Frankfurt continued to build on their impressive season in the Bundesliga with a 0-3 win away at Düsseldorf on Monday night in a game which Frankfurt dominated and deserved the three points. But how were Frankfurt able to pick apart a usually challenging Düsseldorf team and keep their run going? In this tactical analysis, I will look to answer this question and more, and show you why Düsseldorf struggled so much against an impressive Frankfurt side.
Both teams lined up in their familiar shapes, which made for an interesting matchup of styles on paper. Düsseldorf’s 4-3-3 formation meant that if they could take Frankfurt’s wing backs out of the game then they could potentially create a 3v3 or 3v4. However, as it played out in the game, Düsseldorf struggled to do this and left lots of space for Kostic and Da Costa to operate in and cause problems.
The importance of Düsseldorf’s full backs
Düsseldorf’s full-backs had a large impact on the outcome of the game and could have been the key to Düsseldorf picking up a result in this match. As I mentioned, the matchup of a front three against a back three always intrigues me, as it gives an opportunity for inside forwards to drive at centre backs and create chances. However before Düsseldorf’s inside forwards could do this, they had to get the ball, which is where their full backs come in.
In very small periods of the game, Frankfurt’s front two did not press Düsseldorf’s full-backs and gave them time on the ball initially as they couldn’t cover the whole of the back four. As we can see below, this meant that Frankfurt’s wing-backs had to press the full-back, leaving space in behind for a penetrative pass to be played and for Düsseldorf’s inside forwards to exploit the space left, creating 3v4 offensive opportunities. This situation led to Düsseldorf’s early disallowed goal.
Therefore, if they could move the ball out to the full-back quick enough, Düsseldorf could get the ball to their inside forwards. Another example can be seen below, where Düsseldorf didn’t move the ball quick enough and as a result, Raman was surrounded by three Frankfurt players.
So if Düsseldorf wanted to break through Frankfurt, they had to set traps to lure the wing backs out, which on rare occasions they did. Below we can see the full back holds onto the ball and two players including the wing back press the ball. The full backs bravery and technique on the ball allowed them to beat the press and exploit the space left behind. However, this kind of quality was rare in the game from Düsseldorf, which is to be expected from a newly promoted side.
Frankfurt demonstrated their prowess at breaking teams down, albeit with some help from a poor Düsseldorf side. Frankfurt’s centre backs seemed to find it very easy to play passes through the lines, due to the lack of pressing from Düsseldorf in Frankfurt’s half, and because of Düsseldorf’s lack of compactness.
Below we can see no real press from Düsseldorf, which is fine if there is a compact block to prevent the opposition from getting through. Düsseldorf hesitated and didn’t choose either option and often just gave these easy passes into large areas, where Jović would usually latch onto them and bring others into play.
Likewise here, where no players are pressing but some players are not covering any space or making it difficult to play through. Each player within the midfield block could easily shift along further wide and these spaces can be reduced. Again though, Jovic’s movement into space allows his side to build and so his awareness to see these situations unfold should be praised.
Düsseldorf’s poor transitions
Düsseldorf also suffered due to their willingness to leave players ahead of the ball when defending, which means that the players behind the ball have to be very well organised and limit space, which as I have shown, they did not. However they only conceded one goal in 90 minutes, so why didn’t they get the opportunity to counter with these players?
Düsseldorf simply could not combine with enough quality in the right moments to counter-attack quickly using their pace and because they didn’t have enough quality to penetrate in transition with few players, Düsseldorf had to delay and commit men forwards, which obviously gives Frankfurt the opportunity to bring men back.
We can see an example below of Düsseldorf’s shape out of possession, with two players ahead of the ball and not helping the side defensively. Bringing an extra player into the midfield line again would allow the whole block to push wider and eliminate the wide danger but Düsseldorf opted to leave players forward to receive the ball, but couldn’t win the ball and break in moments of transition quickly enough.
Overall, Frankfurt deservedly picked up three points for their ability to penetrate and get in behind an unusually poor Düsseldorf side. This victory is made even more impressive with the fact that it was squeezed between two massive Europa League fixtures for the club against Inter, and this can only bode well for Frankfurt in the future when competing for European places.