Austrian Bundesliga 2019/20: Altach vs Austria Vienna – tactical analysis
Ahead of this game, two matchdays were remaining in the qualification group of the Austrian Bundesliga. Austria Vienna and Altach were ahead of this matchday in the first and second position respectively and were already qualified to participate in the play-offs (the first two teams of the qualification group and the fourth and fifth of the championship round will participate).
Austria Vienna collected 28 points and Altach had 26 ahead of this direct clash while St. Pölten had 19 points and therefore they couldn’t catch up with Altach and Vienna in the two remaining games. Considering this, this game between Altach and Austria Vienna was the direct match-up of the two best teams of the qualification group and meanwhile also important for the race for the first place.
Both coaches went with their typical formations. Alex Pastoor lined up the home side in a 4-1-4-1 with Martin Kobras between the sticks. The back four was made of Anderson, Berkay Dabanli, Philipp Schmiedl and Emir Karic. Jan Zwischenbrugger was the lone defensive midfielder and was supported in the centre by Johannes Tartarotti and Manfred Fischer. Sidney Sam (former Bundesliga star) and Frantz Pangop provided width and Daniel Nussbaumer was the centre-forward.
On the other side, Christian Ilzer used the typical 4-2-3-1 formation with Patrick Pentz in goal and Michael Madl teamed up with Erik Palmer-Brown (Manchester City loanee) in the central defence. Stefan Zwierschitz and Florian Klein completed the back four. Alexander Grünwald and Thomas Ebner played in front of the defence and Benedikt Pichler and Manprit Sarkaria were the wingers. Vesel Demaku was the offensive midfielder behind Christoph Monschein.
Tactical periods of the game
We will start this tactical analysis by quickly discussing how the game went down since we saw two completely different 45 minutes. In the first half, Altach was clearly the dominating side and also was in front at half-time due to the goal of Tartarotti in the 27th minute. In the first part of this analysis, we will look at the reasons for the poor performance of Austria Vienna during the first 45 minutes.
In the half-time, Ilzer made tactical changes and also brought on Maximilian Sax who heavily influenced the game as he helped his side to come back into the game with his aggression, understanding of the game and also scored the 1-1 in the 57th minute. We will focus on the period between the 45th minute and the goal by Sax in the second part of this analysis while the final 30 minutes of the game were more hectic and none of the teams was able to really dominate the game. 11 minutes ahead of the final whistle Edomwonyi scored the 2-1 for Austria Vienna, but still, we will look in the third and last section of this tactical analysis at the counter-attacks of both sides since we saw similar patterns on both sides throughout the game.
Austria Vienna’s passive approach in the first half
As already noted, we will look in this first section at the tactics of both sides in the first 45 minutes. The main focus will be on the possession phase of Altach since Austria Vienna were rarely able to control the ball for a longer period.
When the team of Pastoor was in possession, they basically tried to progress the ball with the aid of short passes. They stayed in the 4-1-4-1 formation and the full-backs, as well as the wingers, hugged the touchline while Zwischenbrugger was the lone man in front of the back four who should support the two central defenders to circulate the ball. In the image below we can see the typical positioning of Altach’s players during the build-up.
While nowadays we can often see that the wingers tuck in during the possession phase to give the full-backs space in the wide-areas to push up, Altach did so only on the left side a bit as Karic pushed up in some moments when Pongop shifted in but in general, the left-back was not that offensive as usual since he had with Sarkaria an opponent who is dangerous during the counter-attacks due to his pace.
On the other side, Anderson also rarely pushed forward and stayed deep to give Sam the chance to stay near the touchline where he feels most comfortable. Also, the deep positioning of the two full-backs helped the two centre-backs during the build-up as we will see next when we look at the pressing of Austria Vienna.
Overall, Austria Vienna preferred during the first 45 minutes to sit back deeper in the 4-2-3-1 formation and Monschein started to put slight pressure on the two centre-backs at about the halfway line. Interestingly, during the opening minutes, Altach had a hard time to progress the ball since the distance between the back four (and Zwischenbrugger) and the offensive players was too big. This got better after the first five to 10 minutes as the midfielders positioned a bit deeper.
However, Austria Vienna also sometimes decided to press in at the opponents about 10 yards higher and when they did so we saw a clear pattern. Demaku as offensive midfielder marked mainly Zwischenbrgger (and occasionally pushed forward to join the striker in the first line). The two defensive midfielders looked after Tartarotti and Fischer while Monschein used a curved run to force the centre-back to play the ball to the full-back next to him. The wide-defender then got pressed by the winger of Austria Vienna and Monschein cut off the pass back to the centre-back.
Anyways, the main problem during this pressing was that due to the deep positioning of the full-backs the distance between them and the wingers of Austria Vienna was so big, that they had enough time to pick out an option until Sarkaria and Pichler respectively started the actual press.
Considering this, the deep positioning of Karic and Anderson not just was to give the wingers the chance to stay near the touchline, but also gave themselves more time during the press. Additionally, Demaku wasn’t always close enough to Zwischenbrgger who permanently made intelligent movements to free himself. The combination of these aspects can be seen below as Sarkaria gives Karic too much time and Zwischenbrgger escapes the man-marking of Demaku to get on the ball.
During the opening 30 minutes, the probably most important man for Altach was the left central midfielder Fischer (got subbed off then due to an injury). He permanently moved intelligently to create some distance between him and his marker (mostly Ebner) and therefore created space for himself. Due to that, his teammates (especially the defensive midfielder Zwischenbrugger) frequently found him with line-breaking passes like the one in the following example.
