Frauen-Bundesliga: Bayern Munich’s win over Wolfsburg analysed

Linda Dallmann of Bayern Munich celebrates with teammates after scoring a goal
Linda Dallmann of FC Bayern München celebrates with teammates after scoring vs VfL Wolfsburg (Photo by Sebastian Widmann/Getty Images)

Sunday saw a clash of the Frauen-Bundesliga heavyweights as Bayern Munich locked horns with VfL Wolfsburg. It was a close affair but Bayern were able to edge out their title rivals with a 2-1 victory.

We’re going to take a look at how the reigning champions defeated Wolfsburg to put a slither of daylight between the two at the top of the table.

This game was a must-win for both sides. For Wolfsburg — after being knocked out of the Champions League and drawing against Hoffenheim — a win was crucial for regaining both momentum and points.

For Bayern, a similar story took hold after drawing against Freiburg on the opening day of the season and drawing again against Eintracht Frankfurt before the international break. Bayern came out looking more energised and with a fresh game plan.

Things did not start to change for Wolfsburg until an hour had already passed. At which point, Bayern were 2-0 up and Wolfsburg had made four changes.

Build-up play and attacking movements

Bayern Munich deployed a 4-2-3-1 formation, which has been commonplace since the start of the season. Against Wolfsburg, Bayern’s general plan was to avoid the middle of the field. This strategy functioned as a central element in both attacking and defensive movements.

In attack, Bayern created wide overloads to overwhelm the wings and Wolfsburg’s attacking full-backs. The matchup of multiple wide players against an already exhaustible Wolfsburg back line was lethal. The movement of Bayern’s players in attack is shown in the diagram below.

Attacking full-backs

A core component to Bayern’s movements in attack was the usage of attacking full-backs. After signing Katharina Naschenweng, the Austrian has been an indisputable member of the starting 11. She has proved herself to be a perfect replacement to Carolin Simon following the rupture to her ACL this summer.

Giulia Gwinn returned from her second ACL injury at the start of the season and has also reclaimed her starting position.

These two players are arguably the most important pieces in Bayern’s entire attacking strategy. Bayern usually invert the strong-sided winger to be able to create wide space and passing combinations. Naschenweng or Gwinn have the option to take this space with the goal of driving to the end-line and crossing the ball into the box.

Other attacking options

Another option created by the space left from inverting the wingers is for strikers Damnjanović and Lea Schüller to pull wide instead. This creates passing triangles with Bayern’s wingers — Damnjanović or Schüller — and the strong-sided outside back.

It should also be mentioned that Damnjanović and Schüller are interchanging positions constantly and the labels of striker and attacking midfielder are mere formalities to show initial positioning. Dallmann and Bühl also switch sides intermittently. These constant switches in attacking positions pull the Wolfsburg defenders out of position and create confusion when attempting to deconstruct the movements of Bayern.

These movements are showcased in Figure 1 below.

In this example, striker Jovana Damnjanović picks up the ball from winger Linda Dallmann. Damnjanović has dropped into the midfield to take up the space left by Lea Schüller driving forward and Dallmann dropping back to receive the ball. This leaves space for Gwinn to overlap Dallmann out wide, creating a passing triangle.

Damnjanović uses the gap between the Wolfsburg back line to play Gwinn through. Gwinn now has the option to drive towards the end-line and cross the ball to either Schüller or Bühl, who is coming in from the left, centrally. Gwinn ends up winning a corner kick from this play.

In the centre of the field, Georgia Stanway was another component of Bayern’s build-up. Although Bayern largely bypassed the midfield, Stanway’s skills were used effectively. By occupying the half spaces and largely playing one to two touch passes to break lines, she created attacking opportunities while ensuring that Bayern never lost the ball in a dangerous area.

Press and defensive movements

Defensively, Bayern played a high press for large periods throughout the match. Wolfsburg’s back-line is prone to mistakes. Forcing these errors proved effective in the creation of set-piece and goal-scoring opportunities throughout the match. This press is explored in the diagram below.

Using Bayern’s official lineup for the match, the central striker is tasked with pressing the two centre-backs and forcing them to go down one side of the field. Bayern then go into lockdown, marking every possible passing option available to the Wolfsburg centre-back. Bayern’s press is also from the central to the outside areas of the field. This means that Bayern retreat inside when they lose the ball before coming out to press. This cuts off central passing lanes and reduces any play through the middle of the field.

Reducing Wolfsburg’s central defensive and attacking threats was crucial for Bayern’s success. Lena Oberdorf, Lena Lattwein, and Alexandra Popp are key for Wolfsburg’s build-up play as well as defensive stability. Cutting these players out of the equation forces Wolfsburg to either play through their full-backs or go direct. Bayern possessed advantages in both of these areas.

Stanway and Sarah Zadrazil were crucial for stifling Wolfsburg’s central midfield. Zadrazil in particular possessed limited attacking responsibilities. At times, she expertly man-marked players and cut off central passing lanes. Stanway and Zadrazil were also Bayern’s second line of defense. They ensured no issues or quick transitions occurred when Wolfsburg broke through the initial press.

Transition

In the attacking transitional play, Bayern looked to play wide and direct. If there is no wide option, Bayern look to play central so that either Stanway, or a forward that has dropped back, can redirect the ball out wide. Due to the high positioning of Wolfsburg’s full-backs in attack, there was usually space to exploit in wide areas behind the Wolfsburg back-line. This was further aided by the amount of options Bayern had when looking to play wide as is seen in their build up play. This is explained in Figure 2 below.

To start the play, Stanway picks up the ball deep in her own half. Linda Dallmann pulls back to combine with Stanway. Kathy Hendrich ends up following her all the way to the halfway line. Klara Bühl then starts her run behind Lynn Wilms and into the space left by Hendrich on the left wing. Stanway plays a quick give and go with Linda Dallmann before playing a line-breaking pass through to Bühl. Dallmann then turned around to position herself to score Bayern’s first goal of the match.

Conclusion

Bayern switched up their usual game plan to force Wolfsburg into wide areas. The execution and creativity with which Bayern approached this challenge will be crucial in determining the title race and Champions League qualification at the end of the season. Hopefully Wolfsburg can turn around this string of bad form to compete for the league this year and in Europe next season.

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