Freiburg continued their fine home form of the 2019/20 Bundesliga season with another win over favourites for the victory, Borussia Monchengladbach. Monchengladbach dispatched of newly promoted Union Berlin in the previous match by 4 goals to 1. Marco Rose will be undoubtedly unsettled and anxious after tonight’s display with a visit to the Allianz Arena next up for Monchengladbach to play the current Bundesliga champions and champions-elect. Meanwhile, for Freiburg, their European dream has been kept alive by the win. Their poor form of goalless matches was ended by a Nils Petersen goal 13 minutes into the 2nd half.
The following tactical analysis of this match will be a breakdown of key areas and tactical factors of this match through the different attacking and defensive phases of play and looking at what both teams did well in terms of their tactics as well as where they went wrong, particularly focusing on eventual victors Freiburg and their tactical set up in this game.
Marco Rose lined Borussia Monchengladbach up into their usual 4-2-3-1/4-2-1-3 shape, however, with noticeable absentees. The included Tobias Strobl and Breel Embolo, both of which, were ruled out with injuries. Instead, Patrick Hermann took over for Embolo on the right flank with Jonas Hofmann and Florian Neuhaus acting as the double pivot for this match. Likewise, Christian Streich deployed his usual rigid 4-4-2 with Freiburg, which had centre-back Robin Koch positioned in midfield alongside the experienced Nicolas Höfler. He also fielded quite a young backline, which included a centre-back pairing of an average 25 years of experience.
Freiburg’s defensive set-up:
Freiburg set up in a 4-4-2 medium to high block. When they pressed high on Borussia Monchengladbach’s defence and midfield during goal-kicks, their shape would often look like a 4-3-1-2. Out of the first line of defence for Freiburg, Höler would press both centre-backs, Ginter and Elvedi, as well as the goalkeeper, Sommer. Waldschmidt would drop off, however, and mark the ball-near holding midfielder, generally Neuhaus, an attempt to limit the ball supply into him.
Both wingers, Grifo and Sallai, would push near to the fullbacks, ready to press them if the ball is played out to them. Höfler would occupy the ball-far holding midfielder, generally Hofmann in this game. The only midfielder left was Robin Koch, who sat back in this game and protected the backline. He attempted to challenge for the long ball if necessary, as well as sweep up afterward and win the second ball.
When Monchengladbach moved into the third attacking phase, the fullbacks of Freiburg, Kübler and Günter, stayed narrow. This was due to the free movement of the Monchengladbach front three, as well as the fact that the wingers play as inside forwards and rarely drift wide, generally staying in the central corridors to play off the centre forward, or else the half-spaces. However, the problem this poses to Freiburg’s defensive set-up is the fact that Monchengladbach play with their fullbacks very high and wide. They intend on stretching their opponents, and to allow the wingers to move inside. Streich had to drop his wingers back into defence once the Monchengladbach fullbacks moved in line with the forwards. This tended to create almost a back six for Freiburg during this phase of play.
During the first phase of attack for Monchengladbach, Freiburg’s plan centralised around preventing Monchengladbach from playing into Neuhaus. They deployed a narrow block 4-4-2, as stated before. This kept the players within close proximity so that, if the ball is played into Neuhaus, multiple players can close him down at once and attempt to win the ball back, or even just force him to play a wall pass quickly, preventing him from having time to turn on the ball and look for a pass.
However, Borussia Monchengladbach began to drop Hofmann into this area also. This caused problems for Streich’s men since the ball-far winger in the narrow block would have to move even more narrow as there were two Monchengladbach players now to deal with. The problem here was that it left the ball-far fullback, generally Bensebaini, free on the flanks. This was too far of a distance for Grifo and Sallai to cover.
Freiburg’s 4-2-2-2 in possession:
In possession for Freiburg, they pushed the wingers inside and created a box midfield, using a 4-2-2-2. Grifo and Sallai played behind the two centre-forwards, with only their fullbacks, Kübler and Günter, for width. They would often opt to play a long ball to the forwards, Waldschmidt and Höler, instead of playing short, through the Monchengladbach high press. Due to the narrowness of Freiburg’s midfield, they had a great chance numerically to win the long ball. More importantly to them, the second ball also, before attacking quickly.
Similarly, when Freiburg opted to play long from a goal-kick, the whole team’s shape would push into a narrow, 4-2-3-1. There was very little distance between each line of defence and no width. This was so that they would have numerical superiority from the second ball. It also gave them a higher chance of winning the ball back higher up the pitch. Streich felt that Freiburg were a more physical side matched up against Monchengladbach and decided to use that to their benefit quite a lot in this game, including the goal in the 58th minute.
Borussia Monchengladbach’s high press success and problems:
Borussia Monchengladbach deployed a high block 4-2-3-1/4-2-1-3. They pressed very high when Freiburg opted to play out from the back instead of playing long to the centre-forwards. Alassane Plea pressed Schwolow, angling his run to block the passing lane to one of the Freiburg centre-halves. They always forced Freiburg to play into the wide areas. This gave Monchengladbach the best chance to win the ball back or prevent Freiburg from progressing into the second and third attacking phases.
If Plea cut the pass off to Heintz, Thuram would move up on to Lienhart just as he was receiving the pass, and vice-versa with Hermann closing down Heintz, if Plea cut off the passing lane to Lienhart instead. Stindl roamed behind the front three, picking up the ball near central midfielder, depending on which side of the field the play was on, with either Hofmann or Neuhaus picking up the ball-far central midfielder.
Bensebaini or Lainer would push onto the opposing fullback during this high press, which also depended on which side of the pitch the play was on. If the ball was with the Freiburg right fullback, Kübler, Bensebaini would move high up the pitch to close him down, whilst Lainer stayed back in a back 3 with the two centre-halves. This cannot be seen on the screenshot; however, it can be seen during the match.
The problem here for Monchengladbach was that they used many players in their high block, to attempt to win the ball back high up the field. This left them short in midfield because the Freiburg wingers tucked inside close to the forwards, and as stated before, Freiburg would simply just clip a long pass to the forward line. They now had numerical superiority for the second ball in these areas.
When Freiburg did not opt to play long to the forward line, and instead opted to play out from the back, Monchengladbach did excellently in their high press. They won the ball back numerous times and prevented Freiburg from progressing through their two holding midfielders.
The red card changed this plan. It was incredibly difficult for the Monchengladbach players to win the ball back high up the field in a press to the same success as when they had Plea. The shape shifted to a 4-2-3 with Stindl pushed up at centre-forward. However, the co-ordination of the high press was difficult now. Also, Stindl, who occupied the ball-near midfielder, was no longer doing this role. Therefore, it meant it was much easier for Freiburg to play into the midfield pivot, due to the fact that he was now free from being marked by the opposition.
Monchengladbach were quite possibly the better of the teams in the first half. They will rue the chances that they missed, especially in the clear-cut chances missed in the sixteenth, twenty-seventh as well as the thirty-seventh minute. This lack of quality in the final phase of the attack, as well as the lack of penetration, was of paramount importance to the final score of the game. It saw Freiburg grab a 1-0 win at home, keeping a clean sheet also, helped by goalkeeper Schwolow who was in fine form throughout the 90 minutes.
However, huge credit must be awarded to Freiburg and their manager Christian Streich as they were tactically efficient tonight. They nullified one of the most potent attacks in the league. This tactical analysis has displayed how Freiburg and Monchengladbach matched up against each other tactically in this game. It also analyses the key areas of the match, which were important to the final score of the game.