The battle of Die Lilies ended the 2. Bundesliga action from matchday three with 3. Liga champions Osnabrück hosted Darmstadt at the Stadion an der Bremer Brücke. The intimate stadium makes travelling to Osnabrück a tricky task as Darmstadt hoped to end their 19-year winless drought in their Lower Saxony opponents. Heading into this one, Darmstadt were comfortable winners in the DFB Pokal first round 6-1 win over Oberliga Bremen side FC Oberneuland. Osnabrück, on the other hand, were defeated at home to Bundesliga side RB Leipzig where die Lila-Weiß held a good account of themselves against an extremely strong outfit.
This tactical analysis takes you through this matchday three contest between Osnabrück and Darmstadt. It wasn’t much of a contest as Osnabrück put in an incredibly strong performance to dismantle Darmstadt and lift themselves up to third in the table.
Despite a spirited 2-3 defeat in DFB Pokal, Osnabrück trainer Daniel Thioune didn’t opt to tinker with his side too much. Just the one change made with on loan Sheffield Wednesday defender Joost van Aken coming in for Thomas Konrad. One of only a few sides which use three at the back in the 2. Bundesliga.
Dimitrios Grammozis made a couple changes to the side that took victory last time out. English born full back Mandela Egbo made his 2. Bundesliga debut as Patrick Herrmann was out whilst Fabian Schnellhardt was dropped to the bench in favour of Victor Pálsson. This gave an indication of a more defensive set-up with Yannick Stark and Pálsson in midfield. A change to 4-2-3-1 formation instead of the previous 4-3-3.
Osnabrück’s attacking play
Heading into matchday three, Osnabruck ranked in the bottom four in possession in league. This was made more intriguing with Darmstadt sitting last in this category with only 37% of possession. The question going into this game was to see which team would take the assertive route and look to control possession and the tempo of the game. Osnabrück made strides throughout the contest to control and retain possession without it being meaningless and fruitless. There were a few trends throughout the game which showcased Osnabrück’s identity on the ball.
Our first look comes with use of the wide players and hugging the touchline. Through this, Osnabrück look to draw the Darmstadt defence up the pitch allowing the likes of Anas Ouahim and Etienne Amenyido to take the space and drive possession forward. We start with interplay between Kevin Wolze and Ouahim who play a couple of one touch passes before Wolze goes aerial to Amenyido.
As the ball is played to Amenyido we can see exactly what Osnabrück hoped for. Egbo gets drawn the initial action with Ouahim and as a result leaves his flank exposed to an attack. Ouahim gets on his bike and continues the play which gives Amenyido an option to head the ball towards. In this short intersection of play, we are able to see what quick and precise movements allow for the exploitation of space and the ability to press forward.
The second situation looks to showcase Osnabrück’s ability to stretch Darmstadt defensively in the final third. Ouahim is on the ball and despite Osnabrück having just to attackers centrally, the idea is to go wide and then return back inside later in the piece. Darmstadt have the weight of numbers ahead of Ouahim who makes a nifty move before play a diagonal ball towards the space to wing back Felix Agu.
Agu doesn’t have much to aim for in terms of targets and the result is an easy claim for Florian Stritzel. The idea is there however, when Darmstadt sit tight defensively Osnabrück would have both Wolze and Agu streaming down the wings providing an option. This would stop the attack from stalling and more importantly giving Osnabrück an opportunity on goal.
Osnabrück did many things right in this encounter and their pressing was a highlight of the game. It wasn’t situational pressing either, whether it was goalless or they were four goals up Osnabrück would use these tactics in their approach. To do this regularly requires a strong work ethic and team unity when looking to press their opponents. This part of the analysis looks at multiple situations were Osnabrück pressed and were able to force Darmstadt back to the keeper or when the press breaks down.
In the early stages of this match it was evident that without the ball the intensity and desire of the front three to win the possession was high. In particular, striker and club captain Marc Heider who led from the front in setting the tempo for his side without possession. The American born German who is circled in purple is hassling Immanuel Höhn like a dog to a bone. Highlighted centrally is where Osnabrück want Höhn to play the ball. This is so they are able to create an overload centrally and the weight of numbers will look to overpower Darmstadt.
Höhn thinks better of playing to the presenting Stark and is forced backwards. Osnabrück press forward in numbers with Heider dropping off, allowing David Blacha to try and win possession off Pálsson. Darmstadt are forced to retreat all the way back to Stritzel who boots the ball clear.
