With no wins in the last four Bundesliga games, Fortuna Düsseldorf hosted Julian Nagelsmann’s high flying boys who have won 5 in 5 prior to visiting Merkur Spiel-Arena. The form and their respective positions in the league table clearly indicated that Fortuna Düsseldorf was there for the taking for RB Leipzig. This tactical analysis will show how RB Leipzig eased pass Friedhelm Funkel’s men with a comfortable 3-0 away win.


Bundesliga 2019/20: Fortuna Düsseldorf vs RB Leipzig – tactical analysis tactics

Fortuna Düsseldorf was understandably set up to play deep with lines of 5 in defence, 4 in midfield and Kownacki alone upfront in a 5-4-1 formation. The basic plan for Fortuna was to sit deep and maintain the compactness along with the structure of their defensive and midfield lines. While Leipzig’s opted for a 4-4-2 wherein Nkunku and Sabitzer tucked inwards to provide more men between Fortuna’s lines thereby resulting in space and freedom for Leipzig’s full-backs specially Klostermann on right. These tactics of Nagelsmann negated the tactics of Fortuna with ease as Leipzig cruised towards victory in a comfortable manner.

Leipzig’s high line and Fortuna sitting deep

There is a reason why Nagelsmann’s team is scoring goals for fun and are being considered serious contenders for this season’s Bundesliga title. The same was clear at the outset from their offensive tactical set up against Fortuna Düsseldorf as they started the game with a high line as their full-backs pushed forward. Since Sabitzer and Nkunku were tactically tucked inwards between the Fortuna Düsseldorf lines it made easy for Klostermann and Halstenbarg to push forward in their respective wings to stretch Fortuna Düsseldorf midfield and defensive structure. For instance, from the image below Nagelsmann’s tactics are lucid as Sabitzer has tucked in between the defensive and midfield line of Fortuna Düsseldorf thereby leaving space for Klostermann(circled blue) to exploit on the right and subsequently disrupting the defensive structure of Fortuna Düsseldorf. Further, as Klostermann pushed forward and Sabitzer tucked inwards, Laimer and Demme held their positions in the centre of the pitch to provide Leipzig much-needed cover and to negate the chances of Fortuna Düsseldorf hitting them on a quick break. As can be seen in the below picture where Demme and Laimer (both circled blue) are close to each other in the centre of the pitch thereby allowing others the offensive freedom.

Bundesliga 2019/20: Fortuna Düsseldorf vs RB Leipzig – tactical analysis tactics

Bundesliga 2019/20: Fortuna Düsseldorf vs RB Leipzig – tactical analysis tactics

Fortuna Düsseldorf was tactically set up to sit deep and wait for the chances to hit Leipzig on counter-attacks, however, they were constantly unable to maintain there defensive as well as midfield shape throughout the match due to Leipzig’s approach of always having extra men joining the attack and sitting in between Fortuna’s lines. Accordingly, Leipzig enjoyed more possession on the ball and created a truckload of chances as they cruised towards the three points and momentarily at top of the Bundesliga table. As depicted in the image below Fortuna’s midfield has lost its sync thereby providing acres of space (Circled blue) along with a plethora of time to Leipzig’s defenders and midfielders to exploit with ease. The failure of Fortuna to hold on to a defensive shape also adversely affected their offensive game as they were hardly able to create any substantial goal-scoring opportunity Kownacki.

Bundesliga 2019/20: Fortuna Düsseldorf vs RB Leipzig – tactical analysis tactics

Leipzig’s triangles and boxes

As Sabitzer and Nkunku tucked inwards they provided extra men in midfield by creating triangles and boxes which made it easier for Leipzig to keep hold of the ball and dictate the play. It is no surprise that Nagelsmann likes inward wide players which provide extra bodies in midfield thereby making it simpler to keep the ball and provide players the freedom to express themselves on the pitch. For instance, as seen in the image below, you will notice how Upamecano pushes forward to increase bodies in Fortuna’s half and providing more options for the likes of Demme and Laimer to pick a pass. At the same time with an extra body joining the attack Fortuna failed to hold its defensive structure which was exploited time and again by Leipzig’s frontmen and fullbacks. Further, Leipzig at any given time of the match was having players in two to three triangles or boxes whenever they had the ball which made ball retention very comfortable for them in Fortuna’s half.

Bundesliga 2019/20: Fortuna Düsseldorf vs RB Leipzig – tactical analysis tactics

Leipzig’s alternate approach

It is imperative to state, Leipzig is not a one-dimensional team which just keeps the ball, they mix up their primary approach by playing direct football and the same was evident in this game also. Whenever Leipzig opted for a direct route, Sabitzer and Nkunku tucked inwards thereby making it easy for Leipzig to win second balls throughout the game. The mix up with direct approach kept Leipzig on the front foot as it time and again disrupted the lines maintained by Fortuna while also enabling Leipzig to play the majority of the 90 minutes in Fortuna’s half. For instance, as seen in the image below Demme (blue circle) dropped between the central defenders in order to take a direct route towards Fortuna’s goal by playing it long to Timo Werner (blue circle in front three) as Sabitzer (red circle) and Schick (yellow circle) awaited for a layoff or for winning the second ball. The alternate approach made it very difficult for Fortuna to deal with Leipzig and even more difficult for Friedhelm Funkel’s men to execute their own tactics throughout the game.

Bundesliga 2019/20: Fortuna Düsseldorf vs RB Leipzig – tactical analysis tactics


RB Leipzig continued with their impressive run as they made it six wins in the last six Bundesliga games with a dominant performance as evinced from this analysis. Further, Nagelsmann men have notched up 25 goals in their impressive league run of six in six and are not looking to stop their expressive and free-flowing football. Whereas the problems for Fortuna don’t seem to fade away as they have failed to register a win in last 5 league games and sit at 16th place in the Bundesliga table with mere 12 points.

Total Football Analysis Magazine #16: December 2019

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