Bundesliga 2021-22 Matchday 8 – Tactical Review

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The Bundesliga continues to entertain as ever, with intriguing tactics, goals galore, and surprising results. Matchday 8 saw Bayern smash Leverkusen to shreds, Freiburg secure another key result over a Leipzig side struggling to find form, and Wolfsburg lose again, this time at the hands of high-flying Union Berlin. Here is our tactical analysis of some of the key matches.

Bayer leverkusen 1-5 bayern munich

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Bayern Munich simply cannot be stopped. At the moment at least. The Bavarians have been on a real run of form, and have now scored 29 goals in just 8 matches this season. This weekend they faced up against Bayer Leverkusen, and ripped them to shreds with a 5-1 victory.

Bayern built out from the back in a 3+1 shape, utilizing the two centre-backs, right-back, and Joshua Kimmich. The remaining players floated around, looking for space to receive in between the lines and rotating around to create chaos for their opposition. Serge Gnabry often inverted inside, with Thomas Muller taking up the position on the right wing instead. Leroy Sane meanwhile inverted inside as he often does, allowing Alphonso Davies to work his magic on the overlap down the left channel. While Bayern were often slow to build out from the back, they were extremely effective and extremely deadly in the final third. Their runs off the ball were often timed to perfection, and they utilized a mix of underlapping and overlapping runs to confuse their markers.

While Bayer Leverkusen never stood a chance, they collected more possession and poise in the second half (…after Bayern took their foot off the pedal). They often used the left side in attack, taking advantage of Sule’s much lower position on the right compared to Davies’ higher one. But they struggled to win 1v1 battles against Bayern’s excellent back-line, and failed to create anything sustainable. Kerem Demirbay and Florian Wirtz showed some bright moments in possession, and Leverkusen’s best moment of the game came when the two of them combined with Patrik Schick up top. Wirtz excellently threaded the needle through a gap between Lucas Hernandez and Josip Stanisic, with Schick timing his run and showing his class in front of goal. But it was always Bayern’s match to win, and Nagelsmann’s team did so brilliantly – smashing Leverkusen to pieces.

BOrussia dortmund 3-1 mainz 05

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Borussia Dortmund have not played brilliantly under Marco Rose so far this season, but they still sit second in the table, just one point behind Bayern Munich. One reason for that is due to the poor form of the normally close others like Wolfsburg, Leipzig and Frankfurt. Another reason is that they continue to grind out victories and continue to score goals, even when they’re not at their best.

In this match, Dortmund set up in a 4-1-4-1 shape, with Julian Brandt and Marco Reus floating in and out of attacking midfield and right wing. Emre Can acted as the midfield engine in the team that facilitated Bellingham and Reus to work their magic in attack, and that worked like a charm in giving the two players license to get forward and create chances for the big man up top – Erling Haaland. The Norwegian was an absolute nuisance in his first match back in weeks, scoring a brace with some exceptional off the ball movement to match his incredible finishing.

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Meanwhile, Brandt’s inclination to operate in right half spaces and drift in-field facilitated Thomas Meunier’s movement forward from right-back. The Belgian defender has made a magnificent start to his second season with the Black & Yellows, and had a crucial hand in giving Dortmund the lead when Marco Reus smashed his cross into the back of the net. Malen on the other side held his width, contributing to an evenly balanced attack. The Dutchman was able to use his pace and power to cause Silvan Widmer a massive headache, and he linked up nicely with Erling Haaland from his wide position.

Mainz meanwhile set up in a 3-4-1-2 formation as they usually do, pressing in a mix of 3-4-3 and 3-4-1-2 shapes depending on the movement of the ball either out wide (3-4-3) or inside (3-4-1-2). They were successful in pressing and winning the ball back from BVB, but unsuccessful in kick-starting attacks and making much out of their limited possession. While they scored a goal directly through their intense pressing and Dortmund’s fragility, they struggled to muster up anything more throughout the match. So in the end it was another routine win for Dortmund, who are still yet to truly settle on a succinct style and system of play under Rose.

union berlin 2-0 Wolfsburg

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Wolfsburg have had a real tough go of it lately, winning just one of their last seven. Union Berlin on the other hand have been flying high, and now see themselves up to 5th place in the table with this important win.

