Belgian First Division A 2021/22: An early look at Club Brugge under Alfred Schreuder – tactical analysis
After 2.5 years in charge of Club Brugge and back-to-back Belgian Pro League titles, Philippe Clement left the club in early January to replace the former Bayern Munich manager Niko Kovac, who was sacked by AS Monaco. There were many names linked to replace the departed Belgian, with Club Brugge deciding on Alfred Schreuder as their new manager. Schreuder previously managed both FC Twente in the Eredivisie and TSG 1899 Hoffenheim in the Bundesliga, as well as being Erik ten Hag’s assistant at Ajax and Ronald Koeman’s assistant at FC Barcelona.
Through his first four matches in charge Schreuder is unbeaten (2W and 2D), but his side still sit nine points behind runaway leaders Union Saint-Gilloise. With that being said, Schreuder has started to slowly implement his philosophy on the side, with this tactical analysis looking at some of those tactics.
Quick and incisive build-up play
Under Philippe Clement, Club Brugge utilised a back four system, normally deploying a 4-2-3-1. There has been a total switch in systems with the introduction of Schreuder as head coach, with the former Hoffenheim boss instead utilising a 3-5-2 formation. This allows Club Brugge to overload and dominate the midfield areas, as well as do some different things during the build-up phase. The following examples will show some of these build-up phases in action and illustrate the tactics that Schreuder is looking to implement into his new side.
This build-up phase pictured above comes from Schreuder’s first match in charge against Sint-Truiden. With the back three in possession, Vormer drops from his central midfield position to create a 4v3 numerical advantage for Club while they are building out from the back. Vormer dropping keeps the Sint-Truiden attackers honest, with none of them looking to leave that central midfield area to allow Vormer to gain possession. This means that both wing-backs are unoccupied and therefore free as passing options. However, Mechele receives the ball and instead plays it to Charles De Ketelaere, who drops into midfield from his forward position. This frees up Mats Rits to make a run in behind, which Ketelaere looks for, but unfortunately fails to find. Though in this instance no scoring chance resulted, this quick build-up and movement allowed Club Brugge to play the ball into the box with only three passes (Mechele-De Ketelaere-Rits (failed)).
The phase of play above once again shows the quick and incisive build-up play that Schreuder is trying to implement at Club Brugge. Once again, Mechele is in possession as the right centre back. As can be seen, Vormer is the deepest of the midfielders, with the formation getting altered to a 3-1-5-1, with De Ketelaere dropping into central midfield to occupy Vormer’s position. The play develops quickly, with Rits dropping to receive the ball under no pressure, which allows him time and space to turn and pick his pass. Dost moves towards the near touchline, which allows him to drag the centre back marking him out of position, leaving a big gap in the backline. With Ketelaere’s marker caught ball watching, he makes a run from deep into the space vacated by the opposition centre back. This allows Rits to play a ball over the top to Ketelaere in behind, and a corner for Club Brugge is won as a result. This movement during the build-up allows Club to break through both Sint-Truiden’s midfield and defensive lines in two quick, incisive passes.
The build-up phase of play above against Standard Liege was slightly different than that against Sint-Truiden, but it still produced the same quick and incisive result. Out of picture, Vormer played the pass to Mats Rits who was occupying the space between the midfield and defensive lines. After receiving possession, Rits plays a one-touch pass out wide to Clinton Mata on the near touchline. The opposition fullback gets caught ball watching as the pass is played to Mata, which allows the space to open up for Rits to run in behind the defensive line. Mata then plays a one-touch pass into the space which Rits runs onto. This attacking phase results in a corner for Club Brugge, and started from a Vormer pass from his own defensive third, with three passes once again resulting in a chance on goal for Club Brugge.
Another phase of play above against league leaders Union Saint-Gilloise shows this quick and incisive build-up play in action. Stanley Nsoki is in possession and plays a pass to the feet of Vanaken, breaking through the first line of defence as a result. Vanaken then takes a touch and is able to turn and survey his options. He notices the in to out bending run that De Ketelaere is making, along with the defender stepping out of position, and plays a perfect ball into De Ketelaere’s path. This gets him past the opposition’s defensive line, and wins a corner as a result.
Alfred Schreuder has tried to implement this quick and incisive ball progression to this Club Brugge side, and so far, it has worked. All of the different examples shown displayed how after two or three incisive passes, Club Brugge were in behind and creating a goal-scoring opportunity. If perfected, Club Brugge can be very dangerous if given too much time on the ball.
Looking to counter-press
Something that Alfred Schreuder didn’t really utilise often at his other two head coaching positions but is using often during his first four matches in Bruges is a high pressing system to quickly close down opponents to win back possession in dangerous areas. So far, during his first four matches at Club Brugge, the side have a PPDA of 6.1; with their opposition not being allowed much comfort when in possession. When comparing that to his time at Hoffenheim, there is a large difference with the PPDA there being 11.9. Though Schreuder used a more passive pressing system during his time in Germany, it is anything but that so far in Belgium.
The image above shows one example of this gegenpressing system that Schreuder has tried to implement at Club Brugge. Brugge have just turned the ball over in midfield, and the ball is played to Nicolas Raskin of Standard Liege. As the ball is being played to him, both Vanaken and De Ketelaere press him and try to win back possession. Unfortunately, Raskin is able to play a good one-touch pass to a teammate, breaking through the Club Brugge press.
The image above shows a similar pressing situation against Sint-Truiden. They have won possession in the middle third and are attempting to break the Club Brugge press. Mats Rits is able to quickly close down the player in possession, who then plays a poor pass looking for his teammate making a run in behind the defence. As a result, Tajon Buchanan is able to intercept the pass, and start a counter-attacking sequence for Club Brugge.
This gegenpressing really shined against league leaders Union Saint-Gilloise. The Union player (Kandouss) has just received possession from the goalkeeper and is looking for passing options. He is instantly closed down by both Dost and Lang, with Lang also closing off the angle of the backward pass, forcing Kandouss to pass it forward. He attempts to find Undav, who has dropped deep in order to get involved in the build-up play. However, Mitrovic is able to read the pass from Kandouss and intercept it, with him then able to drive forward and get a shot on target.
This phase of play above shows just how well Club Brugge have adapted to this counter-pressing system that Alfred Schreuder has implemented in his time in charge so far. After turning over the ball in midfield, Vormer and Lang initiate the counter-press by quickly closing down the player in possession. Clinton Mata is marking the player by the near touchline, which eliminates that passing option. The only passing option is the player circled forward, which both Mitrovic and De Ketelaere recognize. As a result, when the pass is played forward, Mitrovic quickly closes down the player, allowing De Ketelaere to win the ball back off of him. The ball is played to Vormer, who ends up getting fouled and winning a free-kick for Club Brugge.
At Hoffenheim, Alfred Schreuder was not necessarily known as a coach that utilised a counter-pressing system. This has changed drastically so far at Club Brugge; and it looks to have paid dividends, with him being unbeaten in his first four matches in charge of the back to back league champions.
This analysis piece has shown a couple of the standout tactics that Alfred Schreuder has been able to implement in his short time in charge of Club Brugge so far. He inherited the team from Philippe Clement in a delicate position, with the club nine points off the surprise leaders Union Saint-Gilloise. It will be interesting to see how this team develops under Schreuder the rest of this season and beyond, with them still in with a shot of making it three Belgian league titles in a row.