Bundesliga 2021-22 Matchday 9 – Tactical Review

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The Bundesliga continues to entertain as ever, with intriguing tactics, goals galore, and surprising results. Matchday 9 saw Freiburg surprise the out of form Wolfsburg, Bochum push Frankfurt closer to the drop, and Bayern continue their unbelievable run of goal-scoring form. Here is our tactical analysis of some of the key matches.


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Known for excellent pressing and counter-attacking football, Freiburg have slowly started to turn into more and more of a possession side this season, as their run up the table continues. Wolfsburg on the other hand have been on a winless run the past few weeks, slumping down toward the middle of the table for the first time this season. It was the Wolves who kept more of the ball in this game, but Christian Streich’s men remained compact, shuffling and pressing diligently, whilst keeping Wolfsburg at bay. They were highly effective on the break in their 3-4-3 formation, utilizing overlapping wing-backs around the outside of their dynamic, pacey wing wizards. They were also positive in building out from the back in the same 3-4-3 shape, playing wide, and then creating scoring opportunities from crosses and low-driven deliveries, as they have done all season long. When defending, Freiburg pressed in both a 3-4-3 and 3-4-1-2 shape, with Woo Yeong-Jeong buzzing around like a bundle of energy. In fact all three of Freiburg’s front-men pressed with a high degree of intensity and fervidity, limiting Wolfsburg’s possession to minimal moments of progressiveness.

Wolfsburg too had many good chances to score, but were poor at finishing and dearly missed the big Dutchman up top – Wout Weghorst. They favoured their right side throughout the game, which was an ineffective strategy in breaking Freiburg down due to the strength on that side between Gunter and Schlotterbeck. Baku struggled to create effective opportunities from his position as the inverted right winger, and Aster Vranckx’s attempts to get forward down the right and combine with Baku and overlapping right-back Mbabu were also fruitless. In the end it was another fantastic Freiburg performance, and one that takes them up to third in the table.


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Borussia Dortmund are still trying to figure out their best formation under Marco Rose, this time lining up in a 3-4-2-1 / 3-5-2 hybrid formation. Julian Brandt was the part of the system that made it “hybrid”, often positioning himself as a right central-midfielder or right-wing-back more so than an attacking midfielder. Marco Reus meanwhile floated close to Donyell Malen, looking to create from both central and wide left channels. It was however Jude Bellingham who stole the show, excellently fulfilling a box-to-box role alongside the defensive solidity and holding power of Emre Can. Through Can’s presence in midfield, Dortmund were able to counter-press excellently well, win the ball back from Bielefeld often, and go on the hunt over and over. In attack they then favoured the right side, with Marius Wolf and Julian Brandt linking up in close quarters.

While the formation change worked in beating Bielefeld, Dortmund will be hoping to return to a back-four in future weeks once the dust settles on their start of the season injury crisis. But the return of Emre Can has certainly been a positive one regardless of formation, as his engine and mobility far surpasses that of Mahmoud Dahoud and Axel Witsel. He is a much better partner for Jude Bellingham in allowing the Englishman to get forward and work his magic, which should be key in continuing to unlock the 18-year-old’s potential. And while they never really gave Bielefeld a chance throughout the match, yet again, they couldn’t keep a clean sheet. Dortmund fans will be hoping the defensive errors are put to bed as soon as possible, and that the likes of Can and Hummels stay fit to continue to bring that experience and solidity at the back.


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In one of the matches of the weekend, Anthony Modeste stole the show in the second half, helping Koln claw their way back into a match they never really had any business being a part of. Bayer Leverkusen were utterly dominant in the first half of the game, and should have put the match to rest long before the start of the second half. Unfortunately for them, they were slightly wasteful in converting their many chances, whereas Koln (particularly Modeste) were absolutely clinical.

While you would normally expect the 4th place Leverkusen to be all about the possession, and Koln to be all about playing on the break, it was completely the other way around on Sunday. Koln kept nearly 62% of the ball, playing out from the back, playing into the wide channels and looking to create from crosses, particularly down the right. The Billy Goats delivered a whopping 28 crosses into the box on Sunday night, and that’s exactly how they ended up scoring their goals – onto the head of Anthony Modeste. But despite their possession, they were relatively ineffective at creating many standout moments, and often had to resort to shots from deep, which were often parried by Lukas Hradecky.

Leverkusen on the other hand played on the break through quick, one-touch combinations and vertical running power, and that is exactly how they scored their goals. Patrik Schick’s direct link-up play was exceptional in the first half, and he chose moments to drop deep wisely. Moussa Diaby’s pace on the break was also deadly yet again, and the balance of the team was at its best with Karim Bellarrabi sprinting around on the other wing. Jeremie Frimpong also excellently overlapped Bellarrabi throughout the first half, and Wirtz’s creativity and vision were again at a level beyond his years. Seoane’s side did however have a major problem staying on-side during their quick attacking transitions, and Koln’s back-four excellently held their line to play a part in that.

Koln’s persistence in possession ultimately wore Leverkusen’s 4-4-1-1 defensive shape down, and what started out as a compact and intense structure quickly became anything but, as holes and gaps appeared all over. Koln’s 2+3 build-up shape also allowed for an attacking diamond quartet to situate themselves further up the field and play through the thirds of the opposition, where they were then able to seek out the wide areas and deliver for their danger men. It was an effective strategy in allowing Koln back into the game, and one that completely took it by the scruff of the neck in the second half.

Koln now find themselves up to 8th in the table, showcasing much in the way of promise and progression under Steffen Baumgart.

So there it is! A tactical review of Matchday 9 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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Fox in the Box
September 2021

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