Bayern Munich 4-1 Eintracht Frankfurt

The formations.

A quickfire second half double saw Bayern Munich leapfrog Frankfurt in the table and move to within five points of the Champions League spots.

From the off, Bayern deployed their usual pass n’ patience tactics in the face of a 4-5-1 – part and parcel of being the visiting side at the Allianz Arena. Louis van Gaal had two playmakers on the pitch in Bastian Schweinsteiger and Toni Kroos, and two direct attackers in Franck Ribéry and Thomas Müller. With so many options in the Frankfurt half, Michael Skibbe kept his banks set, rather than pressing Bayern vigorously and leaving gaps for them to exploit.

Nevertheless, Theofanis Gekas’s game is based on running, so he was left to hurry the centre-backs and Anatoliy Tymoschuk. Not only is the Greek international highly effective at doing this, it also helps him score goals. In the first half, Gekas forced several errors from Daniel van Buyten and Breno, and at one point found himself one-on-one with Hans-Jörg Butt. However, the former Portsmouth striker fluffed his lines, and Sonny Kittel did little better with the follow-up.

The 17-year-old Kittel was making just his fourth appearance for Frankfurt, and was a thorn in the side of Bayern down the left. Quick to join in or make counter-attacks (something Frankfurt did decisively – no second thoughts, no holding and waiting for Bayern to flood back), Kittel also sent in a series of testing set pieces for Marco Russ, Halil Altintop, Aleksandar Vasoski & co. to hurl themselves at.

On the subject of big guys and headers, Skibbe’s primary tactic at restarts involved long punts to the centre circle for the 1.96m-tall Alexander Meier to flick on for the deliberately semi-circular midfield three and Gekas hovering behind him in amongst Bayern’s defenders. Yet when they got the ball down in Bayern’s half, the lack of space available saw Frankfurt panic, and either squander possession, or pass back to Ola Nikolov. Continue reading

Bayern Munich 3-0 Nuremberg

The first half formations.

Louis van Gaal tactically outwitted Dieter Hecking and set Bayern Munich on their way to a comfortable victory in the Bavarian derby.

Having converted Bastian Schweinsteiger into a defensive midfielder-cum-quarterback last season, Bayern’s Dutch manager elected to use the one-time winger in a more advanced position for the visit of Nuremberg.

Often exponents of the 4-2-3-1 system so popular in the world game today, Bayern started in a formation that resembled a 4-5-1 at its most languid, and a Christmas tree at its most attacking.

With both defences looking to stand high, and the visitors content to let Bayern have time on the ball, 20 outfield players were competing for space in a vicinity of the pitch encompassing around a quarter of its overall dimensions.

Bayern felt their way in using the calm manner Bundesliga fans have become accustomed to, and had both Tymoschuk and Schweinsteiger shuttling back to collect the ball off the hogging centre-backs.

However, Hecking had instructed Julian Schieber – joint top of the assists chart with Lewis Holtby – and the nearest midfielder nearest to vigorously press the piano-carrier. Continue reading

Turkey 3-2 Belgium

Turkey 3-2 Belgium, 07/09/10. Belgium's 4-2-3-1 was a very negative take on the system. Facing inside-out wingers, both Vertonghen and Simons could do little bar support the full-backs when Altintop or Turan stepped inside. Lukaku gave Belgium some presence on the right, and Fellaini flitted between centre-forward and centre-back.

A fiery, frenetic affair saw the Turkish national team prevail from yet another of the epic matches they habitually partake in. With two wins from two games, Turkey will push Germany all the way in the EURO 2012 qualification race.

Initially, I was left stunned by the Belgium line-up, as Toby Alderweireld, Vincent Kompany, Jan Vertonghen, Daniel van Buyten and Thomas Vermaelen – all of whom play centre-back at club level – started.

Add to that list Timmy Simons, who can also play in defence, Anderlecht right-back Guillaume Gillet, plus Everton’s defensive screen Marouane Fellaini, and I was convinced coach Georges Leekens had lost his marbles.

However, his players amalgamated into a hybrid of 4-2-3-1 – one winger, a very high-standing forward, a stupendously mobile central attacker, a right-sided midfielder who acted as a third defensive-midfielder, and a deep and flat back-four.

Guus Hiddink was taking charge of his first competitive game on Turkish soil, and rightfully appeased a vociferous crowd by sending his team out to attack with infectious gusto. Continue reading

Eyes on Eintracht Frankfurt

Frankfurt's players bask in the glory of conquering Chelsea.

Yesterday afternoon, Eintracht Frankfurt beat Chelsea 2-1 in a friendly. I was alerted to the scoreline by the reliably orotund Sky Sports News, the network expressing mild consternation at the result.

Bundesliga followers will have been less shocked by the result, however, as Michael Skibbe’s well-drilled side were one of the league’s better teams last season.

Die Adler commence the 2010/11 season amidst minimal emendation to the squad. The XI facing Chelsea contained eight 2009/10 regulars, more than matching a side containing a similar number of starters.

Two of Frankfurt’s newbies featured in the friendly, one of whom was left back Georgios Tzavellas, who the Germans beat off stiff competition to capture – unsurprising given that the Greek international looks to be an exciting prospect. Continue reading