Bundesliga 2021-22 Matchday 1 – Tactical Review

The Bundesliga is back! Here is our Tactical Review for Gameweek 1. Be sure to continue checking back for more tactical analyses on more matches as the weekend progresses.

Borussia Monchengladbach 1-1 Bayern Munich

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Julian Nagelsmann’s start to life in the Bundesliga with Bayern Munich did not get off to the start he would have hoped for, slumping to a 1-1 draw with Mochengladbach. New Gladbach boss Adi Hütter also might not be overly pleased with how this one turned out, and will feel his side should have won given the chances they generated.

monchengladbach

Adi Hutter has clearly made his mark in Gladbach already, inspiring much of the principles of play he instilled at Frankfurt. In their 4-2-3-1 shape, Gladbach pressed vigorously in the wide areas, looked to win the ball back quickly and then spray it forward instantly to their striker – Alassane Plea, and attacking midfielder – Lars Stindl. Since Gladbach pressed in a 4-4-2 shape, Stindl’s role was basically that of a striker alongside Plea. Upon playing forward, the wingers would then make quick vertical runs forward to join the attack. This often inspired a one-touch play mentality where they would surge toward the box and look for the right opportunity to finish on goal. It was Stindl’s through-ball that sent Alassane Plea through on goal to give Gladbach the lead, a goal scored through their intense pressure.

While the press from the front was certainly more vigorous, Hütter’s team also instilled this mindset when defending in their own half, looking to win the ball in the wide areas (where Bayern naturally drifted toward) and then spring balls forward in behind Bayern’s high line.

Defensively, Hutter’s men were well set up to defend and were extraordinarily diligent in cutting off central channels and passes into Lewandowski’s feet. The big Pole was ultimately left with very little service. On the few half-chances or even more clear-cut chances Bayern created, Yann Sommer was expertly up to the task. Bayern’s only goal coming from a corner kick speaks to this incredible defensive resilience they showed under Hütter in the opening match, which is very encouraging for the team moving forward. At Frankfurt, the Austrian didn’t have a defense of this quality, and that might have been more of a reason for Eintracht’s weak defensive record last season rather than Hütter’s tactics himself. Time will tell.

Overall, it was a very positive start to Hutter’s Gladbach career, and should inspire more positive performances to come.

Bayern

As the team favoured to win coming into the match, Bayern Munich will undoubtedly feel disappointed about this match. Several players looked off the pace, and their key chance creator – Thomas Muller, had one of his quietest nights in a Bayern shirt. Alphonso Davies on the other hand was superb up and down the left wing, giving Stefan Lainer an absolute headache. It was the Canadian who had the most touches in the match, and he was often the key outlet for Bayern in attack.

But beyond some passing brilliance from Kimmich and running power from Davies, Bayern Munich struggled to play in and around Gladbach’s defense throughout the game. They were slow out from the back, struggled to cope with the intense pressure of Hütter’s attacking quartet, and never really found their rhythm. While Davies’ individual performance up and down the line and his delivery into the box was of the highest quality, he was the only one really doing anything at top speed from an attacking perspective.

Truthfully, the Bavarians probably would have benefited with less possession, and more counter attacking. If they had let Gladbach have more of the ball they might have found it to be a completely different story at the end of the day. Instead, they were rather wasteful in turning their dominance into anything of note.

BORUSSIA DORTMUND 5-2 EINTRACHT FRANFKURT

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Borussia Dortmund got off to a flying start in their opening matchday fixture against Eintracht Frankfurt, with Oliver Glasner’s side looking completely out of sorts. Marco Rose’s men on the other hand completely took the game to Frankfurt, with Haaland, Reus and co. in full flow.

Dortmund

The first notable difference between Marco Rose’s Dortmund and the Dortmund of past managers was clear from the very first whistle. Their was an increased intensity, tempo and a vastly different pressing mentality to their play. Dortmund pressed and counter-pressed like their lives depended on it, which is something I personally wondered whether BVB were actually built for. But this mentality completely disrupted everything Frankfurt tried to create, and forced Frankfurt into several self-implosions. Several of the goals were scored within ten seconds after winning the ball back, with Kevin Trapp succumbing to Dortmund’s deadly finishing.

