VFL Wolfsburg battered Augsburg 8-1 at the Volkswagen Arena to secure themselves a place in next season’s Europa League. Wolfsburg have had a massively improved campaign this season under Bruno Labbadia, finishing 6th in the Bundesliga and playing some fantastic attacking football. Wout Weghorst’s hat-trick set up a massive win for the home side in a game where they needed three points to secure European football next season.
This tactical analysis aims to identify and highlight the key tactical aspects of this impressive performance.
Wolfsburg lined up in a 4-3-3 formation. William and Jérôme Roussillon started as the full-backs on either side of Robin Knoche and Marcel Tisserand. Wolfsburg everpresent Maximilian Arnold played at the base of a midfield trio along with Yannick Gerhardt and Elvis Rexhbecaj in more advanced roles. Dutch target-man Wout Weghorst led the line with Admir Mehmedi and Daniel Ginczek on the wings.
Augsburg played a conservative 4-1-4-1 with Ji Dong-Won leading the attack. André Hahn and Marco Richter offered some width and pace in attack. Michael Gregoritsch, Christoph Janker, and Daniel Baier played in midfield. West Ham loanee Reece Oxford played in defence for the visitors.
Tactical analysis – Ruthless Wolfsburg put Augsburg to the sword
It has to be said that the scoreline flatters the home side quite a bit. Augsburg were extremely poor on the night but actually kept Wolfsburg at bay for the majority of the first half. The issue was that when Wolfsburg did score, they scored in bursts of two or three goals in quick succession. This combined with some individual errors from the visitors and chaotic defending meant that Wolfsburg were really able to rack up the goals.
Complimentary midfielder partnerships
Wolfsburg‘s midfield in this game were magnificent and complemented each other very well. The selection in midfield illustrated Labbadia’s intent to attack. Maximilian Arnold, usually an attack-minded midfielder, was pushed to the role of a deep-lying playmaker. The German played his role to perfection, receiving the ball from the defence and quickly releasing it either to the wide players or his teammates in midfield.
Interestingly, Arnold was accompanied by Yannick Gerhardt and Elvis Rexhbecaj, both attacking midfielders themselves. Gerhardt and Rexhbecaj were given the freedom to drift as they pleased. Given how poorly organised Augsburg were, this enabled them to take up positions between the lines and in the half-spaces.
Both Gerhardt and Rexhbecaj were also very important in bringing width to the Wolfsburg attack, frequently dribbling with the ball into the wider areas in order to bring the overlapping full-backs and wide attackers into play. They would also switch positions frequently and bring more fluidity to the attack. It was risky on Labbadia’s part to play such an attacking lineup but neither midfielder slacked off on their defensive duties either. Between the three of them, Arnold, Gerhardt, and Rexhbecaj made four interceptions, five tackles, three blocks and three clearances. An impressive defensive effort from three attacking players.
The physicality of the attack
The attacking trio of Weghorst, Mehmedi, and Ginsczek proved to be impossible for Augsburg to deal with. All three attackers are above six feet in height, with Ginsczek and Weghorst above 1.9 metres themselves. This aerial and physical superiority proved to be Wolfsburg’s biggest asset. The first goal was caused by Weghorst unsettling the defenders and goalkeeper which forced an error from the keeper. Wolfsburg sought to make the most of this advantage, constantly playing raking long balls from defence or midfield over the Augsburg defence. Weghorst has emerged as a reliable scorer for Wolfsburg, scoring 17 goals in his debut season in the Bundesliga. The Dutchman, paired with Ginsczek and Mehmedi who have six goals each respectively, have been essential to Wolfsburg’s revival this season.
Usage of width
Wolfsburg utilised the width of the pitch very well to complement the aerial ability of their forwards. This was seen in their wing-backs overlapping with the wide attackers and crossing heavily into the box. Roussillon bagged himself an assist through a cutback while William was heavily involved in Wolfsburg’s buildup on the right flank.
Augsburg have flirted with relegation this season far more than they would have liked. Despite, Martin Schmidt’s side going into the game without any fears of relegation, they completely collapsed defensively against Wolfsburg. It was unclear what Augsburg’s actual game plan was. Augsburg held their ground well in the initial period but completely fell apart after the first goal. This analysis shows the visitors failure to stifle the home side’s midfield and were especially poor in dealing with the fluid rotation of Labbadia’s side.
Wolfsburg needed to win the game to qualify for European tournaments and Augsburg should have looked to capitalise on the situation. At times it did look as if Augsburg were going to sit back and absorb pressure but Schmidt’s side were not compact enough to do the same. Hahn and Richter should have acted as useful outlets on the counter. Perhaps the poorest aspect of Augsburg’s game was how they struggled to organise themselves defensively. This is where the midfield was suspect. Gregoritsch was caught up the pitch far too often while Baier and Janker tried to press but were caught out as they were uncoordinated. The game represented an inconsequential 90 minutes for Augsburg, but they ought to have done far better.
The Volkswagen Arena saw a goal-fest which ended in Wolfsburg securing themselves a place in the Europa League next season. Die Wölfe have had a fantastic year, making some smart signings and playing attacking football which has restored them to the level that is expected of a club of their stature. Oliver Glasner’s appointment as manager for the next season is bound to generate even more excitement among the fans. Wolfsburg have a great blend of flair and reliability in their side and will be looking to compete with the likes of RB Leipzig. Augsburg finish the season in 15th place and will be hoping not to worry about relegation next year.