This tactical analysis shall look at how Frankfurt’s nightmare seven days got worse as they fell to a 2-0 defeat at home to Mainz in the Rhine-Main derby. The result which has now removed Champions League qualification from their own hands. Two goals in four second-half minutes from striker Anthony Ujah, his first since September were enough to see off a Frankfurt side still visibly suffering from their Europa League hangover.
Following a 6-1 humiliation at Leverkusen last Sunday, a home fixture with on-the-beach Mainz was the perfect chance to give themselves a cushion over Gladbach and Bayer in fourth. However, defeat means they must now win get a result at Bayern Munich to stand any chance of Champions League football next season.
This tactical analysis will take a look at how Mainz defeated their next door neighbours and put their Champions League hopes in jeopardy.
Frankfurt set up from the start in the 3-4-1-2 formation which has proved so successful for them this term, with the width coming from wing backs Danny Da Costa and Filip Kostić and Mijat Gaćinović playing in the hole between behind forwards Ante Rebić and Luka Jović. With Sebastian Rode injured, Gelson Fernandes was deployed alongside Makoto Hasebe to provide a solid base for Frankfurt’s Slavic quartet to maintain positions high up the pitch, ready to transition from defence to attack very quickly with single balls into the channels.
Their opponents Mainz began in a conventional 4-1-2-1-2 diamond formation in order to try and dominate the ball through the centre of the pitch. Pierre Kunde anchored the midfield allowing Danny Latza and Jean-Philippe Gbamin to operate in the wider central midfield roles. Jean-Paul Boëtius was tasked with occupying Frankfurt’s two sitting midfielders and linking up with Ujah and Jean-Philippe Mateta, as well as supplying marauding wing-backs Aarón Martín and David Brosinski who provided great width for the visitors.
Frankfurt’s euro hangover
The first half began brightly as both sides went end to end attacking without causing much threat to each other. It was evident that playing 120 minutes just over 36 hours prior was still heavy in the legs and minds of some of Eintracht’s players. Fernandes and Hasebe sitting so deep whilst the wing-backs and forwards pushed so high up the pitch left a gaping chasm in the middle of the pitch which Mainz’s midfield trio were able to control throughout the first half, despite having 41 percent of the possession compared to Frankfurt’s 59 percent.
The huge overload in midfield caused huge issues for the home side throughout the first period though as the wide centre-halves were left exposed up against Martín and Brosinski who were able to play low crosses between the six-yard box and penalty spot with Ujah narrowly missing the target on two occasions.
Despite Mainz’s low block 4-4-2 making it difficult for Frankfurt to play through, they did manage to create the two stand out chances of the first period and their only chances of note in the entire match. In both instances, Kostić got the better of Brosinski on the Frankfurt left before firstly playing a low ball to the front post which Da Costa flicked over before a floated ball found Rebić unmarked on the edge of the six-yard box but he could only blaze his half volley into the stand.
These two chances combined made up 1.13 of Frankfurt’s combined xG of 1.71, which reflects the toothless nature of their attack on the day. They did, in fact, have a higher xG compared to Mainz’s 1.25 which reflected the low quality of chances for both sides throughout the game.
Mainz pull away
The opening period of the second half at the Commerzbank-Arena followed a similar vein to the first before sparking into life in the 53rd minute. All evening Ujah and Mateta were able to occupy Frankfurt’s three centre-halves to leave space for others and it was Mateta who was able to provide for his strike partner on this occasion. Both Hinteregger and Abraham were drawn to the ball, leaving space behind them for the ball to be looped into and Ujah had the freedom time and space to put an albeit scuffed volley past Trapp for his first goal since September.
As it happens, goals for the Nigerian are likes buses, you wait a long time for one and then two come along at once. Just four minutes later Ujah collected the ball in the area before firing a low shot past Trapp after Hinteregger once again backed off and allowed the shot to come in. A change of shape for the hosts was much needed in order to neutralise the overload in the middle of the park.
A double change did come in the end with Sebastian Haller and Jonathan De Guzman replacing Falette and Fernandes. The introduction of De Guzman did provide more of a cutting edge for Frankfurt and it was he who had their first shot on target of the game in the 81st minute, although it was tame and easily saved by Müller. This was as close as they came despite a flurry of long-range attempts in the final ten minutes and Mainz were more than comfortable in seeing out their derby win.
In summary, this was the perfect opportunity for Eintracht to right the wrongs of their humiliation at Leverkusen and their Europa League exit. Victory would have seen them open up a small cushion on the chasing pack but they now find themselves in a nightmare situation as they must now take three points at title-chasing Bayern on the final day.
As for Mainz, they will be happy heading into the final weekend of the Bundesliga season safe in mid-table. This season’s progress has been solid if unspectacular but with the Bundesliga landscape set for a major summer shake-up, more steady progress will be welcome as they push for a top half finish next term.
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