For the second year running, Pep Guardiola began Bayern Munich's season with a DFL Supercup loss to Borussia Dortmund at Signal Iduna Park.
Henrikh Mkhitaryan stabbed home to open the scoring in the first half and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang doubled the lead in the second. BVB missed a host of chances to go further ahead, while Mitchell Langerak foiled Robert Lewandowski on Bayern's only real clear-cut opportunity.
Let's take a tactical look at how the game played out.
Formations and XIs
Borussia Dortmund played an irregular-looking 4-3-1-2 formation throughout, with Jonas Hofmann behind a striking duo of Aubameyang and Ciro Immobile.
Bayern Munich rolled out a fancy-looking 3-4-3 formation with David Alaba at centre-back and Pierre Hojbjerg at right-wing-back. Gianluca Gaudino, a 17-year-old German central midfielder few have heard of, got the nod in midfield and Lewandowski started up top.
Die Bayern's pre-season tour hasn't exactly been filled with great results, and although managers stress that fitness is the sole goal of summer training, results help when transitioning to a new system.
Given how Guardiola's side were destroyed by Real Madrid in the UEFA Champions League last season, it was highly likely he'd do something systematic to attempt to gain the upper hand. This, the retort, has a long way to go before it's troubling anyone.
The 3-4-3 selected—boasting three centre-backs, wing-backs, wingers and a lone striker—is not the same model used by Louis van Gaal and those drawing influence from him, and like all Pep systems, it's founded on a pass-first philosophy.
Die Bayern finished the match with more than 60 percent possession, per WhoScored.com, with Sebastian Rode linking the lines from his central-midfield berth.
With two players per flank they're not short on width or influence on the touchlines and Manuel Neuer had options aplenty to pass to out of defence.
Lewandowski fulfilled a complete target-man role and the two wingers, Xherdan Shaqiri and Thomas Muller, provided appropriate thrust and help in possession respectively.
The issue was, nothing positive took shape in this game from Bayern's perspective. They struggled to pass out, find their diagonal looks and link play into Lewandowski for one primary reason: Borussia Dortmund's pressing was superb.
We know Jurgen Klopp loves a high press but this was one of the most impressive 90 minutes we've seen from any of his sides. BVB swarmed to Bayern's back six as soon as Neuer had played out, restricting options and forcing mistakes.
The defensive line played high and aggressive as it should, with Sokratis Papastathopoulos nominated to follow Lewandowski whenever he dropped deep to find possession. The Greek held Lewy to appallingly low numbers, with just 33 touches and 30 percent of aerials won by the final whistle, per WhoScored.com.
As die Bayern's wingers pulled back to help, BVB's full-backs stepped over the halfway line to mop up any of Neuer's longer, more hopeful diagonals. Lewandowski tried to become the third man in midfield by dropping, but Sokratis saw to it that his influence was limited.
Under such intense pressure it's tough to succeed, and a whopping 35 percent of play took place in Bayern's own third, per WhoScored.com—mostly pointless, aimless passing that got the team nowhere.
BVB attacked ruthlessly; when they weren't creating turnovers high up, they were dispossessing the forwards high and firing balls into the channels.
Bayern were limited to just four shots whereas Dortmund managed 22, per WhoScored.com. Aubameyang, Immobile, Mkhitaryan and Co. peppered Neuer's goal all game long to the applause of the Signal Iduna Park crowd.
Aubameyang emerged as the go-to threat, filtering out wide and into the space left by Bernat, long punts were played into his path to pit him one vs. one with Alaba on the flank.
He was more economical with the ball than usual and sparked a number of attacks from that flank. Immobile then used the space on the other side, peeling off and dropping in to great effect.
Perhaps the biggest factor working in their favour, though, was the incredible, direct dribbling skills of Mkhitaryan. With the pitch open for him to run into—he played deeper, as a central midfielder not a No. 10 to find more space—he was lethal charging over 40-50 yards.
Much like Real Madrid's 2-0 victory over Sevilla in the European Super Cup on Tuesday evening, this was an absolute battering. Bayern never came close to troubling BVB, and if it weren't for Neuer's excellence and Immobile's profligacy, it could have been a cricket score.
It feels like the 3-4-3 from Pep is a reaction to how Real Madrid lit up his side in the Champions League; the formation gives him three back constantly, but still awards width, numbers and fluidity if needed.
The problem is, Dortmund played a very vertical game that looked similar to los Blancos' model last season. If they can't cope with Mkhitaryan and Co., how will they stop Bale again?
Under intense pressure the three defenders were isolated and the wing-backs crowded out. As Louis van Gaal has found out in pre-season for Manchester United, three at the back struggle against a three-man press.
Die Bayern fans will hope there's plenty of growth, systematically, before the start of the new Bundesliga season.
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