The Bundesliga continues to entertain as ever, with intriguing tactics as the managerial merry go round of last year settles down to a simmer. Matchday 3 saw Wolfsburg come out on top in a crucial match against Leipzig, Bayern smash Hertha Berlin and a fast-paced five goal thriller between Freiburg and Stuttgart. Here is our tactical review of some of the key matches.
WOLFSBURG 1-0 LEIPZIG
Wolfsburg and Leipzig, two of the top teams in the league, showcased exactly why they are both so highly rated on Sunday, playing out a tight and testy battle. It ended with the Wolves coming out on top, with a surprise scorer in Jerome Roussillon, while die Roten Bullen couldn’t find a way past Wolfsburg’s excellently organized defense.
Both sides set up in a 4-2-3-1 formation, both very rigid and organized. The pair of teams found it difficult to break down the other and break the deadlock, but it was Wolfsburg who disrupted more of Leipzig’s overall play and attempts. It was also Wolfsburg who grabbed the go-ahead goal, despite Leipzig ending with more possession, duels won, and shots. One of the major reasons for that was Wolfsburg’s tactical fouling and aggressive play, which completely disrupted Marsch’s men from gaining rhythm. While they were compact in defense and left little room in between the lines, die Roten Bullen also made Wolfsburg’s job easier, by themselves being too compact in attack.Embed from Getty Images
Leipzig’s play through the lines was phenomenal last week against Stuttgart, but this time they couldn’t find a way in between Wolfsburg’s stellar spine. Between Casteels, Brooks, Lacroix, Schlager, Arnold and Weghorst, Wolfsburg have one hell of a team compacting central areas. It’s no wonder why they then normally play so vertical in attack. However, this time that was completely different. Van Bommel’s team played with width and a greater proportion of diagonal long passes into the wide areas than their other matches so far. This proved an effective approach against a possession-based Leipzig, and aided Wolfsburg’s natural physicality. While they couldn’t get the right service to Wout Weghorst, the big man up top was still a handful and made Mohamed Simakan’s evening particularly eventful.
Leipzig on the other hand played as you would expect, pressing to win the ball back, and keeping possession through close proximity between the lines. They were able to create a few more shooting opportunities than the Wolves, but many of these were from distance, and all were ineffective. Wolfsburg’s study defense and solid mix of patience and pain ultimately killed Leipzig’s chances of gaining a foothold, and the game ended comfortably for Wolfsburg at 1-0.
VFB STUTTGART 2-3 SC FREIBURG
In one of the games of the Bundesliga season so far, SC Freiburg held onto their narrow lead over VfB Stuttgart, grinding out an important result that sees them enter the top four – ahead of Borussia Dortmund.
Pellegrino Matarazzo’s side set up in a 3-5-2 formation, playing high tempo football. Die Schwaben kept the play moving quickly and well, building out from the back in a shape resembling a 3-1-3-3. Wataru Endo was almost always the deepest of the midfield three, dropping toward the back-line to receive in between the lines, and driving the play from deep. Endo’s engine and energy was a significant positive for Stuttgart despite the loss, and a major reason why they were able to keep the game flowing with the bulk of the possession in their favour.
Beyond positive possession utilizing quick passing and limited touches in between, Matarazzo’s team emphasized switches to their left-side, with Borna Sosa playing an important role. There were a few brilliant one-touch moments between the lines and some excellent link up play from Hamadi Al Ghaddioui up top, but Stuttgart could have gone wide to Sosa and Massimo more often.
Out of possession, Stuttgart were also lively and energetic. They pressed from the front vigorously, and tried to limit Freiburg’s attempts to play long down the wide areas whenever they could. While it was vigorous, their press was perhaps sometimes too open and individualistic – meaning their diamonds were never compact enough.
For all of Stuttgart’s street-like football and fun connections, Freiburg completely grinded their way to the win through hard work and determination. They kept just 35% of the possession, instead looking to remain compact and hit Stuttgart on the break through powerful running. Unfortunately for Die Schwaben, Freiburg were absolutely deadly on the break, and deadly with their finishing. Jeong Woo-Yeong’s early goals essentially killed the game off, and made Stuttgart’s job all the more difficult. From there, Freiburg were able to sit back and defend more than they might have otherwise been, and were able to grind out the result.
In attack, Freiburg played with width and looked to deliver from both sides. Christian Gunter’s cross for the first goal was absolutely sublime, while Roland Sallai’s cross for the third was one of the best I’ve ever seen. Freiburg’s movement into the box excellently complimented the sublime deliveries, as did their finishing in front of goal. Verticality and counter attacking was another key for Christian Streich’s team, and Maximilian Eggestein flourished in central areas after coming on in the second half. Freiburg also at times matched Stuttgart’s intensity in the press, and even at times their desire to play out from the back. They were successful in limiting Freiburg’s progression through the thirds, compacting the pitch with nearly every single player around the ball and on the same side of the field. Stuttgart’s excellent passing sequences caught them off guard not once but twice toward the end of the first half, reducing their three goal lead to just one. Fortunately, that didn’t matter one bit, and Freiburg claimed the victory.
BORUSSIA DORTMUND 3-2 1899 HOFFENHEIM
The Black & Yellows grinded out another hard-fought win over 1899 Hoffenheim on Friday August 27, keeping up their unbeaten run, but the team’s defensive struggles persist. While Marco Rose has been innovative in his time so far at Borussia Dortmund, he hasn’t fixed Dortmund’s major holes under previous managers, particularly the ones that Edin Terzic was doing so well to change last season.
Dortmund’s defending from free kicks and corners has been abysmal for quite some time now, and was the major crux in the team during Edin Terzic’s shaky first couple of months in charge himself. Their marking is often too tight, and they don’t have enough players capable and strong enough to win headers. Dortmund also often get caught ball watching, which means flick on’s to players in behind often get finished off. That’s exactly what happened against Hoffenheim as Dortmund allowed them back into the game.
Fortunately for Dortmund, they have a few clinical youngsters who were absolutely on top of their game on Friday. The most notable performer was Jude Bellingham, who buzzed around the pitch in his position as the right-central midfielder in a 4-3-1-2, completely outnumbering Hoffenheim’s 4-2-3-1 in midfield areas. Dortmund continued the principles of play they’ve shown in other weeks, including, unfortunately, Mahmoud Dahoud needing to cover all the ground on his own in defensive transitions. With a slow defense and a reasonably slow defensive midfielder, Dortmund have been absolutely dreadful in transition since the start of the season. Unfortunately, they’ve just sold a potential fix in Thomas Delaney, leaving them without one of their only capable midfield engines in that regard. Much is needing to be fixed, and so far Rose has shown an unwillingness to change Dortmund’s greatest concerns.
MORE TO FOLLOW…
So there it is! A tactical review of Matchday 3 in the Bundesliga! Be sure to follow the social media links below, and subscribe to never miss an update. Thanks for reading and see you soon!