Sebastian Andersson is a Swedish striker who was born on 15th July 1991. Andersson has made 24 appearances in the Bundesliga this season, scoring in 10 of his previous starts. He is renowned for his aerial threat in and around the opposition penalty area, as well as having the ability to link his other teammates into the game from the air. With such strong areal talent, it is no wonder that Union Berlin’s main tactics and passages of play involve or start with Andersson.
There has been much speculation as to whether Andersson will move away from Union Berlin in the next transfer window, with Celtic and Ajax very keen to land the strong Swedish striker’s signature. However, with the knowledge that he might not be the first-choice striker if he moves away, it has seen him commit to his contract at Union Berlin.
This tactical analysis scout report will depict the technical and tactical traits that Andersson possesses during their home game against Wolfsburg on 1st March 2020. The analysis will then explore why he makes Union Berlin such a dominant attacking threat going forward.
Not only is Andersson capable of receiving the ball in the air due to his height of over six-foot and upper body strength, but he is also equally capable of receiving the ball on the ground and under pressure in wide areas. This allows him to link up with his teammates and advance his team further into the attacking third of the pitch.
These traits make Andersson one of the most unpredictable strikers around, having the ability to hold a complete set of options when trying to defeat the opposition’s backline.
Throughout the 2-2 home draw against Wolfsburg, Andersson touched the ball 40 times. As we can see, the majority of these touches were in advanced midfield/low attacking wide areas. During the game, Andersson dropped deep in wide areas on several occasions to receive the ball, whether this was from a goal-kick or a ball played down the line by the full-back.
By playing the ball into these areas, it meant Andersson was able to use his strength to hold off the opposition defenders, thus allowing his oncoming teammates to advance into the forward spaces created by Andersson’s movement.
Andersson has been involved in 424 ground contests this season and has won 46.7% of these duels. Although this just falls under half won/lost, the high number of contests and score just under half clearly show he is the target for Union Berlin’s attacking play in the opposition’s half.
In the image above, we can see that Andersson has moved into the wide left area of the pitch to receive the ball. With this movement, he has engaged the opposition’s right-full-back and right-central-defender, meaning they are out of position. This then created space in-behind or to the side of Andersson for his teammates to exploit and receive the ball. We can see that Andersson is also the trigger for his teammates to then advance into the attacking third once they see him holding up the ball.
With 3-4-2-1 being Union Berlin’s favourite formation to field, it is no wonder that their style of play consists of a low block when out of possession. Once possession has been regained due to extensive unit defending being implemented, Andersson is always the target for the outlet ball.
Once he has received the ball from the outlet pass, this forces Andersson to be the main focus of the opposition’s press to regain the ball. Using Andersson to hold up the ball creates gaps and spaces in front or behind for his teammates to run into, allowing him to play a key pass into these areas.
Although Andersson received a 0.29 xG for this game compared to his average xG per 90 minutes of 0.48, it is clear that Union Berlin’s game plan was to move Andersson into a wide position to receive, creating space and numerous options for him with the ball.
As we can see in the image above, Andersson has received an outlet pass from his deep midfielder after a transition in possession. With Andersson moving into this position, it has caused the opposition left-full-back to press him out of position. This has created space in behind for teammates to exploit.
What Union Berlin didn’t do enough of during the game, as we can see above, was utilise this space created by Andersson with off the ball runners/third man runs. Although Andersson does have options to play into feet and link up with support players, there were no runners off the ball into wide channels to penetrate the opposition in between the lines/in behind.
This season, Andersson has attempted 627 back passes. Out of these 627 back passes, 80.4% were successful. Andersson uses his strength to hold the ball up, forcing the opposition out of position. This then creates space for him to link up with oncoming teammates.
Not only does Andersson possess the ability to hold the ball up in the attacking third or out wide, but he also drops very deep and adopts a central midfielder’s role. Again, Andersson controls the ball from a direct goal kick and holds off 2 opposition defenders.
Just like the before example, we see he has created space in behind him due to him in such a position where the nearest opposition players have to press the ball. This has not only created space in behind for him to link up with an off the ball runner, but it also gives him numerous passing options to teammates in lots of space.
We can clearly see that Andersson’s link-up play is another major strength of his game. Not only does he create space for his teammates to become passing options, but he also creates space for himself or teammates to exploit with the ball by engaging and forcing opposition players out of position.
His strength to hold off numerous players and withstand direct pressure from all angles clearly shows why he is on the radar of some of the biggest names in European football.
