Bayern preview: Summer of change for the Bavarians

A look at how Bayern have changed since the semi-final with Atlético last May

Ancelotti took over from Guardiola during the summer

Ancelotti took over from Guardiola during the summer

When Atlético Madrid were drawn to play FC Bayern München in the semi-finals of the Champions League last season, it was just the second time in history that the two teams had met.

However, a new European battle between the two clubs this Wednesday may bring new dynamics into play because of how much the Bavarians have changed in just a few months.

Michel Munger, Editor-in-chief at Bayern Central, brings you up to speed.

When Carlo Ancelotti took over as head coach, he promised stability. He also said he would take his philosophy and adapt it to the team. His school of thinking is molding the game plan according to the strengths of his players. He makes relationships as important as the tactics.

The result is a different vibe. While FC Bayern retain the ball most of the time, their possession is more decisive and vertical, less focused on control as a defensive tactic.

A deeper back line

Don’t expect Carlo to bring all his players up in Atlético’s half – or final third! – and build from the back. The defence plays deeper than before. It has a tendency to get the ball out quickly and let midfielders build up plays.

When the opposition regains the ball, FCB’s midfield presses while defenders track back. The team therefore is better at stopping counterattacks.

The only defensive struggle is however a real one. The way the team defends now leaves a hole between the back line and central midfield. Opponents that have made runs and passes to invade that gap have created chances.

Finish your chances, though. Die Bayern have conceded only twice in eight games in all competitions.


Are you going to see a “liquid”, formation-less lineup as you did before? No. Carlo Ancelotti will either field a 4-3-3 or 4-4-2.

The most common lineup so far this season is 4-3-3. The central midfield comprises a deep-lying midfielder (often Xabi Alonso or Thiago Alcântara) who helps out the defence and sends sharp long balls forward. The other two midfielders roam and get involved in every phase of the play, from box to box. Especially Arturo Vidal.

Going forward, Thomas Müller plays a new role on the right wing. He spends more time on the right flank, pairing with either Philipp Lahm or Rafinha to stretch the pitch. He has scored only one goal so far this season, but he contributes to buildups instead of acting as a virtual second striker near Robert Lewandowski. His three assists demonstrate just that.

Beware of Ribéry’s transitions

Franck Ribéry is 33 years old. You may think he is washed up. Bzzzt, wrong answer. He has racked up five assists in the Bundesliga and one in the Champions League. Now, he often is the middleman in fast transitions, making the decisive pass that leads to a goal. Deadly on the counterattack.


You may say “ok, they will play a 4-3-3 and have 70% possession and we’ll resist”.

Ancelotti may actually throw his 4-4-2 at you, focusing on defending and countering instead of pressing to regain the ball quickly.

Ask the guys at Borussia Dortmund, who lost 0:2 against Bayern in the German Super Cup in August. FCB’s defensive 4-4-2 struggled to resist BVB’s excellent assault, perhaps due to having lost the habit of play that way.

However, they retreated, hit back with fast vertical passes in the second half and won. It was the first time they conceded possession to another team. The last time they had done that, they bombed FC Barcelona 7:0 over two legs.

Will Carlo play mind games and leave the ball to you?

More depth, more rotation, less injuries

While the squad is similar to last season’s, a couple of additions and a cleaner bill of health have given the Bavarians increased depth. Ancelotti has to deal with less injuries in central defence. He also has newbies Renato Sanches in central midfield and Mats Hummels at centre-back.

In recent weeks, he had the luxury of benching titans such as Jérôme Boateng, Hummels, Arjen Robben, Philipp Lahm, Franck Ribéry and Arturo Vidal to manage their energy levels.

In fact, we can say that Ancelotti has not yet played his “best XI” with a straight face. Will he play it on Wednesday?
I think so, and it would look a bit like this:


Final thoughts

The new-look Bayern is interesting to watch. Its newfound depth is relief. Ancelotti’s tactics are decisive and a breath of fresh air for the fans. This team could prove tougher to beat.

Have you watched much of Bayern this season? Who are their main threats?

  • Koke


    I think this should be the lineup. Honestly, sadly, the lineup almost picks itself based on the players we have out injured right now. The only real conversation point would be Gameiro vs Torres and Carrasco vs Gaitan. I think that Carrasco would be a good player to have in this game because he is best suited for counterattacking. I haven’t watched Bayern under Carlo yet, but if it is true that they leave space between their defense and midfield, Carrasco is a guy we would love to have getting in that space and running at the defense or getting a long shot off. I know that many fans are getting less and less patient with him, but I really think he has a lot to offer – he’s just been unlucky. The amount of times he’s been forcing saves or hitting the posts this season with his shots has been plain unfair.