Union set-up in their usual 3-5-2 formation, remaining compact in between the lines and pressuring the player in possession one at a time, more so than systematically as a collective unit. They had very little of the ball (39%) compared to Wolfsburg (61%), but were absolutely clinical in breaking quickly and then breaking the back of the net. Upon winning the ball, several attackers would leap into the attack, sprinting off the ball vertically to create space for themselves and their teammates. As they opened up more space for the ball carrier to progress into, they were often very good at then exposing holes in Wolfsburg’s back-line and finding room to finish.

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Wolfsburg on the other hand were poor in front of goal, failing to score from any of their 13 shots. They were significantly more effective and better in possession once re-introducing Wout Weghorst, begging the question as to why he didn’t start the match to begin with. Failing to find a route through Union’s defense, Wolfsburg often went direct in looping balls over the top for their strikers to run onto and perhaps this is where they wanted to use Lukas Nmecha’s pace. But that would be a disservice to Weghorst, who is quite fast for someone who stands 6’5 tall. The strategy was somewhat effective in breaking Union down, and Lukebakio hit the upright on one occasion from one of these exact long passes for Nmecha to sprint onto. Had this chance gone in, the game might have ended completely differently. But unfortunately, it didn’t, and they struggled to defend at the other end. The Wolves should worry how easily their defense was split open in transition, and they will be hoping Maxence Lacroix is back as soon as possible to provide that solidity and rhythm again. In the end, Union’s deadly counter attacking gave them a victory, and they look in with a real shot of European football again next season.

Freiburg 1-1 Leipzig

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With the normally solid Leipzig having a poor season and the underdogs Freiburg having a remarkable one, this was always going to be an interesting affair. Luckily for all, it did not disappoint. Leipzig reverted back to a 4-2-3-1 formation for this match, sometimes looking more like a 4-2-2-2 in and out of possession. Dominik Szoboszlai was given freedom to roam as he pleased in the number ten role alongside Emil Forsberg, and was the key creative force for die Roten Bullen throughout the match. Leipzig’s build-up sometimes looked more like a 3+2, as Josko Gvardiol went higher and wider on the left, and Lukas Klostermann tucked inside. With Nkunku operating high and often even above Yussuf Poulsen, the balance in the team was lost all the more. This was a real problem for Leipzig in transition, as they had no real right sided player, and Freiburg dominated down the left with their key men pulling the strings in the attack. Anyone who’s watched Freiburg this season knows you have to stop Grifo and Gunter from putting crosses into the box and gaining any traction in the match. Leipzig completely neglected to do that, and were punished for it. Actually, they weren’t entirely punished for it, because Freiburg really should have won. Peter Gulacsi saved their bacon on the day, and Marsch’s men will be thanking their lucky stars they came away with anything at all.

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If you think that’s harsh, you might be fascinated to learn that Freiburg actually had more of the possession in this match (53% to 47%). You would normally expect Leipzig to completely dominate over their opposition, and Freiburg to play solely on the break, but instead it was Christian Streich’s men wreaking havoc and asking questions. Freiburg’s 3-4-3 shape pushed Christian Gunter high and wide on the left, allowing him more flexibility in getting forward to deliver for his team. He often overlapped Vincenzo Grifo on that side, with the Italian either drifting inside, or working with Woo-Yeong Jeong to create overloads. And while Freiburg had more of the ball and played in a way not normally seen, they were effective in getting forward quickly and creating chances for their team to score from all kinds of situations, set-pieces included. The left side is where they completely took control of the match though, and Leipzig’s failure to figure that out suggests Jesse Marsch really should read our website…right?

Freiburg also changed shape out of possession at times to become 3-4-1-2, with Woo-Yeong Jeong floating centrally. This completely limited Leipzig’s attempts to play out from the back, and also allowed the Korean attacker to have more flexibility and freedom in attack. Freiburg were excellent on the day, and will consider themselves incredibly unlucky not to have won.


So there it is! A tactical review of Matchday 8 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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