SKU Amstetten and FC Liefering met in the first round after the winter break in the Austrian 2. Liga. With only one point separating the sides, it would be a competitive encounter and possible six-pointer. Amstetten are unbeaten in their last 10 matches so it would be a big task for the feeder team of Red Bull Salzburg in the Austrian Bundesliga to take all three points away from home. This tactical analysis will focus on the changes that occurred to allowed Amstetten back into the match that seemed lost.
Promising strikers Karim Adeyemi and Mohamed Camara have both found themselves involved with the first team of Red Bull Salzburg of late. Therefore, upfront for Liefering were duo Chickwubuike Adamu and Alexander Prass. Peter Pokorny and Daniel Antosch were in their usual places and key to this Liefering side.
An analysis of SKU Amstetten saw them change from a back five to four after their recent cup defeat to Salzburg. Wholesale changes occurred in midfield with Matthias Wurm and Daniel Scharmer going out for Daniel Maderner and Phillip Offenthaler. David Peham led the line with 11 goals in 16 starts this year.
Liefering press high
As you would expect from a Red Bull outfit, Liefering’s tactics were to press their opponents high from the get-go. Liefering FC played a diamond in midfield, giving them four central players. Amstetten, on the other hand, played a 4-3-3/4-2-3-1, meaning they only had three players in central areas. To create numerical superiority when pressing, Liefering used the tactic of showing Amstetten into central areas, which we often see the big teams in leagues like La Liga or the Premier League do.
Liefering would allow the ball to go to the centre-back from goal kicks, which would then act as a trigger for both strikers to press.
The Strikers for Liefering would start just outside the centre-backs, almost between them and the full-backs. Once the ball was played, they would press the centre-backs from the outside, forcing them into the middle as seen below, with the other-centre back in immediate pressing access to the other striker of Liefering.
By pressing in this fashion, Liefering could eliminate the full-backs as an option for Amstetten. If on occasions the ball did go out to the full-backs, the wide midfielders and then team of Liefering would shift across. However, due to the immense pressure, Amstetten struggled to play through Liefering. On multiple occasions early in the match, Liefering won the ball and created dangerous chances. As a result, we started to see Amstetten miss out the first line and play more direct.
Amstetten did manage to win a substantial number of second balls, meaning some portion of the match was played in the middle section of the pitch. This gave Liefering room to counter-attack into, something which they did particularly well. There were two keys to their success in counter-attacking.
Firstly, the full-backs for Amstetten were fairly aggressive. This naturally created space in behind them. Liefering were very good at both recognising and utilising this space. As can be seen below, Adamu regularly made runs from inside to outside into the space behind the full-back. Liefering’s formation with two strikers means they have good access to both channels, as in transition they have strikers on either side ready to make these runs.
However more often than not, the other striker to Adamu, Prass, was used as more of an established pass. This is another key to Liefering in transition. They will often use up-back-through combinational passing plays. Therefore, they need a vertical pass option in order to establish their first pass out of tight areas in transitional moments. Prass provided this, often working the spaces when his team didn’t have the ball. This was in order to be available for a pass when Liefering won the ball.
As we can see below, he positions himself in space prior to Liefering having the ball. Prass is positioned in between the thrower and the centre-back so he has good press access to both players. This also means that he is in good space if his team wins the ball. They do so and he then becomes an immediate passing option.
He receives the ball, with an immediate back pass option and drops it to this player. This increases the speed of their transition as this player is facing forward which brings two benefits. Not only is he facing forward and can immediately accelerate without having to turn, he can also see the whole pitch in front of him. This allows for a quick vertical and/or penetrative pass if it is available.
In and Out
Another concept that Liefering used well was playing the ball ‘in’ to central areas and then immediately back ‘out’ to the wider areas. When the ball was played into central areas, it caused a suffocating movement from the Amstetten team. They would immediately collapse towards the centre, aiming to either win the ball or force it to less dangerous areas.
However, this gave Liefering huge spaces out wide and often opportunities to create dangerous chances. In the image below, Liefering play the ball into the number six, Peter Pokorny. The 18-year-old has been an excellent player and is a big talent for Liefering. Due to his good technical ability, Pokorny was able to suck in the player behind him, holding it for an extra second. As we can see, this created an inside movement from all of Amstetten players. The number 10 comes inside further, as do the strikers and the back four just out of the picture.
As Pokorny evades his man and plays forward, we see the huge space in the image below that opened up for overlapping Brazilian full-back, Wallison. It also created a numerical overload out wide. Liefering created many opportunities like this, with not only the full-backs available but often the wide midfielders and strikers.
The first goal for Liefering came in a similar manner, yet the passage occurred in a wide area. Liefering combined out wide, sucking over Amstetten to one side. They then quickly released the ball to Luka Sučić in space. The midfielder combined and finished coolly into the back of the net.
Amstetten hit back
Liefering started to tire towards the latter stages of the match. This meant Amstetten began to grow in influence, pushing for an equaliser. Liefering dropped deeper and began to reduce their high press on Amstetten. As stated before, Liefering were strong centrally and used this to their advantage in the first half.
However, with less pressure on the ball, Amstetten had time and space to play the balls out to the wing-backs. This meant much more work for Liefering and created a compounding effect. One of the key reasons for their extra time on the ball was the switch to three centre-backs. It gave them an extra player against the two strikers of Liefering. As can be seen below, it allowed Amstetten better passing options for the centre-backs. They could play it into the other centre-back who was free if they were placed under pressure.
Liefering struggled to adapt their pressing and as a result, Amstetten found themselves with longer periods of possession. They mainly circulated the ball wide to the wing-backs who delivered crosses into the box. It began to become an aerial bombardment for Liefering, with a high number of corners occurring. One similar wide set piece was the final breakthrough for Amstetten who launched one into the box.
After some fumbling, it bounced off of in-form striker David Penham who managed to continue his hot streak. With minutes ticking down, the game came to an end with the points shared between the two sides.
Liefering came flying out of the blocks. Their Liverpool-like intense pressing and transitional play caused real problems for Amstetten. They finally broke the deadlock courtesy of some impressive overload to underload play.
Amstetten came back firing in the last 30 minutes with a big reason being the switch to a back five. They finally found their goal late, extending their unbeaten run in the league to 11 games.