The Bundesliga continues to entertain as ever, with intriguing tactics, big results and a tight title race in these early stages. Matchday 4 saw Bayern smash Jesse Marsch’s lifeless Leipzig to bits, Borussia Dortmund scrape out a narrow win over Leverkusen in a seven goal thriller, and Wolfsburg, yes Wolfsburg, continue their win streak at the top of the table. Here is our tactical analysis of some of the key matches.
leipzig 1-4 Bayern munichEmbed from Getty Images
One of the major surprises of Jesse Marsch’s time in charge of Leipzig so far has been the implementation of a simplistic 4-2-3-1 formation. We have simply come to expect far more innovation from our Red Bull managers, including Marsch himself. Die Roten Bullen have had a bit of an up and down season so far, and they would have been hoping to keep the score to a minimum against their former coach and a rampaging Bayern Munich team. With that in mind, Marsch reinstated several older and more experienced heads back into the team for this game, including Kevin Kampl, Konrad Laimer, and Angelino. It didn’t work. Angelino was torn to shreds by the young Jamal Musiala after his arrival to the game in the second half, while Kampl and Laimer were too redundant in possession.
That leads us to our first surprise of the match – the fact that Leipzig actually had more of the ball than the Bavarians. Prior to the match, Bayern’s possession statistics were the second highest in the league, whilst Leipzig sat in fourth in that category. But it was die Roten Bullen keeping more of the ball, and that only caused them issues. Bayern Munich can be deadly on the break, and they showcased exactly that in this match, with the speed from players like Davies, Sane and Musiala (not to mention the space finding adeptness of Lewandowski and Muller) causing Marsch’s men real issues in transition. Bayern always attacked from out to in, with Sane and Davies in close quarters to link up and wreak havoc down the left. Kimmich also spent a lot of time venturing forward and looking to create with his through ball magic touch, ensuring Nagelsmann’s side had a variety of mechanisms for chance creation and goals.Embed from Getty Images
Leipzig on the other hand were less adept at getting the ball into their danger men, and Andre Silva had a difficult time overcoming the defensive presence of Dayot Upamecano and Lucas Hernandez. They favoured long shots instead, and Konrad Laimer’s fantastic effort from range was the only goal they scored. But systematically, their are clear issues that need to be addressed. They delivered a fair amount of crosses into the box from players like Szoboszlai and Angelino, but Bayern had an easy time dealing with these. Andre Silva didn’t win a single aerial duel, and Leipzig couldn’t generate enough of the intricate one-touch through balls that he often thrives off of. In the end, it’s no surprise that Bayern claimed victory, but there were certainly a few surprises along the way.
eintracht frakfurt 1-1 vFB STUTTGARTEmbed from Getty Images
With two very similar teams coming up against each other, stylistically and in terms of ability, it’s no surprise that this match ended in a 1-1 draw. Both teams love to keep possession and play high flying and tough tackling football. In this particular match it was Frankfurt who kept more of the ball, with the two teams relatively even in most other areas of the game.
Frankfurt continued with their new Glasner styled 4-2-3-1, whilst Stuttgart played their usual 3-4-2-1. Their inverted wingers often operated very wide in order to help defend and double team Frankfurt’s wide men. That left new signing Omar Marmoush as the only one clearly detached from the midfield lines, with Stuttgart’s shape really looking more like 3-6-1. Karazor and Endo could also sometimes be seen detached from that six, as they worked to track the movement of Daichi Kamada in between the lines, and did so expertly well in. They also took turns dropping toward the back-line in build-up phases, something we noted about Stuttgart last week in their match against Freiburg.Embed from Getty Images
Frankfurt meanwhile massively favoured their left side, whether it was Kostic or Lenz playing as the left-back in the team. Jens Petter Hauge, the right winger, even drifted toward the left to get himself involved. That gave Frankfurt an unbalanced look to their attack, with only Rafael Borre looking for moments to run in behind their compact defense on that side after coming on as a substitute. This also meant that Stuttgart had a very right-sided approach to their attack, given that they often won the ball on that area of the field. But Matarazzo’s team were far less compact when they had the ball, and stretched the field with loads of width.
Both teams were aggressive, and up for the contest right from the very start. In the end the spoils were shared, as neither side were able to truly convince over the other.
bayer leverkusen 3-4 borussia dortmundEmbed from Getty Images
Watching Borussia Dortmund this week was exactly the same as watching Borussia Dortmund last week. They were terrible in transition, defended woefully, yet somehow scraped out a win at the very death of the game.
Dortmund’s organization in midfield again let them down. Pongracic’s arrival into the team allowed Witsel a return to midfield, and pushed Dahoud further forward on the left. This could have presented Dortmund some benefits in possession and in transition, if played correctly. Ultimately they could have been more of a double pivot, kept more of the ball for purposes of switching play, and allowed themselves greater ease in transition through greater positional caution (see teams like Chelsea). Unfortunately, Rose did none of this. Dahoud was often the one pushing forward into advanced roles even more than Julian Brandt. That meant that when Brandt or anyone else lost possession, Dortmund were left with the slowest defensive midfielder in the league to recover in transition (Witsel), an even slower Julian Brandt, and a hilariously slow back-line that only Manuel Akanji is capable of holding together with any form of solidity. That presented BVB with a hopeless set of problems on the break, where they were hit time and time again by Leverkusen’s quickness and power. Patrik Schick was adept at finding space in behind the back-line, and making his moments count, while Moussa Diaby also caused the Black & Yellows some trouble.Embed from Getty Images
Switching play was also an impossible task for Dortmund in their set-up, due to the lack of width in the team. Thomas Meunier and Raphael Guerreiro pushed forward with the attack, but their was no width on the wing. That resulted in the two fullbacks being constantly out of position in transition, and the compactness between Pongracic and Akanji completely separating as they tried to make up for that.Embed from Getty Images
Leverkusen on the other hand may have lost, but they were excellent. Kerem Demirbay seamlessly dropped into a midfield two alongside Robert Andrich, instead of playing as the number ten, and constantly stationed himself alongside the two centre-backs in the build-up. This allowed Bakker and Frimpong to stretch the width of the field and get forward, where Paulinho and Diaby could invert and cause problems with their pace, in behind Dortmund’s gentle midfield. From a defensive perspective, they pressed well and defended compactly, with Florian Wirtz floating up alongside Schick in the initial line of pressure 4-4-2 styled. Paulinho was the only major issue from a defensive perspective, as he showed a complete unwillingness to follow and track Thomas Meunier – a player significantly slower than him. The Belgian was then afforded plenty of room to carry the ball and deliver passes into the penalty area. Other than that, a few silly mistakes cost them the game. But the overall defensive structures they had in place were sound and Leverkusen were probably the more deserving team on the day.
more to follow
So there it is! A tactical review of Matchday 4 in the Bundesliga! Be sure to follow the social media links below, and subscribe to never miss an update. Also be sure to check out all of our tactical reviews for each and every matchday. Thanks for reading and see you soon!
- Bundesliga 2021-22 Matchday 1 – Tactical Review
- Bundesliga 2021-22 Matchday 2 – Tactical Review
- Bundesliga 2021-22 Matchday 3 – Tactical Review
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Struggling to know how to communicate your ideas about the game in a succinct format? Our ‘Coaching Philosophies Guide’ will help you to know what you need to consider when building the perfect team environment, and will allow you to nail down your thoughts about how and who you want to be as a coach.
Our guide comes with my own Coaching Philosophies as an example for how you can structure your own. This can be purchased for just $2.99, as part of our continued attempt to make our content as accessible as possible.