Despite the wealth of talent on their roster, Austria Vienna finds themselves at eighth in the table in what has been a season to forget so far. Among financial distress, former Borussia Dortmund manager Peter Stoger has struggled to right the ship with the side’s last win in the Austrian Bundesliga coming at the beginning of October. They hosted Sturm Graz, managed by former Austria Vienna boss Christian Ilzer, who transformed his new team into a defensive stalwart, only conceding five goals through their first nine games in the league.

Austria Vienna failed to get their season back on track during matchday 10 as Sturm Graz ran rampant with four goals. The away team scored one during the first half from a well-orchestrated set-piece before a red card to Austria Vienna’s Dominik Fitz changed the dynamic in the second half. Sturm Graz added three more goals during the final 20 minutes to cement one of their best victories of the season.

This tactical analysis will review the offensive tactics of either side, including a set-piece analysis of Sturm Graz’s first goal. The analysis will dissect the different parts of Sturm Graz’s stingy defence.

Line-ups

Austrian Bundesliga 2020/21: Austria Vienna vs Sturm Graz - tactical analysis tactics

Stoger chose a 4-4-2 that included only two players above the age of 23. The reliable Patrick Pentz started in goal behind Man City loanee Erik Palmer-Brown and Johannes Handl. Georg Teigl played right-back opposite Markus Suttner at left-back. Stefan Zwierschitz and Niels Hahn controlled the centre of the midfield between Patrick Wimmer on the right and Aleksandr Jukic on the left. Benedikt Pichler and Dominik Fitz started as the striker pairing. Their leading scorer from last season Christoph Monschein later came on as a substitute.

Ilzer stuck with a 4-4-2 diamond with Jorg Siebenhandl in goal. David Nemeth and Gregory Wuthrich held down the centre of the defence with Dante Amadou at left-back and Sandro Ingolitsch at right-back. Jon Gorenc-Stankovic played at the base of the midfield diamond with Otar Kiteishvili on the left and Stefan Hierlander. Ivan Ljubic played as a number 10 behind the striker partnership of Kevin Friesenbichler and Jakob Jantscher.

Vienna’s offensive strategy

Despite the scoreline, Austria Vienna created enough chances in the game to score. They fielded dangerous offensive players with a competent strategy, but the red card cut short any hopes of getting on the scoreboard.

Austrian Bundesliga 2020/21: Austria Vienna vs Sturm Graz - tactical analysis tactics

In the above image, you can see how the Austria Vienna players all looked for attacking runs into wide spaces. Pichler loved running off the outside shoulder of the centre-back into the space behind the full-back. In this image, Suttner played a pass around the out of position full-back as Pichler runs out wide. With the focus on wide areas, the central midfield pairing missed out on attacking combinations as the full-backs played toward either of the strikers and the wide midfielders.

Austrian Bundesliga 2020/21: Austria Vienna vs Sturm Graz - tactical analysis tactics

Pichler provided some of the most dangerous moments for his side through his dribbling. In this image, he drove in from out wide to cut back into the box, but no teammate converted the chance. He liked to isolate defenders out wide, then beat them with his dribbling and pace before crossing toward the face of goal. Failing to score on these chances from Austria Vienna’s attackers was down to a combination of solid defence from their opponents and bad luck/finishing on their part.

Austrian Bundesliga 2020/21: Austria Vienna vs Sturm Graz - tactical analysis tactics

Austria Vienna looked to create three-on-three situations with a midfield outlet as seen in the image above. Teigl advanced high up the field to provide attacking width as Zwierschitz stayed deeper in the centre of the field. Wimmer occupied Amadou in the wide channel while Fitz challenged Wuthrich on the right of the central defence. Out of this shape, attacking runs could manipulate the defence and create space, but Austria Vienna leveraged this strategy to a limited effect.