Sebastian Andersson’s main and key strength is how dominant he is in the air. Not only is he able to link up with teammates from an aerial ball, but he can also score goals with his head whilst in the opposition’s six-yard box, as we will see later in this analysis. Andersson will perform at least 1 headed shot during the course of a match and has been involved in 402 aerial duels this season. Of these 402 duels, he has been successful in winning the ball 51.5% of the time.
In the above example, we see Andersson’s aerial dominance with him challenging for the ball in the air against the opposition’s central-defender. Union Berlin like to use Andersson as a target man, with support players off him, as we can see above. Andersson is using his strength in the air to challenge the opposition player 1v1. This then allows support players to exploit the spaces in and around Andersson to claim the ball once he has won the aerial battle.
One of the main ways that Union Berlin advance up the pitch is a direct pass up-field to Andersson. Once the ball is travelling to Andersson, there are support runners who will advance towards Andersson to claim the ball after his aerial battle has been won. As we can see above, this creates an overload in the attacking third of the pitch. In this case, once the ball has been flicked onto his teammates, they are in a 2v1 situation.
Although it is widely thought that Andersson poses a threat to the opposition’s goal in the air when in or around the 18-yard box, it shouldn’t be ruled out that he poses a bigger threat to the opposition when challenging for the ball in a deeper attacking central role.
The graphic above shows the aerial duels that Andersson has been involved in throughout the Bundesliga games this season. We can see that his main aerial duels happen in the advanced midfield (30.6%) or attacking (65.9%) thirds of the pitch, whether this is from a goal kick or set play situations. It is clearly visible that Andersson drops deep to challenge for the ball in the air in the hope that the flick-ons/ball retentions will land to an advancing Union Berlin player.
As well as posing a huge threat when challenging the ball 1v1 in the air to keep possession of the ball, Andersson can be seen as a threat in the opposition’s box from dead-ball situations. Andersson scored Berlin’s opener from a free-kick which was whipped into the box with its final destination aiming for Andersson at the back post.
Wolfsburg set up to defend the free-kick zonally with two defenders marking the front and back areas around Andersson. The target of the free-kick was Andersson and as the ball was in flight the opposition goalkeeper came out to try and claim the ball. This scenario proves Andersson’s ability to successfully win an aerial duel against more than one opposition.
It is a strong argument to suggest that Wolfsburg had set up zonally from set plays to try and combat Andersson’s strengths from the air, as well as making sure that each zone in the box was covered by a player.
This situation supports the claim that one of the main reasons why Andersson poses such a threat is because of his ability to be successful in the air against more than one opposition player at the same time.
Crosses from Deep
Although Union Berlin are known for playing very direct through the middle when they have the ball, another part of their game is to produce crosses into the box from deep areas on the flanks. The target for these deep crosses always seems to be Andersson, who likes to play off the shoulder of the first defender and attack the space in front.
It could well be the case that these early deep crosses are to exploit Andersson 1v1 against the defender in order to capitalise on the opposition being out of possession and not ready for the crosses.
On numerous occasions in the game against Wolfsburg, instead of playing direct through the centre, Berlin worked the ball out to the wide players on the flanks. Once the wide players received the ball, they either play one-touch forward or one-touch backward, to set themselves for a crossing opportunity.
As we can see above, Berlin’s furthest wide player has cut back onto his left foot and whipped the ball in from the right-hand side, destined for Andersson. Although Andersson has the ability to control the ball in the air and on the floor, the crosses were aimed at the space in front of him.
One can suggest that the reason why the ball is being placed into these areas and not directly at him is that they know he has the strength to hold off the opposition in these dangerous areas. Any flick-ons or touches to move the ball forwards at speed will make it difficult for any defence to deal with.
There were also times in the game against Wolfsburg where the deep crosses were executed even before Andersson was touch tight to the opposition defender. In the above image, we see the right-winger about to cross the ball into the box. Andersson is just about to make his move towards the first defender and there is a 2v2 situation in the box.
With Andersson’s aerial strength, it is highly certain that he will win the first challenge against the defender which then creates a 1v1 in the middle of the box.
Sebastian Andersson deserves to be labelled as one of the most underrated strikers in Europe at the moment. The danger he possesses in the air, as well as the ability to hold off opponents to link up with his teammates, clearly highlights why he is making a name for himself at Berlin.
This tactical analysis scout report has analysed the main key strengths of Andersson’s game, as well as how this impacts on Union Berlin’s tactics that they deploy during the match. It is a fair argument to suggest that Berlin’s attacking threat is Andersson and if they were to lose him in the summer transfer window then he would be a huge loss to their set up and growth of a club.