Like Monchengladbach under Hütter (and Monchengladbach under Rose), Dortmund played with much in the way of verticality, speed and a one-touch mentality after winning the ball back. Reus and Haaland combined excellently well in these instances, with Thorgan Hazard and Gio Reyna also dangerously adding trouble to the mix for Eintracht.

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Another major note about Dortmund’s first match under Rose was the lack of a real left winger in their 4-2-3-1 / 4-1-4-1 formation. Reyna, Bellingham and Reus rotated positions throughout the match, and at different times each of them would occupy space on the left wing, in right central midfield, or in left central midfield. Reus even at times dropped toward the back-four during build-up phases, and Reyna too was playing much more like a central midfielder than a wide player. Jude Bellingham also flourished in the match with his freedom to roam about the pitch as he pleased, and was a key engine in the Dortmund midfield. This inspired a right-sided approach in attack, where Hazard was highly influential and often on the ball in the opposition’s half. But again, all of Dortmund’s more dangerous moments were through quick attacks after winning the ball back, rather than long spells of possession. It will be interesting to see how Rose approaches this tactic once Raphael Guerreiro is back in the side. Guerreiro is essential to the way Dortmund play, and had such a positive relationship with the now departed Jadon Sancho. He could benefit from this right sided approach by being given credence to gallop forward on the left, or it could make his role slightly less influential as verticality becomes more of the dominating ideology. Regardless of that, Dortmund didn’t miss him or Sancho in this match, and scored a whopping five goals through the brilliance of Haaland and Reus.

A final difference to Dortmund on the day was in their increase in the use of dribbling and ball carrying going forward. Rose clearly wants his players to express themselves as individuals on the ball, and even players like Akanji and Dahoud made surprising runs forward. BVB completed sixteen dribbles to Frankfurt’s two, which really isn’t a surprise given how Gladbach opted for the same dribbling mentality under Rose last season.

Defensively, Dortmund are still a bit of a mess, and massively struggled in defensive transitions. If Frankfurt had been able to get on the ball for longer spells and utilize the potential dribbling power in the side, they might have been able to cause more trouble. They barely had a sniff at goal, yet still scored twice…which doesn’t speak well to Dortmund’s defensive prowess moving into the Supercup on Tuesday night.

Frankfurt
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Eintracht Frankfurt massively struggled in their first game against Oliver Glasner, and looked completely out of sorts in their 3-4-3 shape. Glasner’s team failed to play out from the back with any sort of rhythm or purpose, and Dortmund’s pressure was always too much for them to handle. Their only two goals in the game came from a corner kick and Felix Passlack smashing the ball into his own net, which isn’t exactly the start Frankfurt would have wanted in a post-Andre Silva universe.

Like Glasner’s Wolfsburg, Frankfurt frequently looked to hit longer passes. But unlike Glasner’s Wolfsburg, these passes rarely came off. This approach only ended up gifting the ball back to Dortmund, and forced Frankfurt’s midfielders to be penned into their own half throughout the match.

Instead of the dribbling quality of someone like Daichi Kamada, Frankfurt also heavily relied on crossing and wide play, where they (again) weren’t able to produce any quality opportunities. While Dortmund are always tough opponents to play, Oliver Glasner clearly has much to figure out heading into the next match.

UNION BERLIN 1-1 BAYER LEVERKUSEN
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Gerardo Seoane’s first match in charge of Bayer Leverkusen wasn’t exactly perfect, with Union Berlin putting up a resilient defensive performance to combat the Swiss’ side. While Bayer Leverkusen knocked the ball around well and engaged their fanciest floater Moussa Diaby as much as they could, the team harmony was completely lacking.

Leverkusen’s 4-2-3-1 was very rigid and structured, as we expected of Seoane, with not much room for rotation or fluidity. The fullbacks were wide and the wingers were inverted, while the two defensive midfielders rarely ventured forward into dangerous positions. Patrik Schick was lively but thwarted whenever given a sniff at goal, and the team instead relied more heavily on Moussa Diaby and Nadiem Amiri to buzz around deeper on the field. Mitchell Bakker and Jeremie Frimpong sometimes overlapped down the wings, and they both contributed to Leverkusen’s attempts to cross the ball into the box. Bayer 04 favoured the left side with this approach, but played wide in general through their possession rather than with verticality, as might have suited Schick and his talents.

