Borussia Monchengladbach beat Bundesliga bottom-side Paderborn 2-0 at Borussia-Park on Wednesday night to move level on points with RB Leipzig at the top of the table. Goals from Alassane Pléa and Lars StinBundesliga 2019/20: Borussia Monchengladbach vs Paderborn – tactical analysisdl secured the win for Marco Rose’s side, who were dominant throughout controlling both possession and the bulk of the chances. However, Paderborn coach Steffen Baumgart will feel aggrieved with the goals his side conceded. A mistake in possession from Jamilu Collins led to Mönchengladbach’s first, while a controversial VAR decision allowed Stindl to double their lead from the spot. The following tactical analysis will look at the tactics systems employed by both sides and assess their effectiveness, before offering an analysis of why Borussia Mönchengladbach came out on top.

Line ups

Bundesliga 2019/20: Borussia Monchengladbach vs Paderborn – tactical analysis tactics
Bundesliga 2019/20: Borussia Monchengladbach vs Paderborn – tactical analysis

Rose made a number of changes to his line up after last weekend’s defeat to Wolfsburg that saw Mönchengladbach move away from top spot in the Bundesliga. Both full-backs, Stefan Lainer and Ramy Bensebaini dropped out, with Rose shifting from a 4-2-3-1 formation to a 3-5-2. This involved bringing Tony Jantschke into the right-sided centre-back role and introducing Patrick Hermann and Oscar Wendt as wing-backs. Throughout the game, both were able to push high, with Hermann more of a natural winger, and join the ferocious man-to-man press.

In midfield, Denis Zakaria returned following his absence at Wolfsburg, meaning Tobias Strobl dropped to the bench, while Florian Neuhaus replaced Laszlo Benes in the hole behind the strikers. As a result of moving to a back three, both Breel Embolo and Marcus Thuram dropped out of the starting line up, with Stindl coming in to partner Plea up top.

Paderborn, on the other hand, made just two changes to the side they lined up for their 1-1 draw with Union Berlin at the weekend. Baumgart decided to stick with his favoured 4-4-2 formation and left the back four and goalkeeper unchanged. In midfield, last week’s goalscorer Kai Proger started on the right once again, but Gerrit Holtmann replaced Christopher Antwi-Adjei on the other flank. Klaus Gsajula and Sebastian Vasiliadis continued in the centre of the park. Finally, Sven Michel came in up front replacing the dropped Ben Zolinski.

Borussia Mönchengladbach’s approach

Despite the change in formation and their loss at the weekend, the tactics employed by Rose’s side did not differ from those that have been prevalent all season. First and foremost, Mönchengladbach’s approach is pinned on an aggressive man to man press, which aims to keep their opposition pinned back in their own half, forcing mistakes and allowing Rose’s side to dominate the ball. Their first goal was very much the result of this approach, with Collins pressed off the ball in his own defensive third within 20 seconds of kick-off.

Bundesliga 2019/20: Borussia Monchengladbach vs Paderborn – tactical analysis tactics
Borussia Monchengladbach engage their man to man press straight from kick off in the second half

Using a man to man press is more aggressive than a zonal system, in that it is less effective in cutting out passing lanes forward and also places added emphasis on individual quality. This approach was particularly effective against Paderborn though, a team struggling at the bottom of the league and perhaps lacking the individual quality of some of the other sides in the Bundesliga. Over the 90 minutes, Paderborn were kept to just 0.71 in overall xG and managed to reach Mönchengladbach’s half with less than half of their possession. The Mönchengladbach press also forced Paderborn to play long with a relatively high frequency, as the players came under pressure. Of Paderborn’s passes, 13% were long balls and their accuracy was lower than that of their opponents.

Bundesliga 2019/20: Borussia Monchengladbach vs Paderborn – tactical analysis tactics
The Borussia Monchengladbach forces Paderborn to kick the ball long after an attempt to play from the back

Mönchengladbach were also very dominant in possession terms, 57% and often used their goalkeeper Yann Sommer as an auxiliary outfield player when playing out from the back. Sommer is quite comfortable with the ball at his feet and would be available to receive the ball on the edge of his box frequently. This allowed their two wide centre-backs to split very wide and allowed Matthias Ginter a more free role as a deep-lying playmaker from the middle of the defence. Zakaria would also constantly drop in to offer an option when his side were building attacks.

