The Bundesliga 2018/19 season came to an end last weekend with many teams finishing on a high. One being Bayer Leverkusen after defeating Hertha Berlin on their home soil at the Olympiastadion. Leverkusen have had a successful season, finishing in fourth place and securing Champions League football alongside Bayern, Dortmund and RB Leipzig.
Hertha Berlin made no improvement this year after finishing 11th in the table, one spot further down from last season. In this tactical analysis, we will look at the statistics and tactical concepts from both teams.
Hertha boss Pál Dárdai set his team up in a 4-2-3-1 formation, the main system that he has utilized throughout the season. Lusterberger and Rekik played as the two centre backs with Lukas Klünter and Plattenhardt as the full backs. Liverpool loanee Marko Grujić played alongside Skjelbred in central midfield with Duda adopting a more attacking role in midfield. Former Chelsea player Salomon Kalou played left midfield with Lazaro playing on the right side. Bosnian forward Vedad Ibišević was the lone striker on the day.
At the away end, Peter Bosz deployed a 3-4-3 formation which switched into a 3-5-2. The back three consisted of Wendell, Bender and Jonathan Tah. Weiser and Kevin Volland played in attacking wing-back positions with Baumgartinger and Aránguiz playing in central midfield. Julian Brandt mainly played in the attacking midfield role, with Havertz and Alario coming together up top.
Hertha Berlin in possession
Hertha started the game off on the front foot and looked more likely to open the scoring. They kept the ball in the final third which lead to a corner kick, almost resulting in a goal. In possession, the back four played quite high in their own half with the two central midfielders coming deep to give the defenders more options. The attacking midfielder also free-roamed deeper, whilst the two wingers pushed out into wide areas of the pitch. The image below shows the positioning of the players when in possession of the ball.
Hertha played a high press when the opposition was in possession. One player would press the ball whilst the midfield maintained a compact structure in the middle of the park. The player closing down the ball forced the opposition to release it quickly with no time to fixate before passing. Hertha’s midfield remained narrow with the two wingers playing more central. This allowed them to cut out the passing lanes and keep the ball in the opposition’s half. This pressing style is illustrated in the image below.
Although being put under pressure by Hertha’s high press, Leverkusen were able to play the ball out from the back efficiently. The three defenders have great long-range passing abilities and used it to their advantage. When they had no option to play simple, the defence played long passes into wide areas and was able to maintain possession.
Havertz often came wide in possession to support the wing-back when receiving a long pass from the goalkeeper or defenders. This tactic allowed Leverkusen to open the scoring. Tah had some space to run in to and spotted the run from Havertz who got in behind the defence. An inch-perfect pass caught the Hertha defence out and was then split by Havertz who finished calmly, irritating Pál Dárdai.
Leverkusen’s defence was also able to play simple passes around Hertha’s press to carry the ball forward in the transition to the attack. As shown below, the Leverkusen defence is very comfortable on the ball and this was proven once again. One of the midfielders dropped deep to open up a passing lane. This allowed the defender to play the ball into the deeper midfielder and then carry on their run to receive the ball again. The image below shows Wendell playing a ‘give and go’ pass to bypass Hertha’s press and open up space.
Hertha using the width
Despite Hertha ending the game with only 36% possession, they created chances throughout the match with nine shots in total. When an opportunity to counter occurred they played the ball out to the wingers with the midfield pushing out wide to support.
Berlin’s equalizer started on the left flank. Striker Ibišević made a run out wide and held up the ball to allow the midfielders to get inside the box. The wingers also cut inside from the wing to get into a central position in the box, acting as strikers. Ibišević chipped the ball over the defence to the right-hand side of the area to Kuda, who played a low cross for Lazaro to tap in.
Leverkusen show their class
Leverkusen star duo Julian Brandt and Kai Havertz contributed to all of their side’s five goals in the match, making it clear why big European teams are vying for their signature this summer. They had a total of 13 shots with a pass success rate of 90%. Alario also had an excellent performance and won the match ball after scoring a hat-trick on the day.
The away side continued to create chances from the back. Wendell was given time and space to run into and carried the ball far up the pitch. Hertha didn’t learn from their first mistake as Alario made a run in behind the defence. Wendell played a long ball into his path and the Argentinian put the ball into the net to regain the advantage.
A top class Leverkusen performance saw a heavy defeat for the Berlin side. They showed their attacking capabilities throughout the game dominating the ball with 64% of possession. Hertha got a goal back to level the scoring but then sat back and allowed Leverkusen’s defence to carry the ball forward to find the runners in behind. Julian Brandt and Kai Havertz again stood out, both getting their names on the score sheet. Peter Bosz will be looking forward to preparing for the Champions League next season, whereas Hertha, on the other hand, will be looking to have a fresh start in their attempts to finish in a higher place in the table next year.