Bundesliga 2018/19 Tactical Analysis: Mainz vs RB Leipzig


Mainz welcomed RB Leipzig at the OPEL Arena for game 32 of the Bundesliga season. Mainz had won three out of their last four home games and are currently placed mid-table. Leipzig already secured a Champions League spot for next season after defeating Freiburg 2-1 the previous week.

Since Mainz have nothing to really play for, they want to finish the season in style and prepare themselves for next season. Julian Nagelsmann will be taking over Leipzig from Hoffenheim next season, therefore Ralf Rangnick is also looking to leave the side on a high before his departure.

Leipzig gave away a two-goal advantage to an impressive Mainz come back resulting in a 3-3 draw. In this tactical analysis, we will show you the trends and statistics from both sides on the day.

Line ups

Bundesliga 2018/19 Tactical Analysis: Mainz vs Leipzig

Sandro Schwarz set Mainz up in the 4-3-1-2 formation this time around. Alexander Hack and Niakhaté played at centre half with attacking full-backs Aarón Martín and Daniel Brosinski alongside. Jean-Philippe Gbambin, Baku and Latza were the midfield trio with Boëtius playing as a 10. Robin Quaison and Karim Onisiwo were the striker partnership up top.

In the other dugout, Ralf Rangnick set his team up in the 3-5-2 formation with a back three of Mukiele, Konaté and skipper Willi Orban. Klostermann and Halstenberg were the two wing-backs on the outside of midfield trio Laimer, Kampl and Forsberg. Yussuf Poulsen played alongside Timo Werner, who has bagged himself 16 goals this season.

Mainz controlling the first half

In the first half of the game, Mainz was the more dangerous side between the two. They kept 57% of possession and had a lot of the ball in the opposition’s half. They also won 67% of challenges, telling us that they won the ball back quickly when out of possession. One of the Mainz forwards put pressure on the Leipzig defence and the midfield would press high, cutting out the passing lanes. This is mainly how Mainz won back the ball, forcing the opposing defence to give the ball away.

Bundesliga 2018/19 Tactical Analysis: Mainz vs Leipzig
Mainz press on Leipzig’s defence

Throughout the game, Mainz often changed formation to three at the back, with the two full backs playing as attacking wing-backs. The home side often looked to exploit the widths, with the two-wings backs playing very high up the pitch. This pushed Leipzig back into their own half due to them also playing with three defenders. Leipzig’s wing-backs were forced to come back to defend, keeping the away side quiet in attack.

Bundesliga 2018/19 Tactical Analysis: Mainz vs Leipzig
Mainz back three

Leipzig clinical on the counter

Leipzig did what they do best and caught Mainz out on the counter-attack. They waited until Mainz made an error in their own half. The visitors opened the scoring, despite the home side looking more likely to score first. Emil Forsberg had a solid game in midfield. He anticipated a mistake from the opposition and carried the ball forward into the final third. He picked out the run of the pacey Timo Werner with a perfectly weighted through ball. Werner then unselfishly squared the ball to Klostermann who cut inside from the right flank and tapped the ball into the net.

Bundesliga 2018/19 Tactical Analysis: Mainz vs LeipzigTimo Werner played in a false nine position where he came back into midfield to help create chances. This opened up more passing opportunities when in possession of the ball and dragged defenders out so the two full backs could overlap. He got two assists on the night and he also tracked back to support the defence as shown in the heat map below.

Bundesliga 2018/19 Tactical Analysis: Mainz vs Leipzig
Timo Werner heat map. Credit – whoscored

After conceding, Mainz still looked the more dangerous side, taking five shots inside the first half. As Mainz held possession in their own half, Leipzig’s defence pressed high making sure there were no runners getting in behind them. Willi Orban won the ball during the press with the ball falling to Werner yet again. Klostermann made a run in behind the Mainz defence from another Werner through ball and chipped the ball over the goalkeeper to gain a two-goal lead.

Bundesliga 2018/19 Tactical Analysis: Mainz vs Leipzig
Leipzig defence pressing high and regaining possession

Mainz never gave up

Mainz kept their heads held high despite a two-goal deficit. At this stage in the game, it was very open and both sides were looking for the next goal. Mainz closed the gap in the scoring when a lack of concentration occurred in Leipzig’s defence. A well-delivered corner kick from Martín skipped past two Leipzig’s defenders, falling to Niakhaté who was in the right place to score for his team.

The momentum was with Mainz after scoring their second goal. Julian Nagelsmann brought on his number nine Jean-Philippe Mateta which worked out well for the home side. Mateta brought extra pace to the table making runs in behind the Leipzig defence. Jean-Paul Boëtius picked the ball up in midfield and spotted the run of Mateta and picked him out with a through ball. Mateta still had work to do under pressure but placed the ball into the bottom corner, earning a well-deserved equalizer.

Bundesliga 2018/19 Tactical Analysis: Mainz vs Leipzig


To summarise this extraordinary contest, neither team were able to secure three points. Mainz was up for it up more from the start creating more chances at goal. Leipzig allowed the home side to keep the ball inside their own half and waited for counter-attack opportunities to arise. With Mainz being two goals behind in the second half, spectators didn’t see a way for them to come back.

The game then became very flat, with both sides creating as many chances as the other. Mainz kept chipping away and with a bit of fortune, they pulled two goals back towards the end respectively. ‘The bulls’ were disappointed with not gaining three points but have done very well this season securing a Champions League spot for next year.