In recent years, we have seen the 4-2-3-1 formation used more and more alongside the breakthrough of a number of modern full-backs who provide great width in the attacking third in order to stretch defences and allow creative midfielders more space to work in.
Bayern Munich are one of many teams suited to this formation, and their full-backs have proven to be fantastic exponents of this type of play.
On the right side of their defence they have their captain Philipp Lahm, who is recognised as one of the leading full-backs in world football.
This season has been one of his best in a Bayern shirt: he is a constant threat going forward as shown in the recent game against Fortuna Dusseldorf, a game in which he completed 86% of his crosses and 100% of his dribbles.
This season he has created 38 chances, which is excellent for a right-back, and maintained a pass completion rate of 89%.
It is not just in the attacking sense that Lahm has been world class this season: he has defended well, too. He has won a mighty 68% of all duels, including 80% of his tackles; these stats speak for themselves and prove that Lahm is the perfect example of an all-round full-back.
On the other side, Bayern have the less-experienced David Alaba, who has been a revelation in the last two seasons on the left-hand side of their defence.
His partnership with Franck Ribery has been a particular highlight this season. The width he provides gives Ribery more space to do what he does best. Alaba has chipped in with three goals in the league this season and has passed the ball forwards 59.3% of the time, whilst still retaining a pass completion ratio of 89%.
In the defensive sense, Alaba has been equally as impressive. He had been seemingly targeted by opposition players due to the lack of weak spots in Bayern’s team but Alaba has proved that he is anything but weak when defending. He has won 59% of his duels, including 85% of his tackles and completes an average of four defensive actions per game.
It is no coincidence that the majority of Bayern’s attacks come from the flanks and 44% of their chances come from their wings. Lahm and Alaba contribute massively to these statistics and, with a target like Mario Mandzukic to aim for, opponents not only have to stop Bayern’s central creative midfielders but they have to stop chances being created from the wide areas, too.
With players like Ribery and Thomas Muller around exploiting the space created by the full-backs, defending against this Bayern side is a massive task.
With only two defeats to their name this season, against Bayer Leverkusen and Arsenal, it is hard to see Bayern not winning at least two trophies this season if not a remarkable treble.
Just imagine what they will be like with Mario Gotze in their side.
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