Fortuna Düsseldorf hosted Borussia Mönchengladbach in an important Bundesliga fixture for both sides. Fortuna are a relegation-threatened side meanwhile Die Fohlen are fighting for the title. Mönchengladbach came out on top in comfortable fashion as they romped to a 4-1 away victory with Lars Stindl scoring a brace.
This tactical analysis will look at the tactics that Marco Rose’s squad used to defeat Fortuna. It will also provide some analysis on what Fortuna manager Uwe Rösler employed in order to attempt to find success against a top-class team. Fortuna did play quite well in the first half but the tactical switches made by Marco Rose proved to pay dividends.
Marco Rose’s men lined up in a 3-4-2-1 to start the fixture. They started with Yann Sommer in goal, with Nico Elvedi, Tobias Strobl and Matthias Ginter as the centre backs. In front of them consisted of two central midfielders in Denis Zakaria and Florian Neuhaus with Oscar Wendt and Stefan Lainer on each wide position. Lars Stindl and Jonas Hofmann played as attacking midfielders behind striker Marcus Thuram.
Fortuna also started with three at the back but in a 3-5-2. Florian Kastenmeier started in goal, with Kaan Ayhan, Mathias Zanka Jorgensen and Kasim Adams as the three defenders in front of him. Erik Thommy and Matthias Zimmermann were the left and right wing-backs respectively. The two central midfielders were Alfredo Morales and Valon Berisha with Kevin Stöger playing as a defensive midfielder. Nana Ampomah and Rouwen Hennings were the tandem up front.
Fortuna’s effective pressing
Düsseldorf started the game in good fashion. Uwe Rösler’s team were able to effectively press the backline of Mönchengladbach throughout the first half especially in the earlier stages. The high pressing implemented forced the defenders to either force it long to the likes of Marcus Thuram or play intricate passes between each other – both less effective passing options. This is shown by their relatively low PPDA of 12.8 in the first half, which means that Fortuna only allowed nearly 13 passes per defensive actions.
The example above shows that each Borussia player is under pressure by a Fortuna player meaning that Nico Elvedi, who is on the ball, does not have a passing option or lane that is open. The press works in this case as Elvedi tries to take on the player who is closing him down only for the ball to go out of play for a throw-in.
Once again, the Fortuna players have surrounded Die Fohlen players. This time it is German international Matthias Ginter who is under pressure and is thus, forced to play the ball long. The Fortuna players recovered the ball from this play meaning that the press was effective. This was a continued theme throughout the first half as the Mönchengladbach players could not beat the press on a consistent basis. Therefore, Fortuna were able to recover the ball and allowed to have possession more often as proved by the fact that Rösler’s side had 46% possession – a percentage that is quite big considering the level of opposition.
Borussia’s long ball support with 3rd man
One of Mönchengladbach’s principles of play that stands out the most during the match was ensuring that any time a long pass was played, whether it was in the air or on the ground, they usually have a third man supporting the player who will receive the ball. The ball played to the receiver is most likely a vertical pass meaning that the receiver will have his back to goal in most scenarios. To further the attack, Rose has the team set-up so that a forward-running player is there for support so that he can receive a lay-off and progress the attack. Against Düsseldorf, the long ball was usually targeted at striker Marcus Thuram who can hold the ball up pretty well.
Here midfielder Denis Zakaria plays a long floor pass into Thuram, with the third man Jonas Hoffman making a run to give support to the striker. Thuram is able to hold off the defender successfully and lay it off to Hoffman who is now able to run into space behind the defensive line. The run that Hoffman makes also attracts the defender on Thuram meaning that he will be unmarked and through on goal as well. This move was heavily tried by Gladbach as they tried to bypass the Düsseldorf press. It also a very effective move as it can be applied in every scenario including throw-ins and it is one of the more efficient passages of play. This is due to the fact that the third man has already accelerated and will be able to attack the space easier since the defenders are flat-footed and focused on the striker.
In this case, it is Lars Stindl holding the ball up for Denis Zakaria to make the run in behind. However, the defender was able to poke the ball away from Stindl and thus, the move broke down. The opportunity was there for Die Fohlen to have a great attacking move especially considering how much space there was in behind the defence, due to the fact that Fortuna were chasing the game. These incisive lay-offs paid off in the end for Gladbach as they were able to score their third goal from a move that started with a third man run albeit from a shorter pass than a long vertical ball.
Mönchengladbach’s deadly counter-attack
Marco Rose started a front-three consisting of Lars Stindl, Jonas Hoffman and Marcus Thuram were the latter are extremely quick. Despite Fortuna being a side in the relegation battle, they like to play more of a possession-based style of play. Therefore, with a lot of players further up the pitch, there was space in behind the defence that could be exploited. With Thuram being the focal point of the attack, Rose set up his side to do just that playing direct balls in behind the defence.
In the image above, Gladbach win the ball back and launch a quick counter-attack with the player on the ball having the three different options but all of them being decent ones at the very least. The player ended up playing the ball over the top to Thuram who was able to go up against the defender 1 vs 1 and win a free-kick on the edge of the box. This all came from an interception in midfield and resulted in a dangerous opportunity at the other end in a matter of seconds.
Here, Marco Rose’s team are able to launch a counter-attack from a Fortuna opportunity that went astray. Once again, Thuram is making a run in behind with Hoffman the other attacker on the right-hand side of the image who is further up. The defender on Thuram was caught out here as he’s trying to close the striker down thinking it will go to his feet. But the Frenchman makes the run in-behind and carries the ball until the edge of the box, where he plays in Hoffman who opens the scoring for Gladbach with a tidy finish.
Denis Zakaria, who is on the ball, won the ball in midfield and skipped past a couple of challenges to give Die Fohlen another chance for a goal from a counter. Two players, Hoffman and Stindl, once again have space to exploit and the situation is even more advantageous given the numerical advantage. However, fortune favoured Fortuna as the ball from Zakaria was too powerful and the keeper was able to get there before Hoffman. These situations showcase the ability that Rose’s side have on the counter and it has been a tool that they have used very well throughout their impressive campaign. The counter would have been even more effective had both Alassane Plea and Breel Embolo started alongside Marcus Thuram.
Borussia Mönchengladbach’s tactics led to their success but had to battle against a resilient Fortuna side in the first half. Marco Rose and his squad have returned to their winning ways after their agonising draw to title rivals RB Leipzig last time out. They are currently 4th in the Bundesliga, four points behind leaders Bayern Munich, but have a game in hand to the rest of the league and will be able to leapfrog Borussia Dortmund with at least a draw.
Meanwhile, Fortuna continued their poor form as they sit in 16th place, level on points with Werder Bremen and only one point above bottom side Paderborn. They will have to go away to Freiburg who are in the top half of the table.