Bundesliga 2019/20: SC Paderborn vs Werder Bremen – tactical analysis
In round 31 of the Bundesliga, the two teams in the relegation zone, SC Paderborn and Werder Bremen faced each other at the Benteler-Arena. Werder Bremen battle Fortuna Dusseldorf for a spot in the relegation playoff and before this fixture were three points behind. Paderborn, on the other hand, are set to compete in the 2. Bundesliga next season having only won four games in the German top tier.
Bremen had found themselves in murky waters after losing their previous two fixtures against Eintracht Frankfurt and Wolfsburg, and desperately needed three points in this away fixture before they met league leaders, Bayern Munich in the next game. Bremen head coach, Florian Kohfeldt’s tactics clicked finally as they managed to secure those crucial points in a decisive 1-5 win at Paderborn. In this tactical analysis, I shall examine the tactics of the two teams and how they played out.
SC Paderborn: Zingerle – Jans (Ritter 46′), Rumpf, Strohdiek (c), Collins – Evans (Sabiri 64′), Gjasula (Pröger 64′), Vasiliadis, Antwi-Adjei (Holtmann 72′) – Srbeny (Zolinski 46′), Michel
Unused subs: Huth, Fridjonsson, Dräger, Jastrzembski
Coach: Steffen Baumgart
Weder Bremen: Pavlenka – Gebre Selassie, Veljkovic, Moisander (c), Augustinsson (Friedl 76′) – M. Eggestein, Vogt, Klaassen (Groß 86′) – Osako (Füllkrug 76′), Sargent (Selke 76′), Rashica (Bargfrede 59′)
Unused subs: Kapino, Bittencourt, Langkamp, Bartels
Coach: Florian Kohfeldt
Paderborn deployed a 4-2-2-2 system with Klaus Gjasula the architect from the back playing as the pivot, and Antony Evans and Christopher Antwi-Adjei, the inverted wide midfielders who had greater freedom to attack spaces behind a front two of Dennis Srbeny and Sven Michel.
Bremen played a 4-3-1-2 formation with a two-striker system as well, involving Yuri Osako and Josh Sargent pressing from the top. Milot Rashica had a free role on the wide left and could pick the moment to attack the defensive line or drift inside in between the lines, in the space in front of the Paderborn back four. Davy Klaassen played various positions throughout the game and had a big role in Bremen’s performance securing two goals and one assist. Kevin Vogt would always drop deeper to form a back three during buildup.
Bremen’s attacking organisation
Although Bremen started off on paper as a 4-3-1-2 which is the defensive formation they employ against stronger sides in the Bundesliga, in this fixture they played a highly positional game utilising width in attack and exploiting the spaces between the lines.
In this analysis scheme, I’ve shown how the Bremen players positioned when in possession of the ball. Vogt moved between the centrebacks as the deepest player allowing the fullbacks Theodor Gebre Selassie and Ludwig Augustinsson to move wider and attack the spaces higher up on their respective flanks.
Vogt played a fundamental role in Bremen’s attacking build-up from deep positions. He started off alongside Maximillian Eggestein in front of the defensive duo of Niklas Moisander and Miloš Veljković. However, during the buildup, he often dropped deep between the two centre backs as sweeper adding to the numerical superiority against the two Paderborn centre forwards pressing them.
In this instance, we see how Bremen buildup with three at the back with Vogt in the centre in possession of the ball looking to distribute it out wide. We also see Eggestein in the hole in front of Vogt for the first option to break the Paderborn line of pressure.
Below we see a situation with Moisander in possession of the ball well into the Paderborn half and finding Eggestein in the centre. Augustinsson begins his run early from out wide on the left to attack the defensive line which allows Eggestein to release him successfully with a through pass. On the other flank we see how high and wide Gebre Selassie is positioned in a similar way giving Bremen’s attacking shape all the width of the pitch to exploit.
