Lena Oberdorf 2019/20 – scout report
Lena Oberdorf is only eighteen years of age. However, she has already built a reputation that surpasses her years. Already well in the German national side’s plans, making her debut at the World Cup last year, she is also the heart of SGS Essen. The Frauen Bundesliga side currently sit fourth in the table.
In this tactical analysis scout report, we will look at the young German in depth. One of her biggest assets is her flexibility in playing a variety of roles. We will look at what Oberdorf provides in both her club and national side, as well as look at which club she could potentially fit in at as she continues to progress.
As I mentioned above, Oberdorf’s greatest strength is her flexibility. She is capable of playing in many different roles for her sides, and will typically shift between various positions during matches depending on the team’s need. Below you can see her territorial coverage from this campaign, which shows the amount of time she has spent in different areas during this time.
In this analysis, we will look at the main positions that Oberdorf fills in. Her roles differ in the national side and for SGS Essen. However, both managers look to get the best out of the promising youngster in these positions using specific tactics that allow her to have an impact on all phases of the match.
For her club side, Oberdorf is extremely versatile. So far this campaign, she has played in four different positions: centre-half, centre-midfield, left-wing, and centre-forward. This type of flexibility is extremely unusual and is a testament to her ability. In each of these positions, she is capable of making a positive impact on the match.
Most of the time, Oberdorf (19) is played in central midfield. However, even here, she is extremely flexible with the role she plays. In the images below, you can see the average positioning of the SGS Essen side in two different matches. In the first, you can see her role as the deepest lying midfielder of the three they use when in possession. Here, she is tasked with dictating the game and using her defensive awareness to prevent opposing attacks from reaching dangerous areas. She is averaging over six interceptions per 90 this campaign, showing her intelligence with reading play. In the second image, her role has completed shifted, and instead, she is playing as a very advanced midfielder. Here we see some similarities in the movements she makes going forward in the national side. She is at her most dangerous once she has released a pass and looks to move beyond the opposition’s defensive set-up without possession.
SGS Essen try to utilise Oberdorf’s passing above all. Her range is staggering for a player of her age, and it shows in the statistics she puts up. Below you can see her totals for different categories of long passes. The ones that truly stand out are the major attacking ones. 100% accuracy on long passes into the box and vertical through passes is a huge testament to her ability to pick out a pass. Her 56 long passes in the opposition half with an 85.7% completion percentage shows her eagerness to get forward into the attack to help her side.
German national team
Getting the opportunity to be in the World Cup side in 2019, Oberdorf would probably not have expected to receive a huge amount of playing time. Due to her age and seniority in the side, it was a huge opportunity to travel with the side and gain experience. However, the 18-year-old was thrown directly into the mix, coming on in the second half of their first match and starting their second.
In the national team, Oberdorf is played as the left-sided centre-half. Here she is able to use her strength and physical presence in the air to be dominant against opposing strikers when out of possession. When Germany have possession, they switch from a four-back system to a three-back. Oberdorf is deployed on the left of this back three and is given a very unique role in this area. With the addition of the third player in this defensive line, it allows her to be more adventurous going forward. This is a huge asset for the German side, and will only continue to improve as she gains experience in time.
When Germany look to work attacks down the left side, Oberdorf is often a major part in these advances. When she plays a pass into the winger or central midfielder, she will look for opportunities to make forward runs. This will often include underlapping runs to support the winger and provide a passing option behind the defensive line, or as a decoy to not allow opponents to close down the German player in possession in these areas. You can see this in the example below.
Oberdorf plays it into the wide player who holds up play and assesses her options ahead. The centre-half is quick to move beyond her normal position and into an advanced position. She carries this run in behind and forces the opposition to keep their defensive line back, having to respect her run and attacking potency. This gives the player in possession and others around her the space to effectively work.
Movements such as this creates a difficult situation for the defending side. Typically in a position like hers, she will not have a direct marker. In this match we have taken the example from against Greece, they opted to allow her to have space in the centre-half area in favour of keeping more players in deeper positions. This being said, when she looked to move forward it became a question of who would pick her up when she did so. Apart from the attacking threat she represents, it also becomes an issue of other players getting free because of the extra need to mark her. In the image above, you can see the problem this creates. When Oberdorf moves forward in the half-space, it forces the opposition midfielder to have to turn her attention to the centre-half as the threat of her getting in behind through this channel starts to increase. With this, Germany’s central midfielder is now given more freedom to be able to move away from her marker and look for other room to make an impact on the attack.
When in possession for club and country, Oberdorf’s first instinct is to look for opportunities to get forward. As we discussed in the sections above, she is given the freedom to express herself in attacking areas even when she is originally played in a defensive role. The statistics speak for themselves when it comes to the young German. She averages three key passes per game, 27 completed progressive passes out of 30 attempts she averages per 90, and 2.44 progressive runs per 90. She leads her side in all of these categories and competes with the best in the league in them as well.
This stems from her ability to see the game in a very advanced way. She is adept in identifying space for her or her teammates. This specifically comes out in transitions. When Essen regain possession, Oberdorf instantly changes into being attacking minded, looking for space left open to catch opponents out. She is very successful with his, as highlighted by her impressive 90% completion rate on progressive passes.
In the image above, SGS Essen are set up in their defensive structure. The opposing team’s player in possession looks to make a forward pass only for Oberdorf to intercept it. She takes a quick touch to settle it before going to dribble forward
Immediately her eyes are upfield looking for options. She spots the gap down the left side of the pitch. She puts through a ball in behind for her striker to run onto, who narrowly misses scoring on the end of it.