Bundesliga 2019/20: Borussia Monchengladbach vs Paderborn – tactical analysis tactics
Yann Sommer is positioned on the edge of his box to give the outfield players another passing option

In attack, Mönchengladbach created 2.36 in xG, although this did involve a penalty. Without Embolo and Thuram, and Stindl in their place, their side was lacking some of the pace it often has in attack. However, they did have the added threat of forward-thinking wing-backs. In their build-up play, Wendt and Herman pressed high, with Jantschke and Elvedi also allowed to move forward with the ball.

Zakaria would then sit as a sweeper, while Plea, Stindl, Hermann, and Neuhaus would often string themselves across the field, looking to offer as many passing lanes as possible. Paderborn’s defenders sat off, afraid of the spin in behind, and this allowed each of the four attacking players to pick up space between the lines, looking to turn.

Bundesliga 2019/20: Borussia Monchengladbach vs Paderborn – tactical analysis tactics
Borussia Monchengladbach’s four attacking players positioned in a flat line across the pitch

When these attackers received the ball, they could either turn, find another attacker or feed one of the overlapping full-backs. While they didn’t have the same threat beyond the Paderborn defence and played without a striker on the last man’s shoulder, this approach gave their attack plenty of variety and left the Paderborn defenders unsure of who to mark.

Paderborn’s approach

Bundesliga bottom-side Paderborn would have known they had their work cut out going into this match against one of the league’s best sides this season, but barring a few individual errors, were able to defend well against Mönchengladbach’s varied attack. Utilising a 4-4-2 formation, they set up defensively with the traditional banks of four, with just the strikers charged with pressing the Monchengladbach defenders in possession.

Bundesliga 2019/20: Borussia Monchengladbach vs Paderborn – tactical analysis tactics
Paderborn’s 4-4-2 formation in defence

Paderborn did also look to press out of possession, but used a zonal system and would only make a play for the ball following a mis-controlled or inaccurate pass. They were able to win turnovers in midfield but poor passing into the final third meant they weren’t able to capitalise on the opportunities they created.

Bundesliga 2019/20: Borussia Monchengladbach vs Paderborn – tactical analysis tactics
Paderborn employed a zonal press without the ball

In possession, Baumgart’s side looked to pass the ball around Mönchengladbach’s press but struggled to execute that strategy effectively on a number of occasions. With just 37% possession in the first half, Paderborn really struggled to gain control while the Mönchengladbach press was at its most intense. However, they got better as the game went on and managed to secure 47% of possession in the second half. Their goalkeeper Leopold Zingerle was a key part of their efforts to play from the back and he hit a series of impressive medium distance balls in the second half in particular.

Bundesliga 2019/20: Borussia Monchengladbach vs Paderborn – tactical analysis tactics
Paderborn goalkeeper Leopold Zingerle played a key role in their build up from the back

Paderborn’s best opportunities came from turnovers in the middle of the park, where they would quickly play the ball into their strikers, who would then lay the ball off and look to spin in behind. With both their wingers and strikers happy to chase balls into the channels, their midfield would play forward quickly when they had an opportunity to make the Mönchengladbach defenders turn.

Bundesliga 2019/20: Borussia Monchengladbach vs Paderborn – tactical analysis tactics
Streli Mamba lays the ball off before looking to spin in behind

Paderborn wingers Proger and Holtmann were often used to stretch Mönchengladbach and pin back their wing-backs. Both looked to play off the wide centre-backs, while central midfielders Vasiliadis and Gjasula looked to hit them with cross-field passes as they pushed for an equaliser in the second half. Hermann, a natural winger, was particularly vulnerable and didn’t have the same recovery defensive skills of Wendt. This allowed Holtmann to get into a number of decent attacking scenarios and explains why far more of Holtmann’s involvements were high up the pitch, while Proger did more of his work in his own half.

Bundesliga 2019/20: Borussia Monchengladbach vs Paderborn – tactical analysis tactics
Sebastian Vasiliadis switches play for Gerrit Holtmann


Borussia Mönchengladbach came out on top in this match but Paderborn deserve credit for their tactical approach. Despite the risk, they looked to play from the back against the Mönchengladbach press and this became increasingly effective as the game went on. Their zonal press made it hard for the home side to bring their attacking quartet into the game, but using a rather narrow 4-4-2 they were susceptible to the overlapping runs of Rose’s full-backs.

For Mönchengladbach, they were dominant in terms of possession and chances created but perhaps missed a threat in behind in the absence of both Thuram and Embolo. Stindl offers a different option in the build-up, but is not as effective in front of goal and can result in the attack becoming predictable. Overall though, this was another good win for the second-placed side in the Bundesliga and more evidence of the effectiveness of Rose’s methods.

Total Football Analysis Magazine #16: December 2019

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