Bundesliga 2021-22 Matchday 5 – Tactical Review

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The Bundesliga continues to entertain as ever, with intriguing tactics, goals galore, and surprising results. Matchday 5 saw Bayern smash VFL Bochum for seven, and things go from bad to worse for Leipzig as they slip further down the table. Here is our tactical analysis of some of the key matches.

fc koln 1-1 rb leipzig

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FC Koln entered Matchday 5 in 7th place, a whole four points ahead of RB Leipzig. That is, despite the obvious – the fact that Leipzig have a much better squad. Again on Saturday, it simply didn’t look that way, as FC Koln completely stunted their progress and held Die Roten Bullen to a 1-1 draw. So what went wrong for Leipzig?

For one, FC Koln defended in a tightly compact 4-1-4-1 shape. The Billy Goats left very little room in between the lines for Leipzig to venture forward, and kept them out for the first 70 minutes of the match under an intense desire to win the ball back and stunt Leipzig’s progress any way they could.

Die Roten Bullen responded by keeping possession in and around the top of Koln’s half, with much of their passing patterns coming in and around Koln’s midfield line of four and Anthony Modeste up top. But despite all their possession, they couldn’t find avenues forward and Koln were often able to force the ball out or back into their hands. It’s also worth noting that it’s not like Koln were blown away by Marsch’s team from a domination and control of the ball perspective. Posession was split fairly evenly between the two teams (48%-52%), which is something that Koln have massively improved since Steffen Baumgart took charge.

After winning the ball, Baumgart’s looked to hit Leipzig for pace on the break, with Modeste and Uth running in behind, followed by the likes of Duda joining the attack. All three were fierce and fervid, but the Billy Goats always looked instantly for Modeste in particular, often standing offside in behind Leipzig’s high line. The French striker, for the life of him, just could not time his runs. If he had just stayed onside for even one of their many chances, Koln could easily have won the game. And they nearly did after scoring the first goal of the game. After trying and trying, Koln were finally given one of their disallowed goals back, after an intense bit of pressing resulted in Modeste being found in space, quite accidentally, by Leipzig’s Mohamed Simakan.

From Leipzig’s side, they massively struggled to break down Koln’s defensive structures. They only troubled Baumgart’s team after going a goal down, and settling for a more direct approach. Emil Forsberg was positive after coming onto the pitch, and his role became not just about play-making, but running in behind Koln’s back-four onto the end of longer passes out from the back. Dominik Szoboszlai’s role was similar in that sense, and he too sparked some life into the team for the final twenty minutes, only to be thwarted a couple of times by the hand of Timo Horn. It’s unfortunate that it took Koln scoring to spark some sort of life into Leipzig, but it was their match to lose from the 71st minute on.

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That is in large part because Koln’s hard work throughout the opening 70 minutes turned into tired legs, and Leipzig started to wreak more and more havoc. They utilized their one-touch passing sequences in and around the penalty box to unbalance Koln, as well as the speed and trickery of Christopher Nkunku to take players on and create a bit of magic on his own. Playing more directly over the top of Koln’s defensive line helped to create extra space, where Leipzig were able to win corner kicks or create inside of the box.

Before ending this analysis, it’s more than worth noting that the defensive structures of both teams were strikingly different from their attacking shapes. Koln’s attacking shape resembled more of a 4-1-3-2, with Ondrej Duda linking up in close quarters with Mark Uth on the right and Anthony Modeste on the left. But out of possession, they defended in a 4-1-4-1 shape, with Uth firmly moving over to the right, and looking to stop Gvardiol out from the back. That left room for Orban and Simakan to pass the ball around as they pleased, and Koln didn’t mind that, knowing they were well set up in all areas of the field to defend. But playing 4-1-4-1 could have theoretically left holes for players like Nkunku and Szoboszlai to jump into, where Ellyes Skhiri was left on his own. But Leipzig couldn’t find these spaces, particularly with Ljubicic and Duda solidly screening passes in behind.

