Tactical Analysis: How Bayern Munich Nullified Mbappé and Co.

The game in Lisbon was billed as the moment where Paris Saint-Germain would truly announce themselves on the European circuit. The Parisians have spent a significant amount of money to bring the trophy home. And after they finally reached the competition’s final for the first time in their history, they came up short once again.

This tactical analysis will seek to find out where and when the Champions League Final was won and how Bayern Munich absolutely nullified the threat of Neymar and Kylian Mbappé with the utmost professionalism.

Interesting Facts

  • By defeating PSG in the final, Bayern Munich have become the first team to lift the Champions League title without dropping a single point
  • Hans-Dieter Flick is now the fourth oldest manager to lift the Champions League trophy
  • Munich are now tied with Liverpool at six Champions League titles

Pre-Game Warning Signs For PSG

Ahead of the encounter, former Bayern Munich defender Martin Demichelis said that PSG would struggle to cope with Bayern Munich’s intensity across the entirety of the final.

However, there was hope that, if there is one team that can carve open Bayern’s high line, that would be PSG. The pace of the likes of Angel Di Maria, Kylian Mbappé and Neymar Jr. meant that the Parisians had every chance to do what few teams have been able to do this season: Leave the Bayern midfield breathing the dust off of their cleats.

Indeed, the semifinal against Lyon saw the French outfit cause the Bayern defense a few shaky moments but were unable to capitalize on those chances. It seemed like PSG would be an even different prospect, but, unfortunately, that was not the case.

Perhaps the biggest surprise of the night was that when team sheets came out, Ivan Perisic was confined to the bench in favor of Kingsley Coman. The Frenchman was given the nod ahead of the Croatian because of his ability to choose his moments and cut inside while taking on the right back.

Indeed, PSG’s academy product justified the selection and scored the only goal of the game, something we will be breaking down in a bit.

PSG Get Off The Blocks Slow

Thomas Tuchel had his team set up to attack from the get go. It was never going to be easy against a very solid Bayern defense that was well cushioned with the presence of Thiago Alcantara and Leon Goretzka. The latter in particular was making life miserable for PSG’s attack-minded players, closing them down the moment they received the ball.

However, things were not going smoothly for the Bavarians down the left flank where Alphonso Davies seemed uncharacteristically slow. The young Canadian gave the ball away quite a few times and was struggling to hold his own against Di Maria.

In games like these, the smallest of margins matter a lot. PSG, in hindsight, should have exploited the situation just like Sevilla did against Inter the other night in the Europa League final. Davies was unable to go for those buccaneering runs that have become a hallmark of his game.

At times when he did go further up the pitch, he was too late to return and help the defense which put David Alaba under more pressure. The Austrian had to leave his position quite a bit in the opening exchanges but PSG were unable to identify a potential opening and never got in behind the lines.

While Davies was struggling, he didn’t receive enough support from Coman either. The Frenchman took his time to come back and help out the team in defense in the first half. That was the moment when PSG could have at least tested the Munich defense but their inability to carve out any real openings and sheer lack of movement made it easy for the Bayern defense to close them down.

When Jerome Boateng had to come off injured during the first quarter, PSG had another opportunity to test Niklas Sule who is still not at his best after coming off from a lengthy injury layoff. The German is an imposing figure at the heart of the defense but lacks pace.

But the PSG attackers were playing too far away from the penalty area and never even tried testing the towering defender.

Keeping a Lid On Leandro Paredes

Given that Marco Verratti was not 100% fit for the encounter, Thomas Tuchel decided to go for a Ander Herrera – Leandro Paredes pairing. Paredes was put in the starting XI to not only provide cover for the defense but also to play the role of a deep-lying playmaker.

However, the Argentine was completely shutout by Goretzka with the German closing him down every time the former Roma man received the ball. This left Ander Herrera as the option for the likes of Thiago Silva and Marquinhos to link up with.

The Spaniard is more of a man marker and isn’t known for being the orchestrator of moves but was forced into being more creative while also trying to stop Thiago Alcantara from instigating attacking moves.

However, the former Manchester United was easily overwhelmed by the Bayern midfield that was very quick at closing the supply lines when not in possession.

This is very surprising especially when they have a player in Kylian Mbappé whose intelligent movement off the ball makes him a deadly presence in the opponent’s box.

How Were Neymar and Mbappé Nullified?

Both Neymar and Mbappé were able to pass the ball 28 and 13 times respectively which gives you a sense of how good the Bayern Munich pressing was. The Germans kept closing space down for both men, who were identified as the main threats from the onset.

Both talented players were unable to really get into the game which forced PSG into looking for Angel Di Maria – who didn’t fare any better due to the tight marking done by Alphonso Davies later on in the game.

Joshua Kimmich in particular, was in inspiring form throughout the 90 minutes. While it was initially thought that he would slot in back as a holding midfielder in favor of Benjamin Pavard as right back, the German maintained his full back position and kept running down the channels while also negating Mbappé’s presence to near perfection.

The youngster had 78 passes to his name, the most by any player during the entire encounter which tells you a tale of an industrious full back who was running up and down the channels, contributing in attack and never forgetting to close space off for the PSG attackers.

Neymar also had a quiet game given the recent run of form the Brazilian has been in. The attacker was contained zonally depending on which area he decided to run into. In the middle of the park, the 28-year-old was taken care of by Leon Goretzka and even when he did bypass the German in some instance, he would have the likes of Niklas Sule and David Alaba to deal with.

As someone who loves to see more of the ball, Neymar could only complete 68% of his 28 passes.

That is an indictment on how PSG played the game given the fact that Thiago Silva was the one who had more passes than any of his teammates. Due to Bayern’s relentless pressing, the Brazilian saw a lot more of the ball than usual.

Unboxing The Bayern Munich Goal

The manner in which PSG conceded a goal was truly shocking as, before that, the Parisians had been very alert of their surroundings. Even during tough encounters that led up to the final, Tuchel’s men rarely left their marker.

This time however, the players were caught in no man’s land and allowed Kingsley Coman with an easy task of scoring from his head.

In the above image you see Robert Lewandowski completely unmarked as Kimmich is about to whip in a cross. Thiago Silva is standing right next to Coman while Thilo Kehrer is nowhere to be seen.

Thiago Silva quickly realizes that the Polish striker is unmarked so decides to close him down. However, Kimmich’s ball sails over both men leaving Coman with all the time in the world to put the ball beyond Keylor Navas’ reach.


The game was not a cagey affair, it wasn’t a necessarily open encounter. PSG had their chances but didn’t make full use of those (let’s not even talk about Mbappé’s tame effort and Manuel Neuer’s brilliant double save to deny Neymar).

However, Bayern Munich ended up winning the game largely because they chose to continue playing a high line with a compact midfield and never stopped pressing.