Wolfsburg enjoyed another away day when they visited a Borussia Monchengladbach side looking to maintain there place in the Bundesliga’s top three. In this tactical analysis, I’ll show you why Gladbach struggled, and how Wolfsburg overcame them so easily.
Both teams set up in a 4-3-3 in offensive situations, with Gladbach dropping into a flat 4-5-1 out of possession and Wolfsburg dropping into a 4-1-4-1 to attempt to limit Stindl’s effect on the game from deep. In the first half out of possession, Gladbach did not press Wolfsburg’s back line, and instead sat off and allowed them to enter their half before pressing. Wolfsburg did the opposite, with their front 3 pressing Gladbach high up the pitch. We can see the two teams different approaches below.
Compared to Gladbach:
With very limited chances in the game, Wolfsburg executed offensive situations brilliantly, with some help form Gladbach’s shambolic defending at times. They are a well-drilled side offensively, and the work done on crosses by Bruno Labbadia on the training ground is clear to see.
After some good combination play, Roussillon finds himself with the opportunity to cross. Weghorst then makes the run to far post, drawing Ginter away from the middle. Gerhardt holds his run and instead sits in the space left by Weghorst for a free shot at goal. Gladbach could do much more however to prevent the goal. If Kramer drops into the space and cuts the crossing lane to Gerhardt, the goal can be prevented. It can also be prevented by Elvedi (who had a terrible afternoon) recognising the threat of the space and attacking the ball coming in, rather than holding his position and losing Gerhardt.
Wolfsburg’s game plan
Wolfsburg clearly sought to frustrate Gladbach and hit them on the counter, with fast transitions and clinical finishing. After carrying out the second part of their game plan for the first time, Wolfsburg then went about frustrating Gladbach, with a low block in a 4-1-4-1 formation. Initially, Gladbach had no idea how to break them down, often hitting hopeful long balls out for goal kicks. Guilavogui sat deeper than the rest of the midfield, meaning Stindl could not drop deep between the defence and midfield and cause them problems. With no central impetus, Gladbach started to play down the wings, which is always difficult when the opposition have two players defending the wing constantly.
Arnold pressed and cut the passing lanes through the midfield, while Guilavogui stayed fairly rigid, only pressing when Stindl received the ball in front of him.
Gladbach start to solve the block
As time went on, Gladbach started to find a common solution to playing through Wolfsburg. With the introduction of Plea, Stindl started to drift in the half spaces between defence and attack, getting into wider positions away from Guilavogui. Elvedi and Ginter, both impressive on the ball, started to play line breaking passes through the midfield into these half spaces, where Stindl could combine with Hoffman and Hazard to create goal scoring opportunities, which they did twice.
Here a brilliantly disguised pass draws Roussillon away from the space narrower, and forces him wide, creating space for three Gladbach players to combine in. Guilavogui has pushed up slightly meaning that Stindl and Plea now find it easier to drop into the space. This particular situation led to a brilliant save by Koen Casteels and a clear goal scoring opportunity for Gladbach, which Thorgan Hazard probably should have put away.
But if Gladbach had managed to handle Wolfsburg offensively, they might have had a chance. Just as Gladbach had started to exploit this space in the block they handed Wolfsburg a second goal from a goal kick which Mehmedi latched onto inside the box and tucked away. Gladbach’s ability to concede such soft goals from comfortable situations meant that their efforts at breaking Wolfsburg down were ultimately useless, and if Gladbach had been able to keep Wolfsburg out, I feel they would have broken them down and had a chance in the game.
If Gladbach want to compete at the top of the Bundesliga they will have to show a vast improvement both offensively and defensively based off Saturday’s showing. They were slow, passive and lacklustre in possession for most of the game and in key moments in the game gifted Wolfsburg goals and were duly punished, which could see RB Leipzig leapfrog themselves into 3rd place. Wolfsburg are continuing to impress me with their revival from annual relegation candidates to a team that looks ready to play in the Europa League next season. Bruno Labbadia deserves huge credit.
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