Austrian Bundesliga 2020/21: Austria Vienna vs Sturm Graz - tactical analysis tactics

This image provides an example of the attacking runs made by Austria Vienna’s forwards. Teigl once again held the ball with Zwierschitz in a deeper, central position. Pichler often moved out wide, switching with one of the wide midfielders. Here, Wimmer moved into the centre of the box, preparing for a cross from a wide player. Jukic also moved into the central area for an additional attacking presence.

Although Fitz and Pichler played at the front of the formation, neither is a classic, goal-scoring striker like Monschein proved he could be during last year’s campaign. Austria Vienna lacked a ruthless finisher to complete these attacks, which helps explain the lack of offensive output in the match.

Austrian Bundesliga 2020/21: Austria Vienna vs Sturm Graz - tactical analysis tactics

One of their best chances of the game came from a combination of three attacking players on the right in the image above. Monschein passed to Fitz before running around him down the wide right channel. Fitz played to Pichler who saw the run and played the through-ball into Monschein’s path. This is the frustrating part of Austria Vienna’s attack. They boast the attacking talent and creative abilities to score goals, but the end product simply wasn’t there.

Sturm Graz’s defensive tactics

Sturm Graz successfully kept a clean sheet against a threatening Austria Vienna attack by maintaining a strong back-line and an organised pressing system.

Austrian Bundesliga 2020/21: Austria Vienna vs Sturm Graz - tactical analysis tactics

At the top of the defensive structure, the two strikers took up positions close to either centre-back as seen in the image above. If a midfielder dropped in to receive a pass, one of the Sturm Graz midfielders stepped up to pressure them. They did not commit many players to a high pressing system, but they made the build-up for Austria Vienna difficult without ruining their defensive shape.

Austrian Bundesliga 2020/21: Austria Vienna vs Sturm Graz - tactical analysis tactics

Jantscher and Friesenbichler made smart runs when pressing an opposing centre-back fitting into their defensive strategy. Once Palmer-Brown or Handl dribbled toward one side, Jantscher or Frisenbichler arced their pressing run to prevent the ball from returning to the midfield. The other striker drifted deeper toward the middle to pick off any stray passes in their direction. The midfielder on the ball-side stood ready to shut down the full-back on that side, compressing space in wide areas. Austria Vienna did not involve their two central midfielders in the build-up which allowed Sturm Graz to affect their build-up without too many players.

Austrian Bundesliga 2020/21: Austria Vienna vs Sturm Graz - tactical analysis tactics

This image here shows Sturm Graz’s defence shifting toward the left as they shut down the Austria Vienna build-up. Friesenbichler dropped to Hahn, although Jantscher’s cover shadow prevented a simple pass into the midfield. Ljubic and Kiteishvili found players to cover on the left side as the Handl ran out of space to operate on the left flank. Sturm Graz’s high press lacked the intensity of a team like Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool, but they forced discomfort into Austria Vienna’s build-up without sacrificing solidity at the back.

Austrian Bundesliga 2020/21: Austria Vienna vs Sturm Graz - tactical analysis tactics

At the back, Gorenc-Stankovic provided an extra cog in the defensive machine that allowed only three shots on target for Austria Vienna in the match. At the base of the midfield, Gorenc-Stankovic rarely ventured far from the centre-backs. During defensive phases, he helped track the Austria Vienna attackers as the full-backs moved to pressure wide players. He crowded the centre of the field, preventing Austria Vienna attackers from operating in large amounts of space.

Austrian Bundesliga 2020/21: Austria Vienna vs Sturm Graz - tactical analysis tactics

The additional defender also provided cover for any mistakes or any player who may be caught out of position. In this image, Ingolitsch was higher up the field when Austria Vienna retained position down the left wing. Nemeth moved out of his position to stop the wide attacking run. Instead of leaving a wide-open space on the left-half of the penalty area, Gorenc-Stankovic rotated into Nemeth’s position temporarily. Sturm Graz’s defensive performance across the field demonstrated strong tactics that prevented Austria Vienna from scoring.

Sturm Graz offence

Although aided by a red card in the second half, Sturm Graz managed four goals for the second time this season. Like their opponents, Sturm Graz focused on the wings while involving both their strikers and attacking midfielder.

