Footy Dressing Room

Basel 1-0 Bayern Munich: Another example of dominant teams losing out

In Champions League on February 24, 2012 at 4:02 pm

Valentin Stocker poached late on giving Basel a lead and a pivotal clean sheet to take to the Allianz Arena.


As has been the case for the majority of Champions League ties this week, the team who enjoyed the least possession we’re the ones celebrating come the final whistle. Bayern retained possession of the ball for 61% of the match, only to be caught on the break in the last 10 minutes. Real Madrid went a goal up at CSKA Moscow, maintaining 54% of possession but were once more victims to a late goal. Chelsea provide the most devestating example. They achieved are startling 58% possession but were played off the pitch in a clinical Napoli display.


The trend is simple. In terms of possession the away team dominated. In terms of scoreline the home team celebrated. Interestingly, the teams that lost were teams which are recognised as having more European pedigree than their opponents. Does this call into question the format of the competition? Does having a home tie first give that team an unfair advantage?


It has been well documented how important away goals are come the knockout rounds of the Champions League. Away teams have been setting up to steal away goals, employing attacking styles of play which differ from their normal strategies. Chelsea set up with a rare 4-2-3-1 formation, with Juan Mata playing in behind Didier Drogba as opposed to his usual position on the left wing. Breaking from their usual 4-3-3 shape indicated a desire to secure the all important away goal. Napoli set up with the intention of not conceding that away goal. Their rigid 4-3-3 formation incorporated 7 defensively minded players, leaving the fluid front 3 of Hamsik, Lavezzi and Cavani to run riot. The frustation of not being able to score away goals leads to over zealous decisions on the part of the manager. In this instance, Villas-Boas brought on attack minded midfielders Michael Essien and Frank Lampard. This left Chelsea further exposed, leaving more spaces for the ruthless front 3 to exploit.


The same was again evident in Basel. Bayern adopted a similar 4-2-3-1 system, bringing back Arjen Robben to the starting line up, meaning that the only real player picked to protect the back four was Anatoliy Tymoshchuk. Again, Munich’s manager was forced to make an attacking change whilst the game was still at stale mate, introducing Ivica Olic and Thomas Muller. Bayern’s back four was left exposed, Stocker stole one, and now Bayern will be left with a significant task in the second leg.


The lessons learned are that possession is not the be all and end all of football matches. What you do without the ball and how clinically chances are taken are what really matters. In addition, sides should consider the risks they take when chasing goals. At the end of the day, another 90 minutes is still to be played in these ties. Just cut your losses and regroup for the second leg.

  1. Having more possession is just an aesthetics thing, people talk about how well Barca keep the ball etc…but look at Inter’s 0-1 defeat at the Nou Camp when Mourinho was in charge of Inter. Think they had like 20% of the ball but still qualified through the tie because they defended well, with 10 men. It’s less about the amount of possession you have and more about what teams actually do with it these days.

  2. Very well analysed, and the use of the images showing the formations was very well put together.

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