All these mentioned aspects then came into play ahead of the opening goal of the day since Karic was once more pressed too late by Sarkaria. The Austrian winger sprinted towards his opponent since he had noticed that his pressing came too late. Due to that, they quickly bypassed Sarkaria with a one-two and then Karic went forward with the ball at his feet to play the ball to Fischer who once more was free (notice in the second picture how he is surrounded by opponents but nobody is really near him). The central midfielder then played the deciding pass which led to the goal.
Now, in this final part of the opening section of this tactical analysis, we will look at the two main reasons why Austria Vienna struggled to have longer periods of possession. First of all, Altach’s main goal was to take Grünwald out of the game or at least give him not enough time to pick out a forward passing option.
Considering this, they either used numerous players to slightly press him from different sides or the defensive midfielder Zwischenbrgger pushed forward to man-mark him for a short period. By switching between these two options, Grünwald either was marked and couldn’t receive the ball or had no options for progressive passes as soon as he got on the ball. In the shot below we can see an example of how Zwischenbrgger moves up the pitch to be near Grünwald.
Due to that, Austria Vienna’s captain often dropped quite deep to get himself a bit of a time and space, but then there was one fewer option in the advanced areas since Grünwald was meant to be in the centre between the defence and the offence to bring the ball forward.
The second aspect which led to the fact that Austria Vienna had a hard time to progress the ball (and if they did so it resulted out of individual actions) was the aggression by Altach’s players. They neither pressed incredibly high up the pitch nor did they sit back as deep as Vienna did it mostly, but as soon as they decided to start the press, the whole team worked together and acted extremely aggressive.
The wingers were often quite narrow to give Ilzer’s side no chance to play through the centre what meant that they would have to play to the wide-areas where then the full-back early pushed forward to help the winger and central midfielder. In the example below we can see how the left-back Karic put pressure on his opponent high up the pitch.
Changes in the half-time
After the opening 45 minutes, Ilzer brought on Sax for Demaku who didn’t show his best performance in this season. Sax and additionally the slight tactical adjustments helped Austria Vienna to be way better in the second half.
Right from the start of the second 45 minutes, the Veilchen used a higher press and a slightly adjusted structure. Sax often joined Monschein in the first line and as soon as he left Zwischenbrugger, Grünwald slightly advanced to man-mark the defensive midfielder of Altach. Of course, this meant that the second defensive midfielder, Ebner was alone in front of the back four, but he and Grünwald perfectly worked together to control the three central midfielders of Pastoor’s side.
Also, the higher press paired with the higher positioning of Sax compared to Demaku gave the centre-backs less time on the ball and they played more long balls. Additionally, due to the higher positioning of the wingers of Austria Vienna, they did not play that often to the full-backs. Below, we can see an example of the new pressing structure of Vienna.
In light of this, Altach had not that long periods of possession and furthermore, they went for more long balls which Ilzer’s team defended well. On the other side, they also improved their possession game for which Sax was an extremely important factor.
He often moved intelligently into free spaces between the lines of Altach to then receive passes like the one in the following example.
Furthermore, even though the 27-years-old doesn’t play his best season, he is still a player with incredible technical abilities and more importantly he is more offensive-minded and straight-forward compared to Demaku. Besides that, the two defensive midfielders got more offensive and often moved forward to support their teammates.
In the following situation, Sax found Monschein with a decent through pass showing off his technical abilities. The striker laid it off with his first touch for Grünwald showing how offensive he was in the second half. He took the shot with the first shot, but missed it.
Ahead of the 1-1, we saw exactly the same aspects. This time, the other defensive midfielder, Ebner, moved forward to help his teammates. He received a pass by Sarkaria to then play a lobbed through ball to Sax who took the volley with his first touch to score and bring Austria Vienna back into this game. The situation ahead of the equaliser can be seen below.
To conclude, the higher pressing and slightly adjusted structure during the press forced Altach to more long balls which led to more losses. In possession, Sax often helped his team massively with his good positioning and technical abilities while Ebner or Grünwald also supported their team more frequently in the higher areas.
Similar patterns during the counter-attacks
In this final section of the tactical analysis, we will quickly look at the tactics of both sides during the counter-attacks. The interesting thing is here that both teams had quite similar plans for the offensive transition since they tried to attack the wide-areas and therefore the space behind the full-backs.
Especially when the wide-defenders decided to push forward on either side, the other team then wanted to attack down this wing during the counter-attack. But, since the winger had to be more defensive when the opposing full-back pushed forward, the wingers weren’t the ones who attacked the wide-areas.
Below, we can see an example of and counter-attack of Altach. Moments ahead the right-back of Austria Vienna Klein was positioned high as he supported his teammates during the attack and due to that, Altach’s winger Pangop also was in the half of Altach. Still, they wanted to attack the vacated space where usually Klein would be positioned and due to that Nussbaumer went into the wide-area to help his team during the offensive transition.
On the other side, we saw similar situations especially when Altach’s left-back Karic decided to push forward during the phase of possession. Whenever his team then lost the ball, Austria Vienna tried to attack down this side. In the example below, the offensive midfielder Demaku was at first positioned centrally during the counter-attack, but then went to the right side since there was more space due to Karic’s high position.
All in all, it was a deserved victory for Austria Vienna and after the final matchday of the relegation group, we will get to see both teams again in the play-off for the place in the UEFA Europa League. This is not just a huge financial chance for these clubs as they will also probably face top clubs from leagues like La Liga, Serie A or Ligue 1.
These two teams will face off once more in about one week in the semi-final of the play-offs where then the winner will be in the final against the winner of the play-off of the championship group.