The 20th round of this Bundesliga took us to the Olympiastadion for the match between Hertha Berlin and Schalke 04. Beforehand it was an interesting encounter because both sides face each other again this Tuesday in the DFB Pokal. David Wagner’s Schalke 04 had an easy win in the previous encounter with Hertha BSC. However, this time around, neither side was able to take the win. Both sides struggled to create any big chances, which resulted in a scoreless draw.
In this tactical analysis, we take a look at the tactics used by Schalke to attack the opposition’s half. Furthermore, we look at how Hertha adjusted to Schalke’s attacking structure. We also provide an analysis of the high pressing tactics from Schalke. Lastly, we take a look at the struggles both teams had to attack the opposition’s half.
Jürgen Klinsmann used his preferred 4-1-4-1 formation for the game against Schalke. Despite that Hertha won their last game away at Wolfsburg, Klinsmann decided to make one change to the line-up. The German head coach decided to start Dedryck Boyata instead of Niklas Stark in the centre of defence.
Wagner also decided to use his preferred formation, despite facing problems in it during their last game against Bayern Munich. In this 4-3-1-2 formation, Schalke struggled defensively, which led to a big win for Bayern. Wagner also made one change to the line-up. Jonjoe Kenny was left out of the squad, while Weston McKennie started instead of him.
Schalke’s attacking structure
Most of the time, the formations on paper do not tell the story in modern-day football. This was also the case during this game between Hertha Berlin and Schalke 04. On paper, Schalke played in a 4-3-1-2 formation. However, when in the attack, the players positioned themselves in a way which looked like a 3-5-2 or a 3-4-3.
In possession, defensive midfielder Omar Mascarell dropped back to create a back three with Schalke’s two centre backs. The fullbacks positioned themselves high up the pitch to provide the width on the opposition’s half. Suat Serdar and McKennie played in front of this back three while attacking midfielder Amine Harit played near Schalke’s two strikers Benito Raman and Michael Gregoritsch.
The picture above is an example of this attacking structure. Mascarell had the ball and flanked by his two centre backs. The fullbacks were positioned high and wide up the pitch. Serdar and McKennie positioned themselves in front of the backline, while Harit played near Schalke’s two strikers.
Harit had the freedom to position himself higher up the pitch. This sometimes resulted in moments were Schalke’s formation looked more like a 3-4-3 formation. The two strikers looked at Harit’s movements and left their positioning dependent on were Harit positioned himself. When Harit decided to play high and in the centre of the pitch, Raman and Gregoritsch positioned themselves as left and right striker. However, as the picture beneath shows, sometimes Harit decided to play deeper a little more to the left. On those occasions, left striker Gregoritsch positioned himself in the centre of the pitch.
Hertha’s adjusted defensive structure
Hertha adjusted their defensive tactics to Schalke’s formation change in attack. Instead of using their preferred 4-1-4-1 formation in defence, Hertha switched to a formation that somewhat looked like a 5-4-1 or 5-3-2 formation. When defending, Hertha’s right midfielder Marius Wolf dropped back and played as a wingback. Right fullback Lukas Klünter positioned himself in the centre of the pitch, to play as a right centre back.
The picture above is an analysis of Hertha’s formation change in defence. In this example, Schalke’s back three played the ball around and were looking to find an opening in Hertha’s defensive structure. Attacking midfielder Marko Grujić supported his striker to put pressure on Schalke’s backline. Right midfielder Wolf dropped back and positioned himself at Hertha’s backline, while Klünter left the fullback position and positioned himself in the centre of the pitch.
Hertha adjusted their tactics to prevent one versus one situations in defence. Schalke played with two central strikers and two players at the flanks, who played very deep. The picture beneath shows the problems with keeping a 4-1-4-1 formation against Schalke’s attacking structure. In the worst-case scenario, all defenders were left in a one versus one situation. Klinsmann prevented that and adjusted the defensive structure.
Schalke’s way of pressing
From the beginning of the game, it became clear that Wagner’s side wanted to press Hertha high up the pitch. As soon as Hertha’s goalkeeper played the ball towards one of his centre backs, Schalke started to press with high intensity.
Schalke switched back to a 4-3-1-2 formation in defence. The high pressing started immediately after the opposition’s goalkeeper played the ball towards one of his centre backs. The striker closest to the ball pressured the centre back. In his pressing, the striker closed the passing lane towards the centre of the pitch, which forced Hertha’s centre back to play the ball to the flanks.
When the striker started pressing, the midfielder on the ball side was already on the lookout for the ball to the flank. As soon as Hertha played the ball towards the fullback, Schalke’s nearest midfielder left his position and started to press.
The picture above is an analysis of Schalke’s pressing tactics. Boyata received the ball from his goalkeeper, after which Raman started to press. At the same time, midfielder Serdar was already sprinting forward in case Boyata played the ball to Hertha’s right fullback Klünter. Boyata played the ball to his right-back and the picture beneath shows what Schalke did after that. Serdar pressured Klünter, but not on his own. Raman also pressed the fullback. Because of that, Klünter could not play the ball backwards, but also had trouble finding the passing option forward. As a result, Klünter played a long ball and Hertha lost possession.
Both teams struggle to create chances
As the scoreline suggested, both teams struggled to create chances. The reason for this was that both teams struggled to attack the dangerous areas at the opposition’s half. As the picture beneath shows, Hertha struggled to keep possession. From the 360 Hertha passes, only 236 succeded. In other words, 65,5% of Hertha’s passes were successful. Also striking is that Hertha struggled to give passes in and around Schalke’s penalty area. The attack stopped in the final third of the pitch.
Schalke was facing the same problems. Despite having more possession (52%) and having a higher success rate of passes (80,8%), Schalke also struggled to get in and around Hertha’s penalty area. The picture beneath shows a lot of unsuccessful passes (red arrows) at the opposition’s half, especially in the centre of the pitch.
These problems were mainly due to the lack of support for the player in possession. The picture beneath is one of the many examples for Hertha Berlin. In this picture, Javairo Dilrosun was in possession. The left-winger started dribbling because he had no passing options. After having trouble finding the space, the winger tried to play the ball to his teammate in front of him. The pass failed and Hertha lost possession.
Another analysis of this problem, this time when Schalke had possession. Ozan Kabak was in possession in the example beneath. As the example shows, Schalke’s centre back had no passing options towards the centre of the pitch. Because of that, Kabak crossed the ball towards the left flank, after which the team quickly lost possession.
As the passing maps and the examples show, both teams struggled to attack the opposition’s half. This was mainly due to the lack of passing options, especially in the centre of the pitch. As a result, both teams failed to create any big chances which resulted in a low xG value for both of them.
The game between Hertha Berlin and Schalke 04 was a boring one for all the spectators. Despite having the best of intentions in the attack, both teams failed to proceed successfully to the opposition’s half. This was mainly due to the lack of passing options for the player in possession.
It will be interesting to see if both managers can find a solution to this problem in their upcoming encounter in the DFB Pokal game. Both teams now know exactly how the opposition wants to play, which will result in an interesting tactical mind game on Tuesday.
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