The 2. Bundesliga is in full swing, and matchday 20 provided a gritty match-up between Bavarian neighbours. Jahn Regensburg is having a great season up to this point, sitting 5th heading into Friday night’s home fixture, Die Rothosen entered winning three of their previous four. Their opponents Greuther Fürth are also exceeding preseason expectations, The Kleeblatt’s form mimicking that of Regensburg in recent weeks.
Mersad Selimbegovic made three changes from the side that took a 1-0 win over Hannover on Tuesday night. Max Besuschkow and Oliver Hein dropped to the bench with Andreas Geipl and Benedikt Gimber coming in. The huge lose came with Sebastian Stolze who succumbed to injury, Jan-Marc Schneider was his replacement.
After a dominating 3-0 win over St. Pauli in midweek, Stefan Leitl made just the two change. Paul Jaeckel was dropped in favour of the returning Mergim Mavraj while an injury kept Julian Green out, Marvin Stefaniak coming in.
Wittek on both ends
A trend in the 2. Bundesliga is the reliance on wing play when going forward, moving position with the full-backs darting from the back. While most teams are balanced in using both full-backs to help in attack, Greuther Fürth were incredibly reliant on left-back Maximilian Wittek. The 24-year old was by far the man of the match on Friday with an excellent display of defending, quality usage on the ball and he even managed to open the scoring. Let’s look at how Fürth used Wittek throughout this game.
Wittek found himself in the thick of the action vs Jahn Regensburg and for a good reason, they were able to exploit the defensive deficiencies of Benedikt Saller and right midfielder Schneider. Saller a usually stable presence didn’t have his best game, and as a result, Fürth continued to feed Wittek. So much so that a whopping 54% of attacks came from the left side. This is an extraordinary figure to have such a reliance on one area of the pitch.
At his most dangerous, Wittek plays a pivotal role in creating quick link-up play down the left. The best example of this came in the first half, where he begins the rapid chain of passes leading to a dangerous Fürth attack. In this instance, Wittek, Daniel Keita-Ruel and Stefaniak are the parties involved. Wittek could play over the top to Stefaniak in a more direct way. But the interplay with Keita-Ruel, creating that triangle of passing allows for more time and space for Stefaniak. It’s this link-up play and aggressive passing by Wittek which sees Fürth at their most dangerous on the left.
It would be wrong to not talk about his defensive efforts, Wittek won 60% of his duels against Jahn which is 7.8% better than his season average. His most pivotal action is the one above, which led to the 1-0. With Regensburg looking to switch the play to the far side, Wittek is put in an interesting situation. Stay back and allow Regensburg to penetrate Fürth’s defensive half or to attack the potential pass. If Wittek doesn’t win possession, he is out of position. This instance, he attacks and wins the ball. The result sees the Jahn defence caught napping and Wittek scoring the opener.
Jahn’s defensive set-ups
We haven’t covered Jahn Regensburg this season, yet their performances to date have been consistent. However, the match at home to Fürth might’ve been the teams worst defensively. While conceding twice isn’t that common for Jahn, they gave up eight shots on target which is far too many. Alexander Meyer was solid but couldn’t do much about the goals they gave up. This part of the analysis looks at the defensive structure for Regensburg, and perhaps it will give us an indicator of what went wrong.
The first instance indicates a rather passive setup. A heavy reliance on Marco Grüttner and Andreas Albers to press the Fürth ball carriers. However, the space between the strikers and midfielders for Regensburg allows for Fürth to play past the soft press with relative ease. Jahn is relatively tight centrally allowing Fürth to play wide. When this is the case, the formation shifts across to try and win the ball within the tight spaces.
In the second situation, Selimbegovic was forced to make a couple of tactical changes with Marcel Correia and Chima Okoroji both being substituted before the half. Jahn was forced to play Julian-Maurice Derstroff out of position due to the club not having another recognised left-back. Structurally, in the 4-4-2, one of the central midfielders is allowed to press in behind the two strikers. This looks to stop Fürth from playing through the strikers and between the spaces. Tactically this worked as it did force Fürth to play long on occasions.
Upon further reflection, it wasn’t too much of a structural issue but more so the mistakes made at pivotal times by Regensburg. They were made to pay for those errors, and as a result, they gave up plenty of high-quality chances.
The Burchert Wall
For those who aren’t in the know, Sascha Burchert is arguably one of the best goalkeepers in the 2. Bundesliga. You could add he is one of the more underappreciated shot-stoppers going around. Better remembered by his short spell in the Bundesliga where he managed to concede two goals from 35 yards for Hertha Berlin in a single game. Burchert’s calling has been with Greuther Fürth where he has blossomed into an outstanding second-tier keeper. An ode to Fürth’s number one.
The first example showcases the brilliant positioning and shot-stopping abilities of Burchert. In this situation, some keepers may tend to stay within the six-yard box. An example would be St. Pauli’s Robin Himmelmann. Burchert is a more positive, proactive keeper and his positioning showcases this. As Albers drives on goal, Burchert makes himself big, his footwork is perfectly shaped towards the striker, and he covers the near post well. The shot is driven to the near post where Burchert makes a smart save.
Our second situation showcases the proactive approach which Burchert takes. A keeper has two options in this type of scenario. Either remain tight to the near post or come out to the edge of the six-yard box. With the first approach, if a low driven cross is taken, the keeper can be taken out of the play if they don’t react quick enough. Burchert, on the other hand, pushes forward, now he forces Derstroff to either shoot from a tight angle or play a high cross to which the Fürth keeper can recover. With Derstroff opting to shoot, Burchert can close the angles. A near-post shot can be parried out for a corner, while a shot across goal would require something special.
Once again, it’s excellent positioning by Burchert to create doubt within the attacking player. As a result, Burchert can make another save and secure his 6th clean sheet of the season.
Much like a Thanksgiving dinner where leftovers are a typical result, it can’t be helped that Jahn left a bit on the table. Had they converted one of their two chances before Wittek’s opener, it’s easy to say in hindsight that Regensburg would’ve changed the complexion of this game. Instead, they succumb to defeat while losing two pivotal defensive players to injury.
Fürth, on the other hand, struck at the right times and built a two-goal cushion after 15 minutes. While the first goal was a rocket from the box, the second was beautiful. The pass from Hrgota to Nielsen was delightful. Fürth moves into the top five after Erzgebirge Aue’s draw with Arminia Bielefeld. Now, do we start to believe in Fürth’s legitimacy for a promotion play-off push?