In the tactical scheme earlier, we also see how the front two attacked the spaces between the Paderborn centrebacks and fullbacks. Osako would position himself on the shoulder of Jan Luca Rumpf ready to make runs in behind while Sargent would play just outside of Jamilu Collins from where he could attack the central space in front of the box or make runs on the wide flank.
Take a look at the third phase of buildup more closely. Apart from Osako’s and Sargent’s positioning, we also see the roles of Rashica and Klaassen in exploiting the space in front of the defence. Osako applying pressure on the backline would create the space for Rashica to drift inside behind Osako. Klaassen started off the game playing just behind the attackers. Klaassen’s position attracted pressure from one of the Paderbon centre-backs, triggering the runs for Osako and Sargent. As a second trigger, any play that resulted out of this phase would influence the runs of Gebre Selassie and Augustinsson on the wide areas to continue overloading and providing width in the attack in the opposition half.
The first goal scored by Bremen is a great example of teamwork and relentless pressure after Rashica missed his penalty attempt. It was a header scored by Klaassenn from a cross from Gebre Selassie.
It is interesting to observe here the position of the three Bremen central midfielders. Vogt is playing as a libero between the centre backs in Bremen’s build-up using a back three. Eggestein is playing as the single pivot in front of the defence, while Gebre Selassie and Augustinsson are ready to attack spaces on the wide flanks. Finally, we see Klaassen, the midfielder who exploits the circumstance of his two forwards pinning the Paderborn defenders and manages to get into the furthest position on the pitch to find a header.
Breakdown of Bremen’s second goal
The second goal for Bremen was a successful product of their tactics in this game. A further analysis will help us understand why. Let’s examine the goal in three frames:
In this move, Bremen are looking to transition forward quickly having won the ball. Klaassen, in possession of the ball lifts his head and has at least three options – Sargent on the wide right, Osako attacking the backline and Rashica for a short pass in front of him. It’s important to note how Rashica has drifted into the centre from a wide position
By playing the pass to Rashica, Bremen have gained advantage over the space in front of the Paderborn defensive line. Now the back four for the hosts are forced to retreat backwards giving Rashica time to take a touch, look up and make a decision. To add to the threat, Osako and Sargent are playing on the shoulder of the defenders. Sargent is looking to make a run in behind Collins’ shoulder on his blind side as Collins’ focus is on Rashica who is dribbling with the ball.
Strohdiek, the central defender for Paderborn who isn’t pinned by a Bremen forward and retreating along with the defensive line has to make a decision – whether to hold the line and play safe allowing Rashica more space and time, or to break away forward and apply pressure on Rashica. While he is occupied by this, Osako picks the moment to attack the space behind him with a diagonal run and Rashica chooses to thread the ball through to Sargent on the right.
In the final move, Sargent cuts inside onto his left foot to take a shot on goal. Osako’s run has put him in front of the two centre backs and although the shot is blocked and deflected, Osako is in the perfect position to convert the rebound into a goal.
This goal involved attacking the space in front of the opposition defence, pinning the opposition defenders using forwards who were making the right runs leaving the defenders in a dilemma which space to close down, early decision making and execution and great reaction from Osako to read and convert the situation into a goal.
Paderborn’s attacking organisation
Paderborn’s strategy was centred around Gjasula the playmaker from the back for the hosts. When the ball went all the way back into the feet of Zingerle, the keeper, the two centre backs Rumpf and Strohdiek would split wide to the edges of the penalty box.
Since Bremen played with two forwards, Osako and Sargent would also be split wide and this gave Gjasula the opportunity to drop between the two Bremen forwards just outside the penalty box to receive a pass. He would then turn and have options to play the ball both short and long. As Gjasula received the ball, the right midfielder, Antony Evans would drift inside and drop along the inside corridor asking for a pass to the feet. This would open the space behind him that could be attacked by Michel or the fullback Laurent Jans.
