforementioned situation, which might be considered as one of the main reasons why Wolfsburg had problems with fluidity in transporting the ball between their formations on the pitch. The fact that VfL’s central midfielders were invisible through a large part of the match. The VfL central defenders, Janssen and Goeßling, were trying to build from the back. However, as a rule, neither of the two sixes in Oberdorf and Engen decided to fall back, so that there was sometimes a vacuum in the centre. Very often, Wolfsburg lacked the presence of midfielders and their help when the full-backs were looking for an opportunity to play the ball forward. This particular weakness for Wolfsburg is perfectly seen in both of the photos below. There is a huge gap in the central area of the pitch, a large, empty space in which none of Wolfsburg's midfielders are present.
Meanwhile, we can see both Bayern midfielders described in the photo who are moving in that space.
Unlike Wolfsburg, Bayern's build-up play involved both Lina Magull and Sarah Zadrazil. Both players took the role of deep-lying playmakers, thus giving their team a numerical advantage and more options to pass the ball and play it forward. Here we see both Magull and Zadrazil dropping deep on the pitch to get the ball and play it forward.
We can see Zadrazil dropping very deep as for a moment she found herself on a center-back position.
Such, sometimes unnoticeable at first, details made Bayern's task easier in this match. Both Bayern midfielders were very active throughout the game. The team often dominated the midfield and were the side that dictated the terms and pace of the game.
Reactions after the final whistle:
One of the most important factors that made the biggest impact on the final result of the game was the hard work of Bayern's central midfielders, who took control in the center of the pitch. The Munich team managed to minimize all the strengths that Wolfsburg possesses through their roster. Although Die Wolfinnen did not play a bad match, they simply lacked efficiency in decision-making in front of the opponent's goal. Bayern was a team who took advantage of chances they created for themselves as they were very clinical in their finishing. Wolfsburg lacked the element of surprise. On the contrary, Bayern succeeded in this, especially in the way they scored the first goal. This allowed them to feel comfortable due to their lead in the match against their biggest rival. It was a very important game in the context of the fight for the championship title in the present Frauen Bundesliga season. Bayern made a huge step towards success. There are still many emotions ahead of us in the German league. Undoubtedly, the result of this match will have a big impact on the final finding in the league at the end of the season.