Lerch’s Logic: How Wolfsburg Women stopped Bayern – tactical analysis
Wolfsburg Women eliminated Bayern Munich Women from the German Cup semi-final on the fourth of April following a 2-0 win for the hosts who will soon face the winners of the other semi-final, Eintracht Frankfurt in the final.
Wolfsburg were brave enough to put their bitter UEFA Women’s Champions League loss against Chelsea behind their backs and even though they faced one of the best European teams, they succeeded in reaching the DFB Pokal Women final and therefore in redeeming themselves from that demoralising loss.
In this tactical analysis article, we will explore the tactics of Wolfsburg in this match and how they were able to stop Bayern Munich’s attacking threat while also scoring two goals. The analysis will consist of looking at Wolfsburg’s defensive performance and key positives before moving to tackling their attacking performance and why Bayern conceded two goals.
Stephan Lerch started the match with a 4-2-3-1 formation with Katarzyna Kiedrzynek as a goalkeeper, Kathrin Hendrich, Sara Doorsoun, Dominique Janssen and Felicitas Rauch in defence, Lena Oberdorf and Ingrid Syrstad Engen as central midfielders with Alexandra Popp as an advanced playmaker and both Rebecka Blomqvist and Svenja Huth as wingers to support the team’s striker, Ewa Pajor.
The visitors played according to Jens Scheuer’s preferred 4-2-3-1 formation as well relying on Laura Benkarth as a goalkeeper, Hanna Glas, Carina Wenninger, Marina Hegering and Amanda Ilestedt in defence, Lina Magull and Sarah Zadrazil as central midfielders, Linda Dallmann as an advanced playmaker, Klara Bühl and Lineth Beerensteyn as wingers with Lea Schüller as a striker.
Wolfsburg’s defensive compactness
Wolfsburg were solid at the back throughout the game and prevented Bayern from creating a lot of danger despite the opponent’s strong attacking players. In fact, Wolfsburg relied on stopping Bayern’s advancement from the initial build-up and before reaching Wolfsburg’s half. And this created many problems for Bayern Munich’s players who found a lot of difficulties when trying to link defence to midfield and attack. Both Zadrazil and Magull were often marked by Popp, Huth like you can see in this picture and at other times by Blomqvist as well.
Moreover, Pajor had the duty of marking and disturbing the centre-backs while Engen and Oberdorf made sure that no attacking player remains unmarked in order to intercept crosses if Bayern’s centre-backs resort to that long-balls option.
This organisation and tight marking enabled Wolfsburg to attack more and intercept the ball a lot especially when Bayern players launch desperate passes to marked players like this example shows. Wolfsburg’s midfielders were attentive enough to automatically mark the ball holders whenever they get it and the numerical superiority granted by the full-backs at times and by the centre-backs at other times allowed Wolfsburg to be superior in terms of defending.
Preventing Bayern’s talented attacking midfielders and wingers from touching the ball freely and more importantly, not allowing them to have neither space nor time to give accurate passes towards the box was a crucial reason that served Wolfsburg a lot from a defensive perspective.
And even when Bayern got set-pieces and were able to cross balls towards the box later in the game, Wolfsburg were better in aerial duels and therefore we did not see any sort of danger during these Bayern chances apart from a few shots off target or in the hands of Kiedrzynek. And this shows that Wolfsburg defended very inside the penalty box as well to prevent Bayern’s attackers from touching the ball in that dangerous area.
Engen and Oberdorf’s build-up role
Building up from the back was essential in this match as it is very important in a large percentage of the matches especially when opponents try to press high or defend very well and with numbers. And to succeed in linking defence to midfield, the team needed players like Engen and Oberdorf to serve as players who resist pressing and know how to break lines with their passes. And in this match, Engen and Oberdorf were excellent in helping the defence by making a second defensive line and trying to intercept the ball as soon as Bayern players receive passes near the box. And apart from that, both of them played very well under pressure and did not surrender even when they got surrounded by opponents like in the example shown below.
Moreover, Engen was a key player in terms of passing in this match, she was often making the right passing decisions in midfield and this helped the team a lot in reaching the opponent’s half more frequently. She also made some no-look passes when she had players in front of her, and such passes broke the defensive lines of Bayern, like what happened in the following picture when Engen passed to the direction of Popp while completely excluding two opponents from the action.
Attacking realism and excellent finishing
Wolfsburg relied on both wingers to create danger along with Popp and Pajor who were moving constantly in the final third to receive and aim at shooting. Moreover, the two wingers had the freedom of moving centrally as well to act like an additional striker, and this confused Bayern’s defence during certain attacks like the one shown below.
In this action, Blomqvist moved towards the box and exchanged roles with Pajor who went to the left-wing, received the ball, ran and then passed to Blomqvist who was waiting inside the box, but unfortunately for the latter, the ball hit the crossbar and went out of the goal miraculously.
A few moments later Popp was able to score Wolfsburg’s first goal following Huth’s cross that fooled Bayern’s defenders and went through all of them to reach the unmarked Popp. This was a defensive mistake from Bayern but credit goes especially to Huth’s intelligent through pass and to Popp’s powerful shot as well.
Following this goal, Wolfsburg did not cease from attacking and continued getting scoring chances, and to prove this, it is sufficient to say that Hendrich, the team’s right-back, did not retreat following the goal but kept on joining the attack and made some dangerous triangular exchanges with Huth to exclude her markers and reach the box. And this worked for them several times like in this action in which Hendrich was also able to pass the ball to Popp who tried to score with a back-heel shot but failed to do it.
Huth was once again the source of danger for Wolfsburg since at the end of the first-half she made an assist to Pajor who escaped from her marker to get the ball and score with determination after Huth eliminated her marker with an accurate through pass. And this made the game even more complicated for Bayern while it gave a huge boost for Wolfsburg to keep on doing well in the second-half to secure their qualification.
And in the second-half, Wolfsburg defended very well and kept threatening Bayern’s defence as well mainly thanks to Popp’s efforts who was exceptional in this game and provided some key passes following her penetrations in midfield and at times on the wings as well. You can see below how she ran past her markers in this action and gave a through pass in the direction of the unmarked Huth to give her the chance of crossing it to Pajor who was running towards the goal. Such passes and actions occurred with continuity and Wolfsburg had the chance of winning with three or four goals in this match.
Wolfsburg made an outstanding reaction following their loss against Chelsea and qualified to the DFB Pokal final with a convincing performance against Bayern Munich who are one of the best European teams along with Barcelona, Chelsea, Manchester City, Arsenal, Lyon, and many others. And this will pave the way for them to return to their winning ways and have confidence in their abilities to challenge Bayern Munich for the league title knowing that the difference between the two is only four points.