Austrian Bundesliga 2020/21: Austria Vienna vs Sturm Graz - tactical analysis tactics

Sturm Graz built from the back by spreading their centre-backs wide as seen in the image above. Siebenhandl stepped up into the open space to create a back three and provide a backward outlet for the centre-backs should they face pressure. Gorenc-Stankovic played a lesser role in the build-up, but he still attracted attention from one of the Austria Vienna strikers. With this shape, the full-backs had the freedom to push higher up the pitch and get involved in the attack.

Austrian Bundesliga 2020/21: Austria Vienna vs Sturm Graz - tactical analysis tactics

The midfield diamond shifted to the ball side during possessions as seen in the image above. Hierlander pinches in from the right into open space in the centre of the field. Gorenc-Stankovic never moved too far out of position, but still offered an outlet for recycling possession. Ljubic drifted around the area in front of the Austria Vienna front line, finding pockets of space where he can receive to advance the ball. In this picture, Jantscher came over to the wide left channel, overloading the left side and putting pressure on the Austria Vienna defence.

Austrian Bundesliga 2020/21: Austria Vienna vs Sturm Graz - tactical analysis tactics

This image shows a different shape forming in the wide areas as the full-back gets more involved. Jantscher dropped much deeper now to receive from Amadou. Kiteishvili stood in the same horizontal line as Amadou, and Ljubic dropped into the space in front of the centre-backs. Sturm Graz aimed to get many players involved in attacks down either wing, although they favoured attacking down the left.

Austrian Bundesliga 2020/21: Austria Vienna vs Sturm Graz - tactical analysis tactics

Out of these shapes, possession in the pockets of space presented problems to Austria Vienna’s defence. Jantscher kept the ball in this image, drawing the attention of Teigl and Kiteishvili then capitalised on Teigl’s movement by making a run into the space left behind. Handl must track that run, leaving Friesenbichler enough room in between the centre-backs to receive a ball.

Runs and movement off the ball in the wide areas open space in the defence. The strikers were vital in this process, as the ball-sided striker helped create the overloads while the far-sided striker had to identify and attack the space created by his teammates.

Austrian Bundesliga 2020/21: Austria Vienna vs Sturm Graz - tactical analysis tactics

Once progressing the ball down either wing, Sturm Graz packed the box to prepare for crosses. As the strikers provided support out wide, the midfielders joined the far-sided striker in the box. During the first half, the away side lacked good enough deliveries into the box during open play to score.

Austrian Bundesliga 2020/21: Austria Vienna vs Sturm Graz - tactical analysis tactics

Sturm Graz bagged their first goal in the first half from a clever set-piece play. Four Sturm Graz players stood near the goalkeeper, moving around before the delivery. Nemeth stood about 12 yards from the goalmouth, marked by a single player. As Jantscher approaches to deliver, Gorenc-Stankovic and Wuthrich cut around toward the near post dragging their defenders with them. At the same time, Nemeth cuts toward the centre of the goal. Jantscher delivered the cross to Friesenbichler running away from the near post who headed on to Nemeth in the centre of the goal. Sturm Graz disguised the play as a near-post play, and their execution put them in the lead.

Austrian Bundesliga 2020/21: Austria Vienna vs Sturm Graz - tactical analysis tactics

Following the red card for Fitz later in the game, Sturm Graz found much more success offensively. In the immediate aftermath in the image above, Teigl’s lapse in judgement left space behind for Jantscher who assists Kiteishvili. Austria Vienna shifted to a 4-4-1 which should have defended in the same way, but Sturm Graz remained surgical and exposed their hapless opponents down the stretch.

Conclusion

In a mostly even game during the first half, a well-worked corner put Sturm Graz ahead. Ilzer implemented strong defensive tactics for his side, preventing any goals from Austria Vienna’s talented attackers. Frustration for the home team boiled over when Fitz committed a poor challenge, receiving a red during the second half. As a result, Sturm Graz dominated the remaining portion of the game, resigning Austria Vienna to eighth in the table.

Noah Swan