Hoffenheim are fighting for Champions League qualification. Julian Nagelsmann, who will join RB Leipzig next season, wants to leave in style. As Eintracht Frankfurt and Borussia Monchengladbach, placed fourth and fifth in the points table respectively, had dropped points, a victory against Wolfsburg would have taken Die Kraichgauer to one point of fourth place.
Wolfsburg are also fighting for European competitions. The Europa League seems to be a more realistic option for the club. They previously secured European football in the 2014/15 season.
Bruno Labbadia’s Wolfsburg outclassed Hoffenheim 4-1 in the game. In this tactical analysis, we will show you the statistics and analysis of the movements and trends of each team.
Julian Nagelsmann has used many formations this season. They predominantly use 3-5-2. This time, Hoffenheim started in a 4-3-1-2 formation. Szalai and Belfodil combined upfront with Kramarić just behind them. Amiri, Vogt and Grillitsch formed the midfield trio. Interestingly, in this match, Nagelsmann changed their formation thrice. In the 15th minute, he switched to Hoffenheim’s usual 3-5-2. In the 57th minute, he changed it into 3-4-1-2. And finally, from 73rd minute onwards, Hoffenheim played in a 4-3-3 setup.
This season, Wolfsburg have mostly used three formations. These formations are 4-3-3, 4-3-1-2 and 4-1-4-1. In this match, Labbadia went with 4-3-1-2. So, both teams started the game in a 4-3-1-2 setup. Klaus and Weghorst played as strikers and Mehmedi was deployed just behind them. William, who is naturally a right back, started the match as left back. Jung was the right back. Goalkeeper Pervan made his sixth start of this season.
Hoffenheim’s defensive play and Wolfsburg’s answer
As we saw, Hoffenheim used four different formations in this match. But, most of the time they played with five players in defence. Generally, Hoffenheim played defensively in the middle block. They usually didn’t press high. Their aim was to stay compact in the middle of the pitch. One of the strikers moved towards Guilavogui and blocked the passing option using cover shadow. Generally, they wanted to set pressing traps in wide areas.
Hoffenheim’s 5-3-2 in defence. Szalai closed down Guilavogui with cover shadow.
Hoffenheim’s aim was to direct Wolfsburg’s attacks into wide areas and then to press them. In those situations, they used the man-marking system. We have one example in the image below. Szalai closed down left-centre-back Tisserand and Belfodil closed down Guilavogui. They wanted to direct the ball to left back, William.
The ball was played to William. Kramarić rushed to close down William. William did not have many choices. Guilavogui moved close to help him but Belfodil was marking him, preventing the pass.
Hoffenheim’s pressing trap.
Another example in the image below. Hoffenheim waited for Wolfsburg to play the ball to right-back Jung. After that, they implemented the man-marking system on all players and thus closed down all passing options.
Hoffenheim’s pressing in a wide area.
As we saw, Hoffenheim’s defence was compact. When you can’t play through the block, you should play around the block. Generally, Wolfsburg used two ways to breach into the final third. In the first method, they used Admir Mehmedi. He played as an attacking midfielder and had a lot of freedom.
Mehmedi usually placed himself between the lines or on the left side of the pitch. He stood between the lines when Wolfsburg went for long balls so that he could win the second ball. Below we can see one situation. The ball was on the right side and five of Hoffenheim players surrounded two Wolfsburg players. Mehmedi (highlighted player) was positioned between the two lines. The long ball was played to left striker Weghorst. After a scramble, the ball came to Mehmedi, who took a shot.
Mehmedi won the ball.
Wolfsburg dominated 56% of the possession. In some situations, their centre-backs passed the ball to each other. They were patient and didn’t want to go forward quickly. In the second method, Wolfsburg came to the final third by forward runs made by their midfield players.
Wolfsburg’s game in the defensive third was patient and they wanted to manipulate Hoffenheim’s players with movement, so they can open space for forwarding runs.
Forward run by Gerhardt.
In the image above we have an interesting situation. The ball was in Jung’s possession. Mehmedi occupied Hoffenheim left back (Schulz) and Weghorst positioned himself between two centre-backs. We can see a huge gap between the right-central-back (Adams) and right back (Kaderabek). Gerhardt used that space to exploit.
Guilavogui’s forward run.
Another example (see the image above). Hoffenheim played in a 5-3-2 formation. Felix Klaus dropped deep to receive the ball. Guilavogui used free space. He ran behind Grillitsch’s back. Tisserand passed the ball to Klaus and then he supplied it to Guilavogui.
Wolfsburg had an interesting defensive system. Their pressing was more aggressive than Hoffenheim’s. They pressed higher. But the movement of their midfield line was interesting. Often they moved like a unit and were close to each other. Sometimes all four midfield players, sometimes three of them. That was the case, especially in wide areas. But, that caused some problems for Wolfsburg, because Hoffenheim could switch the play easy.
Wolfsburg’s midfield four in defence.
Like Hoffenheim, and Wolfsburg pressed harder in wide areas. But, that caused a lot of free space on the other side of the pitch. In the image below we can see one example. They directed Hoffenheim’s attack to the right side. Central players were tightly marked. When the ball was played to Kaderabek, Mehmedi closed him down. Weghorst who was near Bičakčić closed down Adams and also blocked the passing option to Bičakčić with his cover shadow.
Wolfsburg press in a wide area.
Wolfsburg’s high press.
Hoffenheim switched the play.
Wolfsburg’s five players (four midfielders + Klaus) were close to each other (the image above). Hoffenheim used it and switched the play to Kaderabek, who was free on the other side.
Hoffenheim’s use of full-backs
Usually, Hoffenheim attacked down the flanks. In every formation they used during this match, full-backs were the most important players during the attacking phase. Hoffenheim aimed to find free spaces for their full-backs. They often used quick passing combinations or movements.
Kramarić went forward and pinned Arnold. He secured a free passing line to Schulz.
Passing combination for Schulz.
In the image above we can see how Hoffenheim manipulated Wolfsburg with quick combinations. Vogt passed the ball to Grillitsch. With this pass, Hoffenheim pulled out Wolfsburg’s right back William. Then Grillitsch played the ball to Bittencourt. Right back was pulled out, so Schulz had a lot of space on the left side. Bittencourt then passed it to Schulz
Also, another strategy was that the strikers were in the half-space area when Hoffenheim were in the high block. In that case, they were more dangerous when Hoffenheim won the ball.
Szalai was in right half-space. Hoffenheim won the ball and he was a threat to Wolfsburg.
Wolfsburg recorded a victory. They scored four goals. This victory places Wolfsburg just one point behind Hoffenheim. Meanwhile, this defeat leaves Hoffenheim in a difficult position and have dented their hopes of Champions League football. Three games before the end of the season, they are four points behind Eintracht Frankfurt (fourth place).
We saw some interest strategies. Hoffenheim had a higher xG (3.65) than Wolfsburg (1.85). They had 1:0 lead and penalty after that, but Kramarić missed. Wolfsburg equalised before the half-time and scored three goals in the second half-time.
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