Union Berlin also favoured the left, but had far less of the possession. Instead of dominating the ball, Fischer’s men looked to remain compact in their 5-3-2 shape, and stunt passes into the vertical channels where Amiri and Diaby roamed. Instead of being able to progress, Amiri in particular was often forced backwards or sideways, as Seoane’s team switched the play from side to side. While Union lost possession often, it was mostly through risky passes and attempts to play forward quickly after winning the ball. Their counter attacking approach perfectly matched Leverkusen’s attempts to keep the ball, and that’s exactly how Urs Fischer’s team scored their goal. Within seconds of winning the ball back, Taiwo Awoniyi worked his magic, worked the angle and thundered the ball into the back of the net. Sometimes that’s all you need. Luckily, Diaby’s magic at the other end on a brilliant solo effort was enough to match. In the end, Seoane’s side couldn’t claim victory, and instead went home disappointed. Moving forward, they will need to spark greater team harmony, and find a way to get the best out of Patrik Schick. Otherwise, sides like Union Berlin will continue to make it very hard for them to play this season.

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vfl WOLFSBURG 1-0 vfl bOCHUM

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Mark Van Bommel took all the notes from Oliver Glasner‘s time in charge of VFL Wolfsburg, and set his team up to attack and defend in the exact same way. Wolfsburg were narrow in their 4-2-3-1, relied on a mix of long passes into Wout Weghorst and the striker’s natural hold up play to create chances, and they defended with an intense pressing style. Weghorst and Baku linked up nicely throughout the match as they did throughout 2020-21, and the Dutchman in particular often skipped over other passing options to find the German in space. Baku’s movement was also clever, sometimes drifting in-field as Philipp shifted wide, and other times holding his width to create more space, opening up that Bochum defense.

One slight change to Van Bommel’s Wolfsburg was an increased use of the wide areas in attack, but that might have been down to Bochum’s early red card. As the game opened up, Wolfsburg followed suit and frequently looked to deliver crosses into the box for Weghorst to get his noggin on. The Dutchman was up to the task 6/8 times, but Riemann matched his quality. Van Bommel’s team also had a slightly greater emphasis toward shorter passes than under Glasner last season, with Bochum taking the exact opposite approach. That isn’t to say that they didn’t utilize long passes into Weghorst, who was magnificent yet again with his back to goal.

VFL Bochum on the other hand struggled to get into the game after their early red card, but gave the match a right good go and didn’t give up. They attacked almost entirely down the left side, with new signing Elvis Rexhbecaj driving the team forward from central midfield. But it was a quiet evening for Wolfsburg’s keeper Koen Casteels, as the likes of Brooks, Mbabu, Lacroix and Roussillon often blocked shots or passes before Bochum could progress anywhere close to goal. Their defensive aptitude was the far more impressive feat during the match, keeping the scoreline at 1-0 through their excellent goalkeeper Manuel Riemann. While the wide areas were easily exploited by Wolfsburg, the Wolves also found it very difficult to progress in vertical channels through Bochum’s narrow 4-4-1 shape. They gave Philipp no room to breathe, and limited Arnold and Schlager to shots from distance upon their progression forward. In the end, it was a positive first match for Mark Van Bommel, and a decent showing from Bochum in their first Bundesliga match since 2010. From Wolfsburg’s perspective, things will certainly need to improve if they are to challenge for the UEFA Champions League again this season. From Bochum’s perspective, they will need to find greater mechanisms for creating chances and scoring goals, especially against experienced defenses like Wolfsburg’s.

more to follow

So there it is! Our tactical review for Gameweek 1 in the Bundesliga! Be sure to see our tactical review for Gameweek 1 in the Premier League, and follow on Twitter @mastermindsite to never miss an update. Thanks for reading and see you soon!

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