Bundesliga 2019/20: Hertha Berlin vs Borussia Monchengladbach- tactical analysis
Borussia Monchengladbach looked to top off an impressive first half of the Bundesliga season in the German capital this weekend as they took on Jürgen Klinsmann’s Hertha Berlin. The game was an intriguing tactical battle despite the 0-0 stalemate, with both sides neutralising each other and struggling to make the breakthrough. Gladbach struggled to build through Hertha’s man orientated press, particularly in the first half, but managed to contain Hertha reasonably well in order to keep what is actually a rare clean sheet this season. In this tactical analysis, we will analyse why Gladbach struggled to play through the press and what solutions they used in the game that they were unable to capitalise on.
Hertha played with a 4-1-4-1 which often resembled a 4-4-2 out of possession, with one of the midfield players stepping forward to press the Gladbach centre backs. This 4-4-2 played a vital part in the game, and Gladbach’s 4-2-3-1 almost matched up this 4-4-2 from Hertha as I will explain in this analysis.
Hertha’s 4-4-2 press
The following images show the man orientated 4-4-2 press that Hertha employed in the game. They followed a basic pressing structure within a 4-4-2, with the opposition full-back pressed by the winger as seen below, and the central midfielders tight to their opposites. The two strikers would press the centre backs and protect the central passing lanes into half-spaces as we can see below, which forced passes such as the one here, where Gladbach struggle to progress the ball cleanly.
We can see the 4-4-2 press again here, with Gladbach’s full back Tony Jantschke receiving the ball out of shot where he is pressed by Hertha’s left winger Javairô Dilrosun. Again the central midfielders are extremely tight to Gladbach’s midfielders, not allowing them to turn and forcing lateral passes.
This meant that the game looked like this for Gladbach in their generic structure (which they tried to avoid staying in). A 4-4-2 and a 4-2-3-1 match up well for man orientated pressing with the only difference between the two formations being the positioning of the attacking midfielder. We can see in the diagram below then that the immediate ball options can all be marked routinely by Hertha, and that the space to be exploited is the attacking midfielder Florian Neuhaus, but of course, it’s easier said than done to get the ball into him in this particular structure.
Gladbach did, however, manage to exploit this space extremely well on one occasion, where they got a shot on goal and an excellent opportunity. We can see this here, where Elvedi finds Neuhaus due to a problem with Hertha’s horizontal compactness.
This leads to this chance below, where Alassane Pléa gets through on goal as a result from this simple pass.
Hertha’s vertical compactness and offside line
Gladbach’s inability to play through the press in the first half was largely due to the lack of space and vertical compactness of Hertha. As a result, with Gladbach unable to play through them they opted to try and go over them several times in the first half, but to no avail.
Below we can see an example of both Hertha’s vertical compactness and excellent offside line. The distance between the forward player and last defender is short and the spaces between them horizontally are minimal, with one of the pressing forward two cutting the passing lane to the attacking midfielder we see in space.
The key is in the body positioning of the last defender, in that before the ball is struck, he recognises the opportunity for a long ball over the top and shifts his body weight forward, while Breel Embolo is still shifting his body weight forward in the opposite direction. As a result, Embolo is offside.
Here again, we can see Hertha are vertically compact and cut off any space in the centre for Gladbach to receive. Again, the body positioning of the last defender is excellent, as again before the ball is played he begins to shift his body weight forward and move forward, catching Marcus Thuram offside easily.
One final time, the body positioning of the last defender is good again, where he has made his movement forward and so when the ball is kicked, Marcus Thuram is caught offside again. Thuram’s timing of the run was poor, but was made difficult as you may have noticed, with the left full-back sitting slightly deeper this invited Thuram to advance forward, allowing the full-back to run forward and trap Thuram.
Gladbach struggle with out-to-in possessions
Much of Gladbach’s problems in the game came from being led out wide and unable to progress due to not having any inside options. This meant that they often had to rely on their player’s ability to win a 1v1, which on occasion they did, but this isn’t the most efficient way to build up.
We can see an example of this below, where Gladbach would get the ball to the outside but would then struggle to progress towards goal. Notice how Hertha don’t allow Gladbach an overload in the wide area, but Gladbach don’t offer any movement to arrive into the space highlighted. Florian Neuhaus or another midfielder should arrive into this space to receive but instead, he is stood furthest away from the ball.
Again here, Embolo shields the ball and looks for lateral options to allow Gladbach to progress. However again there is no inside pass available and Embolo is forced to try a trick to get past, which wins his side a free-kick. Gladbach began to solve this by having the full-back play the pass and then look to receive again with a 1-2, but with the time it takes for the full-back to get into position this can be inefficient at times. Another tactic also helped Gladbach to find more success.
Gladbach start to beat the press
Gladbach’s build-up structure began to change more towards a three at the back, with one of the defensive midfielders dropping with the centre backs in an attempt to disrupt Hertha’s 4-4-2 press. We can see in the pass map below the deep and wide positioning of the defensive midfielders here, with the centre backs and defensive midfielders making up some of the top links in the team.
We can see how this affected the game below. With one of the midfielders now dropping, this meant for Hertha’s man orientated system that the midfielder would have to press this dropping midfielder. Gladbach’s full-back could then go higher, which causes the Hertha winger to now look to prevent the ball being played to the full-back behind him, rather than pressing the player in front of him as he had done.
As a result, the passing lane between the wide player and central midfielder increased and Gladbach were able to play the ball through on a few occasions with some good passes.
We can see this situation below with Denis Zakaria dropped deeper than the full-back. The Hertha winger now has to protect the wide area to avoid Bensebaini progressing, and so this passing lane opens up slightly for Zakaria, who can get the ball through into the half space and Gladbach can drive at the defence.
Again here, Christoph Kramer this time drops deeper than the full-back and gets the ball through into the half-space, with the high and wide full back attracting a player slightly wider. and Thuram’s run also possibly attracting attention. Here Gladbach do not have a runner arriving into the half-space, and as a result rely on playing the ball up to Embolo to protect and pass on, something Gladbach do often. Embolo struggled in the early parts of the game, but started to win far more duels and helped Gladbach by beating his marker to disrupt Hertha’s man-marking system.
The game ended a stalemate with neither side able to break the other down. It wasn’t an overly poor performance from Gladbach, who controlled the game and counter-pressed well to limit Hertha to only 0.48 xG in the game. Gladbach on 0.98 xG had the better of the opportunities, but ultimately struggled against Hertha’s tactics and a draw was probably deserved.
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