Borussia Mönchengladbach hosted Werder Bremen at Borussia Park for the 28th game of the season in the Bundesliga. With Gladbach placed fifth in the table and Bremen closely behind in eighth place, it was a very important game for both sides to help secure a spot in the Champions League or Europa league respectively at the end of the season.

In this tactical analysis, I will analyse the tactical approaches used from each manager, the tactics from the game and how Bremen stopped Gladbach from getting the three points at home.

Line-ups

Borussia Mönchengladbach Werder Bremen Bundesliga Tactical Analysis Analysis

Dieter Hecking lined up up the home side in a 3-4-1-2 formation with a back three consisting of Matthias Ginter, Strobl and Elvedi. Thorgan Hazard and Hofmann started on the flanks with Kramer and Zakaria in central midfield. Neuhaus played in the attacking midfield position with Brazillian Raffael and Frenchman Alassane Plea was the pairing up top.

Florian Kohfeldt lined Bremen up in a more defensive formation in the 4-3-1-2 with Moisander and Langkamp in central defence. Ahead of those played former Everton midfielder Davy Klaassen alongside former Dortmund midfielder Nuri Şahin and Eggestein in the heart of midfield. Bremen played with an attacking midfielder as well with Max Kruse taking up that role. Eggestein and Rashica lead the lineup front.

Gladbach in Possession

Gladbach owned most of the possession in the first half and ended the game with 55% possession to Bremen’s 45%. Gladbach’s formation allowed there three defenders to play out from the back very high up the pitch, pushing the opposition back into their own half. The two-wing backs played very high up the pitch and only came back to defend when they had to. A lot of head coaches are using this style of play by ‘overloading’ the wide areas of the pitch. This forced Bremen’s full-backs to commit out wide making space for the other wide player to overlap and exploit the free wide space to get a cross into the box. Gladbach centre backs played very wide across their own half with the two central midfielders dropping in to receive the ball.

Borussia Mönchengladbach Werder Bremen Bundesliga Tactical Analysis Analysis
Gladbach’s width

Right from the start of the game, Gladbach looked like they wanted to score first but Bremen happily let the home side keep possession of the ball. With the dangerous Thorgan Hazard playing on the left side, it is no surprise that most of their attacks came from the left side of midfield. With both full-backs pushing far up the pitch, Bremen’s full-backs and midfielders were dragged into wide areas, leaving gaps in midfield where a through ball could be made. Their wing-backs were often left unmarked and were able to make runs to get inside the box.

Borussia Mönchengladbach Werder Bremen Bundesliga Tactical Analysis Analysis
Gladbach wing back making run into the box

Another method Gladbach used to create chances throughout the game was through the midfield. Swiss midfielder Zakaria used his physical ability to run long distances and carry the ball further up the pitch. This forced Bremen’s midfielders to commit out of position leaving space for a through ball or a cross. Having a midfielder who can attack well and have defensive capabilities is an asset to any team and offers flexibility in the midfield. As Zakaria pushed forward, Kramer sat back to support the defence in the case of a loss in possession.

Borussia Mönchengladbach Werder Bremen Bundesliga Tactical Analysis Analysis
Zakaria’s heat map showing his defensive and offensive positioning

Key Player – Thorgan Hazard

Similar to brother Eden Hazard of Chelsea, Thorgan has a similar effect of importance that his brother has for premier league side. The Belgian can play on both wings or as an attacking midfielder. He has scored nine goals this season along with nine assists, and provides rapid acceleration to take on defenders and has great passing and crossing ability with an average pass success rate of 77% per game. He came close to scoring three times during the game and definitely helps influence the attacking threat for his team.

Borussia Mönchengladbach Werder Bremen Bundesliga Tactical Analysis Analysis
Hazard’s successful vs unsuccessful actions vs Bremen

Bremen’s stubborn defence

Werder Bremen made it very hard for Gladbach to break down after they conceded the first goal even with Gladbach’s offensive style of play. Bremen started to anticipate a press on the ball immediately after a Gladbach player received the ball. They started the press right from the strikers to the defenders. This pressure forced some errors on Gladbach’s defence and midfield giving them less time to open out and pick a pass.

Bremen made sure that every player was behind the ball when Gladbach had possession and only went on the counter-attack when they forced a mistake on the opposition. From the pressure from Bremen’s forwards, their midfield was able to cut the passing lanes and win possession back for the team, enabling them to go on the counter-attack.

Borussia Mönchengladbach Werder Bremen Bundesliga Tactical Analysis Analysis
Bremen forcing the opposition to play backwards
Borussia Mönchengladbach Werder Bremen Bundesliga Tactical Analysis Analysis
Bremen’s defensive structure

Bremen held a very strong defensive structure and remained in a very organized fashion. They dropped to five at the back out of possession while the midfielders sat deep to cut the passing lanes. This made Gladbach play the ball sideways and backwards in parts of the game giving them no options to attack. When Gladbach passed the ball back into their own half, the visitors back five pushed forward using a high line, almost playing an offside trap.

Although Bremen allowed Gladbach to keep possession of the ball, for the most part, they defended effectively and managed to keep the score to only a goal behind. All that was needed was the home side to force a mistake or lose concentration and that is what occurred from Bremen’s patient style of football.

Bremen midfielder Yuya Osako received the ball out wide and spotted the run of former Everton and Dutch international Davy Klassen who powered into the box and beat the Gladbach’s defence in the air with a precise header into the bottom corner to get his team a much-needed equalizer late in the game. Klassen found a pocket of space and was left unmarked and his run caught the defence of the opposition out who weren’t fully focused on their surroundings.

Borussia Mönchengladbach Werder Bremen Bundesliga Tactical Analysis Analysis
Klaassen makes a run to equalise

Conclusion

A very important game for both sides who need as many points on the board as possible to keep in the race for a European spot. Gladbach bossed possession in the first half and had more chances through Hazard and Raffael, eventually hitting the net early in the second half to take the lead. Werder Bremen stuck to their game plan and remained patient until an opening came up with Davy Klaassen getting on the end of an inviting cross earning a point for his team and frustrating the Gladbach fans. Both sides will be looking to improve in their next Bundesliga fixtures and will be hoping to earn a much needed three points in their hopes to finish higher than the other.

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Micky Hopkins

I'm Micky and I'm from Northern Ireland. I am aPerformance Analysis Intern for a League one Academy and a Science and Football Student at Liverpool John Moores University.
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