The next two scenarios look at when possession is out wide and how Osnabrück look to repel possession back in their favour. Here we see as many as five Osnabrück players in their attacking half almost playing man to man. Agu is closest to the ball carrier Fabian Holland how will look to go wide. This time with Holland finds an option out wide and the attack continues. An over-commitment allows for a bailout option for Holland which he takes
Late in the game and Osnabrück are cruising, the mentality remains the same even with a change of personnel. Substitute Marcos Álvarez who scored moments prior, presses Holland intensely forcing him to retreat backwards. Höhn isn’t much of an option and if played to the centre half, Heider would be all over him like a cheap suit. Holland opts for Stritzel who is immediately under pressure and clears without complication. It’s evident that Trainer Thioune has been able to transition Osnabrück intensive pressing style from the 3. Liga to the 2. Bundesliga in the early stages of the season.
Darmstadt’s defensive structure
A side that gives up four goals on 20 shot attempts is problematic, but when you consider that Die Lilien had given up only one goal in the prior to that, perhaps it was structural issue. Under Grammozis, a back four has always been trusted with variants of midfield and top third personal. This section will look at the shape of Darmstadt in the defensive third, how they tried to stop interactions in the box and in midfield.
We will start with the final third defensive structure with Wolze on the ball. A straight 4-5-1 shape without the ball is opted by Darmstadt (Tim Skarke is out of picture). The line looks solid and the gap between midfield and defensive is relatively small. One thing to pick out from this was the man marking of Heider who made numerous runs in behind the defence which caught out the defence on various occasions. Fast forward nine minutes and Wolze is in the same possession playing a quick cross to Heider who has made a run in behind the defence. This play leads to the opening goal of the game as Heider’s header finds Amenyido at the back post.
When Osnabrück are able to get into progressive areas such as the edge of the box, Darmstadt take a weight in numbers approach. The initial image prior showcases this fact but when Osnabrück were able to break this down, Darmstadt looked susceptible to crosses into the box. As this scenario shows, not a lot of shape involved and a harmless attack that has only two Osnabrück attackers in the penalty area suddenly becomes dangerous.
Later in the game with Grammozis’ chasing the game the shape starts to fall apart as Osnabrück were able to get forward with ease. Darmstadt looked to double down to start the second half by bringing on defender Mathias Wittek for striker Serdar Dursun. This saw Marvin Mehlem play as a false nine with Skarke and Marcel Heller playing as attacking wingers. The full backs press high alongside the midfield pivots but as the play shows, Osnabrück have broken the defensive structure as Dario Dumic and Höhn are left exposed.
It became increasingly evident that the structure set in place by Grammozis didn’t work on this occasion. This feels more like a blip for Darmstadt who have been defensively improved under Grammozis, it would be surprising if the defence isn’t amended come their next fixture.
Osnabrück ist total fussball
Osnabrück managed to score a number of high quality goals in this encounter but none more so than their goal after half time. The quick transition play, exploitation of space and a tidy finish to complete an excellent move, it was arguably the goal of the matchday in the 2. Bundesliga. It was total football at its very best.
We start the play beyond half way with Wolze on the ball and looking to attack the Darmstadt. Ulrich Taffertshofer is closest to Wolze but makes a diverting run towards the space behind Pâlsson. This allows Heider to lead up and the ball as a presenting option and Wolze rewards the work of his captain.
The pass from Wolze to Heider forces the defence to collapse and potentially putting the attack in jeopardy. Heider looks to feed Taffertshofer who isn’t looking to make a run into the space. If Heider went for the through ball, there is a high chance the ball is intercepted by Höhn. Instead by playing a one touch pass to Taffertshofer, this forces Höhn towards Osnabrück’s number eight.
This enables Wolze’s second action which is to take the available space in front which has been vacated by Höhn. Taffertshofer goes first time to Wolze who takes it in stride and scores past Stritzel. It’s a beautiful goal and an excellent way to complete a sensational move of tight, quick passing and off the ball movement. Exquisitely done by Osnabrück.
A near-perfect display from Osnabrück who put in their best performance by far this season. It was a masterclass in pressing and team defending as Osnabrück strangled Darmstadt from any influence going forward whilst providing countless opportunities of their own. The last time Osnabrück scored four goals in the 2. Bundesliga, you have to go back to the 2010/11 season, their last in the second tier when they dispatched Union Berlin 4-1. It really was a four-star performance.
The four goal deficit for Darmstadt was duly justified after a spineless performance. Defensively they were undisciplined and as a result they were made to pay for their ineptitude at the back. In attack they didn’t fare much better and as a result they missed a golden opportunity to jump into the top three. The response will be critical from Darmstadt who don’t want a repeat of their previous campaign.
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