Her flexibility has also allowed her to take up more attacking roles for SGS Essen. Multiple times this campaign she has lined up as a centre-forward or left-wing. When playing as a centre-forward, Oberdorf tends to play in a deeper position than her partner in a 4-4-2. Here she likes to look to hold possession up and combine with her midfield teammates as the whole side look to move forward after defending.
When in possession, Oberdorf likes to drop deeper as well. She looks for space to move away from her marker and present a passing option for her teammates. When she gets a pass, her first instinct is to turn and dribble forward. In the image below, we can see her drifting off into this space as the centre-half moves forward with the ball. Oberdorf is consistently surveying her surroundings to find the direction she wants to take the ball in once she receives the pass.
As soon as she receives the pass, she turns and runs straight at the opposition left-back. This forces the defender into a tough situation. With the winger providing a wide option, the defender must decide whether to allow Oberdorf the space in order to block off the wide pass or to step into Oberdorf in possession and risk giving up the wide pass. Oberdorf runs at the defender until she is forced to step towards her, and as soon as the defender moves in her direction she releases her winger down the channel.
While Oberdorf is very creative moving forward, she is often put into these defensive roles due to her dominance in these areas. She is successful in 59% of her defensive duels this campaign. Even more impressive, she wins 61% of her aerial duels. This is used in different ways for club and country.
For SGS Essen, the German international is tasked with much more attacking responsibility than for her national side. However, she is still relied upon for keeping the defensive line protected in matches where she is played in a deeper role. The club typically defend in a 4-4-2 formation. This set up provides a solid bank of four in front of the defenders to try and keep opponents away from goal. Oberdorf usually occupies the right centre-midfield position in this structure.
Oberdorf’s defensive positioning is what stands out the most in her game. When marking her player, she is always able to force the opposition to move possession into wide areas rather than work it through the middle. As soon as a pass is made into the centre of midfield, Oberdorf uses her physical presence to get tight to the opponent and press them from behind, restricting room in the middle of the pitch. With her doing this, the player with the ball is forced to look to move it backwards or out wide.
In the image we can see above, Oberdorf is occupying a higher position in midfield out of possession. As the centre-half controls the ball, she waits for the player to make a move. The centre-half looks to make a quick pass into her central midfielder to advance play.
As soon as this pass is made, Oberdorf quickly positions herself to defend the situation. She moves herself instantly into a deeper position on the back of the player now in possession. She cuts off the centre of the pitch which forces the attack backwards and towards the touchline. Her quick thinking and positioning restricted any potential for an attack through the centre of the field.
Her intelligence also allows her to protect her side in different situations. Playing centre-half, she is able to identify dangerous situations and drop in to help her defensive line when she is played in midfield. In the image above, we can see Oberdorf as the deepest midfielder in SGS Essen’s set up. As her centre-half looks to push forward with possession, she acknowledges that her teammate is about to be dispossessed.
Quickly, she falls back to fill in the left centre-half position. Her quickness allows her to help the side regain their defensive shape, and she blocks off the opponent’s inside pass, and instead, forcing her out wide and eventually to give up possession.
For all of the promise in Oberdorf’s game, there is still plenty of room for improvement as she continues to gain experience. One key area that the youngster can look at moving forward is in her decision making. As we have stated throughout this piece, her intelligence allows her to get into great positions throughout the match. However, we see her give up possession a little more than what would be preferred. She has completed 15 of her 32 attempted dribbles this campaign, and 30 of her 63 attempted offensive duels.
Something such as this will undoubtedly come with time. As she finds herself in different situations more often, picking the right option for each will become an instinct, especially for a player as intelligent and talented as Oberdorf.
While Oberdorf would be best served spending another year or two with SGS Essen, it is worth looking at where she could possibly be the best fit for moving forward. The obvious but arguably most suitable destination for her is Wolfsburg. The German champions will definitely be keeping close tabs on the youngster as she continues to develop, and it would not be surprising for a bid to come in in the next year.
Oberdorf’s flexibility fits in perfectly in a side like Wolfsburg. While there are regulars in each position, every player is capable of playing just about every position on the pitch. This gives them the ability to be as dynamic as they are. As we have shown in this analysis, she has all of the tools to fit into the numerous roles she would be given at Wolfsburg. Her defensive awareness and passing range, highlighted by her nine deep completions this campaign, would allow her to fill in the role of the holding central midfielder typically occupied by Gunnarsdottir. Higher up the pitch, her familiarity with playing as the most advanced midfielder at SGS Essen could benefit her in playing the role of the attacking central midfielder. Wolfsburg’s possession set up includes one of these central players joining the attacking line and playing as an inside forward. Oberdorf’s intelligence in her forward movement and runs off of the strikers would make her an ideal candidate for this role at Wolfsburg.
Lena Oberdorf has the football world at her feet. The sky is the limit for the German international as she looks to build upon what has already been an extremely successful career for a player so young. While she is talented enough to play in various positions throughout the pitch, it is likely we will see her become more regularly played in a defensive and holding role. Her defensive abilities paired with her timing on her forward runs make her a very important piece to any side she is a part of. A holding midfield role in a double pivot which allows her the freedom to advance forward when opportunities arise could be the system that brings the best out of the 18-year-old.