On the other side, Srbeny would drop deeper allowing Antwi-Adjei the player with the pace and technical ability to attack the space behind Gebre Selassie. Klaassen couldn’t press Gjasula to stop this move as he would leave Sebastian Vasiliadis open in the midfield along with freeing the passing lanes to Srbeny or Antwi-Adjei.
Paderborn worked to capitalize on the dribbling skill of Antwi-Adjei who attempted six dribbles during the game, four of which were successful. The objective was to use his pace and technical skill to apply pressure behind Gebre Selassie who they anticipated would be pushed up for his attacking attributes.
If we look at this map of dribbles from the first half, we see that Antwi-Adjei was quite successful in troubling Bremen on the left but couldn’t manage to finish his dribbles with successful crosses into the box.
After Bremen scored the third goal, Paderborn looked to use the playmaking abilities of Gjasula further up the pitch where he could be a threat in creating chances in the third phase of the buildup and so he pushed higher around Bremen’s penalty area.
Here we can see him receiving a pass unmarked to turn and open the field by playing it to the right which Evans manages to cut it back in on the first touch, and Michel registers a shot that beats Jiri Pavlenka, only to be denied by the post.
Both teams had an even percentage of possession during the game and the goals were scored either in set pieces or moments of transition. Paderborn were more effective in their shooting, especially in the second half registering 9/19 shots on target compared to Bremen’s 8/11.
This also reflected in the xG for Paderborn which increased from 0.80 in the first half to 1.14 in the second half. After periods of playing safe and establishing their rhythm, both teams worked on implementing their attacking tactics against each other. Paderborn were just poor defensively in comparison to Bremen.
Bremen were also much better at pressing, especially from the top. Paderborn had a PPDA of 9.8 in comparison to Bremen’s 5.0. Paderborn improved their pressing as the game progressed, starting off a 15.5 and ending around 4.8
Klaassen managed to find his form in this game and made up for a quiet performance by Rashica. I have already analysed his goal that opened the scoring for Bremen. During the game his positioning was very versatile and dependent on different phases of the game. This is evident if we look at his heatmap. He covered a vast amount of area.
The three key zones were around Paderborn’s penalty box, in the centre of the park and on the right flank. Klaassen started off vigorously attacking the space behind the central defenders, almost playing as an attacker capitalising on Osako and Sargent pinning back the Paderborn defenders.
After securing a lead, he played deeper in central midfield providing support for Eggestein in marking Vasiliadis and Srbeny. During the second half, he played more on the right, as a right midfielder as Bremen switched to a 4-2-3-1 formation with Sargent up top. On the right side he was more capable of defending Antwi-Adjei and cutting out the passes to him.
It was fascinating to see Klaassen’s intelligent reading of the game and his proactive attitude in attacking transitions. His immediate reaction was always to attack the space in behind the defence in the similar manner that won him the header for the first goal. Let’s look at Eggestein’s goal that Klaassen played a big part of.
Here we see Osako played the ball from deep. Osako comes short to the pass drawing the pressure from Strohdiek. This creates the space behind for Sargent to run into bringing Collins along with him. Klaassen reads the situation and immediately begins to run in behind on the right. Osako reads his run and wins his duel with Strohdiek to turn and chip the ball into the space without even looking at Klaassen who then manages to square it to Sargent in the penalty box.
Klaassen outperformed both his xG of 0.16 scoring two goals and his xA of 0.59 (although he wasn’t credited the assist directly for Eggestein’s goal. He also managed to put in two accurate crosses out of five from the right while playing as a right midfielder along with 2/2 successful long passes.
This was a sweet victory for Bremen and Kohfeldt managing to bring back the spirit with their playing principles. It was a great team effort that involved all the players and showed that they could pull off a victory without having to rely on Rashica scoring which they have been heavily dependent on throughout this season. Their win puts them level on points with Fortuna Dusseldorf with both teams tied at 28 points with Dusseldorf only leading by goal difference. The next game against an ‘in form’ Bayern won’t be as easy, but these three points bring a ray of hope for Bremen who are fighting for survival to stay in the Bundesliga.