2. Bundesliga leaders Arminia Bielefeld look to keep their place on top of the standings when they hosted Hannover at the Bielefelder Alm on Sunday. The hosts have been ruthless since returning from the winter break, as three convincing wins from four encounters have the Ostwestfalen side in a fantastic position for promotion. Meanwhile, Hannover are a team expecting to be in the hunt for promotion have struggled this season. Their 2020 so far has been ok, but they have been guilty of leaving some points on the table.
This tactical analysis looks at this pivotal 2. Bundesliga clash with ramifications at both ends of the standings. In a cagey affair, Bielefeld were able to win it late to keep their place on top.
Uwe Neuhaus opted for an unchanged side to the team that secured a 4-2 away victory at Greuther Fürth last time.
Meanwhile, Kenan Kocak made a couple of changes to the side which drew agonisingly to Hamburger SV. Miiko Albornoz and Philipp Ochs moved to the bench in favour of Timo Hübers and John Guidetti. Marvin Bakalorz was left out of the squad with Joseph Elez coming into the back three.
Defensive shape and pressing
Since Kocak took over from Mirko Slomka late in 2019, Hannover have reverted to a back three with a variant in the midfield and attacking set-up. For the most part, Hannover have improved in defensive stability. But what does this shape look like and were Hannover able to create a pressing opportunity which created goal-scoring chances?
In this instance, we look at the shape which sees Hannover go from defence to offence. Hannover are set in a 3-5-2 formation with attacking wing-backs and a triangle in midfield. Genki Haraguchi has been rejuvenated playing in central midfield with Dominik Kaiser partnering the Japanese international. Cedric Teuchert who played up top in the game versus Hamburg dropped into the number 10. As Hannover look to create an attacking move, the wing-backs push out wide and join the attack. Guidetti looks to tuck in while Linton Maina provides a long ball option. What noticeable is with a slow transition into attack, Hannover remain tight before spreading the field.
How about Hannover in the pressing game? With conditions the way they are, it would’ve been beneficial to press the Bielefeld defence. However, this was a rarity. Whenever they did opt to press like the situation above, they were able to force several mistakes which led to a goal-scoring opportunity. Here, it’s Guidetti applying the pressure on keeper Stefan Ortega who is unable to clear. Teuchert wins the ball but misses wide. Hannover made interesting tactical decisions defensively but could’ve done more when pressing in their attack third.
Bielefeld playing to the conditions
Arminia Bielefeld have played some fantastic football this season, and it shows as they are table-toppers. What has stood out is the team’s patient build-up play, retention of possession and then hitting their opponents with a quick punch. However, with the continuous downpour in Bielefeld, Neuhaus opted for a more direct approach when going forward. This part of the analysis looks at the tactics used by Arminia Bielefeld on Sunday.
The first situation is an extension of our first point, as we mentioned Hannover play three at the back with the two wing-backs. When the wing-backs pushed up, Bielefeld were able to exploit this when Fabian Klos was able to hold possession, and the likes of Jonathan Clauss, Marcel Hartel, and Cebio Soukou/Reinhard Yabo joined in the attack. As we see when Klos brings possession down, Bielefeld have a 4 v 3 situation which can quickly become 4 v 2 as Waldemar Anton pressures the striker. The key is the wing-backs are out of position allowing Clauss and Yabo to attack the spaces left by a tight back three.
The scenario above worked when Bielefeld transitioned quickly; however, earlier in the game, it was evident that playing long and direct was the play style of choice for Neuhaus. They did this through the use of goalkeeper Ortega who ranks in the top five for shot-stoppers in the 2. Bundesliga. His objective is to pick out Klos who can either head the ball in front to a teammate who is “front and centre”, or play the ball behind to an attacking player exploiting the space behind. In this situation, Klos heads to his teammates in front and Bielefeld maintain possession.
Extending on the previous point with the situation above, Clauss creates an intelligent run behind the defence. This allows him to latch onto the header from Klos and use the space vacated by the defender challenging the Bielefeld striker. While it’s not the way Bielefeld wanted to play, credit goes to Hannover for forcing Bielefeld to play a more direct style. Even still, Bielefeld were able to maintain possession due to the high work rate of their number nine.
Hannover’s quick transitional play
Hannover made a real impression in the early stages of the game as they had control and better chances. What made this possible was the team’s ability to transition going forward and creating advantageous situations quickly. This is achieved when Bielefeld either over-committed, missed a crucial tackle or an excellent pass by a Hannover player opened up the defence. Let’s look at how Hannover was able to transition quickly and become a dangerous goal-scoring threat.
Our initial look was Hannover’s best transitional play of the game. They were able to create a multiple man advantage look and had been able to create an opportunity on goal. The key is Teuchert on the ball, and to make the break advantageous, he needs to draw Amos Pieper out of position. If Teuchert does so, the 4 v 2 is in play. This duel proves pivotal with Teuchert rounding Pieper.
Later in this transition, when Hannover have the 4 v 2 situation they looked for with Joakim Nilsson and Cedric Brunner the two Bielefeld defenders. Maina, Guidetti, and Horn are all making runs to the edge of the box. Horn is more ready to overlap if the ball is played to Guidetti while Maina is the best option due to the positioning of Nilsson. Somehow Hannover fails to create a clear cut chance, but it did showcase their ability to transition the ball forward quickly.
The last situation shows the importance of finding the right players to counter with. In Hannover’s case, Kocak loves using Maina or Teuchert as the catalyst in creating the drive forward. With Guidetti dropping into the defensive third, he forces Pieper to track enabling the fat side of the ground to open up. Maina, who has the pace to burn, takes the space that Guidetti provides. The key is the number of Bielefeld players helpless in this play when Maina takes up the ball there are eight Arminia players inside their attacking third. Meaning with the quick transitional game and the wing-backs working hard, Hannover can create odd-man rushes in their favour.
With a consistent downpour in Bielefeld, both sides made a fair account for themselves in this game. Hannover could be aggrieved in failing to come away with something, once again, they were disciplined defensively, but it took a bit of luck and some poor defending to undo all their hard work. The loss hurts more with wins to St. Pauli and Karlsruhe this weekend.
Entering matchday 22, Arminia Bielefeld had as many home wins as bottom side Dynamo Dresden. Bielefeld weren’t at their best by any stretch, but that’s been their problem at home this season. However, they continue their unbeaten run in 2020 with four wins in five and maintain their three-point lead at the top. It’s time to believe that Arminia Bielefeld are edging ever so close Bundesliga football.