    I think this Atleti team is getting better and better in attacking, but not at the best level yet. I would not expect us to dominate possession against Bayern, and if we do, I don’t see us scoring easily. We would be much better off counterattacking or relying on individual brilliance.

  • Ahmad Hossainy

    Nah .. not many fans are getting less patient with Carrasco, neither is Simeone, so don’t worry !!

    “I think that Carrasco would be a good player to have in this game because he is best suited for counterattacking” I guess this is the 3rd time you say that this season, and yet he didn’t do so much .
    Have you seen Gameiro’s goal against Gijon, Carrasco had a similar chance in the first half against Barca, but instead of putting the ball at the far corner like Gameiro did he put it in the middle of the goal and ter Stegen didn’t have any trouble saving it, I can’t call that bad luck, what it’s called is a bad shot .
    Hitting the post can be called bad luck, but if it happened once, maybe twice, while when he hits the post 3 times so far this season -if I remember correctly- then it’s not bad luck either, it’s also a bad shot .

    I know I sound harsh, but I’m not, it’s very simple, compare him to Salah or Mahrez, look how many goals and assists they make, I’m not asking to compare him to Robben or Ribery or Bale, but to those two young wingers whom we could have afforded, we still can afford one them .

    If Carrasco didn’t become more effective when the transfer ban is over then we should replace him with someone better .
    We let Oliver leave, we let Borja leave, two very talented and very promising homegrown players, so why is Carrasco getting many chances and full trust from Simeone and the fans ?!! what is so special about him ?!!
    People can call me blind, can call me stupid, but I’m sorry, I don’t see it .

  • Koke

    I can understand your frustrations, but I think black-and-white comparisons/statistics don’t always work in this game. Carrasco still creates a decent amount of chances, whether for himself or for others, even if he doesn’t always finish them. And no, he doesn’t get enough goals, but really, who in our team does besides the inhuman Griezmann? Carrasco’s only gotten one season so far, and while his end product still leaves much to be desired, I really want to give him more time and see what he can do. He gets minutes for Belgium after all, one of the most stacked attacking teams in the world. Oliver’s and Borja’s departures were stupid, but they don’t necessitate another stupid move in getting rid of Carrasco!

    I’d love to point to games like Barcelona in La Liga last year and Real Madrid in the Champions League Final as examples of games when Carrasco demonstrated his dangerousness. Kid’s got potential!

  • Ahmad Hossainy

    He does have potential, I’ve never denied that, last season I tweeted that he is “great dribbler, great sprinter, average footballer”, he just still can’t use those skills to benefit the team .

    It’s not just statistics, I watch every single minute of every single game for Atleti, sometimes I watch a game twice, and I honestly believe that he doesn’t benefit the team too much, I believe that if he didn’t play any game last season we would still have finished 3rd in La Liga and reached UCL final, except that we would have lost in regular time and not in shootout !

    Arda was criticized in his last season by some fans because his goal/assists stats weren’t so good, but I defended him, because his role, his importance to the team was very obvious, Koke’s too, even when he goes for 10 games or so without any assist, they made a difference in almost every game, but I really don’t think Carrasco does .

    And the fact that nobody scores a lot of goals except Grizi isn’t an excuses (and he is not inhuman, he is a great player, he would be inhuman when he scores 40+ league goals a season like Messi & Ronaldo), we need other players than Grizi to score many goals, we need at least 3 players to score goals in double figures, in 2014 we had Costa, Raul & Villa, in 2015 we had Grizi, Mandzukic & Raul, but last season we had only Grizi & Torres, who scored only 12 goals .
    If Carrasco can’t score many goals then maybe some of his minutes should go to someone who could .
    If we can afford another winger who could score much more goals than him, and I think we can, then we should .

    He will get time, Simeone obviously trusts him, and we are under a transfer ban, but when it ends and we still can’t get much out of his runs and dribbles, and not necessarily goals & assists, but at least creating real scoring chances, like what Arda used to do, then I believe he should go .
    And it will be only fair .

    Belgium are overrated by the way, yes they are second on FIFA ranking and few months ago they were first, but they didn’t win the world cup or the Euro, didn’t reach the final or even the semifinal of either .
    We all know how FIFA ranking works .
    For me, Belgium being at top of FIFA ranking is exactly the same as Caroline Wozniacki being for more than a year at the top of WTA ranking .

    Let’s just hope I’m wrong about Carrasco .