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Leipzig meanwhile pressed in a 4-2-2-2 shape, despite attacking in a 4-2-3-1. That left space for someone like Skhiri to get on the ball in the centre, or even Ondrej Duda as he dropped in and then looked to dribble forward at pace. Verticality after winning the ball back was the dominating dogma for Marsch’s men, despite Koln’s compact shape and desire to attack down the wings themselves. In the end, Leipzig played into Koln’s hands and left it far too late to turn up the boiler. Now, as they sit 13th in the table, Leipzig’s problems under Jesse Marsch will start to raise some eyebrows as to whether or not he was the right man for the post-Nagelsmann era. Meanwhile, under the influence of Steffen Baumgart, FC Koln continue their high-flying start to the 2021-22 Bundesliga, and jump up to sixth as things stand.

borussia dortmund 4-2 union berlin

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Borussia Dortmund still cannot sort out their defensive issues, but they continue to score goals in abundance. Only Bayern have scored more this season, and let’s face it, that’s only down to their 7-0 win this weekend. Dortmund hit Union for four the next day, but neglected to adequately defend well from set-pieces as per usual, and nearly lost control of the match in the second half.

Fortunately for Dortmund, they were able to maintain their control through the high-flying, high intensity attacking play of the likes of Erling Haaland, Marco Reus, and Jude Bellingham. Marco Rose made a positive change away from the abysmal 4-3-1-2 diamond formation this week, playing 4-3-3 instead. The change saw Haaland operate entirely in central areas, where he does his best damage, and gave Reus the flexibility to roam wherever he pleased as both a right and left sided player. Jude Bellingham often overlapped Reus as the German came in deep to pick up the ball, and so too did Thomas Meunier – who was excellent from an attacking perspective. The Belgian defender has clearly reinstalled his self-belief this season, and has now assisted three goals in his last three games. Guerreiro on the other side was much more inverted, with Donyell Malen maintaining that width on the left to balance out Meunier’s high position on the right. Dahoud and Guerreiro also often interchanged in midfield areas, with Bellingham pushing up well ahead of Witsel.

This was the biggest positive from Dortmund, as it was in mid-week against Besiktas. The young Englishman was deadly on the break, alongside the class control of Marco Reus. The two often linked up at speed before looking for a shooting opportunity in the box, and the majority of BVB’s best chances came on the break in this manner. Erling Haaland’s movement was also impeccable, as expected, and he became terribly difficult to stop as the match wore on. The Norwegian constantly looked to position himself in between centre-backs, and his overall fear-factor only opened up more space for Reus and Bellingham to run into.

Union Berlin on the other hand defended in a 4-4-2 shape, looking to counter attack at speed instantly upon winning the ball through verticality and aggression. Dortmund’s control over the match was utterly dominant from start to finish – with nearly 63% of the ball. But that didn’t stop Union from scoring from a set-piece, something Dortmund desperately need to sort out as soon as possible. Their quick counter attacking approach also resulted in a few too many offsides, as Mats Hummels’ return to the Black & Yellows provided a greater sense of organization and solidity. Union might have scored two goals, but they were far and away second best on the day.

bayern munich 7-0 vfl bochum

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The shock of the weekend came at Allianz Arena on Saturday, as Bayern Munich hit VFL Bochum for seven. The Bavarian giants were utterly dominant throughout the match, dictating the tempo through their stellar possession and class from back to front. Nagelsmann’s team played out from the back in a 2-3 shape, with the centre-backs, defensive midfielders and Thomas Muller helping to bypass Bochum’s first blocking line. Alphonso Davies and Josip Stanisic were higher by comparison, and the team did not rush in playing wide to utilize Davies’ speed down the wing. In attack, Sane, Muller and Gnabry operated in close proximity. They made varying runs and movements up the field at varying speeds, constantly injecting variety into their attacking play. Muller had the most wide-ranging set of movements, often drifting into wide channels to receive in space, on top of his important role in the build-up. As Bochum sat deeper and deeper to stop central penetration into Lewandowski, Kimmich also took turns with Goretzka in joining the attack and looking for space between the lines. Normally however it was Goretzka joining the attack, in a sort of 2-1-4-3 shape.

VFL Bochum were an absolute mess defensively, but they also didn’t make the most of their moments in attack. They were sloppy in possession, too quick to play risky passes and often gave the ball right back to Bayern. Utilizing as much width as possible in attack also did not help them to counter attack at speed, and their long diagonal passes up the field were dealt with well by Bayern’s defensive line. Bochum even completed more long passes than Bayern on the day, but never made any of them count. In the end it was men against boys, and Nagelsmann walked away with a victory that takes his team to the top of the table for the first time this season.

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!

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