Sarah Zadrazil : What makes the Austria and Bayern Munich star a world-class midfielder? – tactical analysis
Sarah Zadrazil is one of the most skilful midfielders in Europe at the moment. Her performances during Women’s Euro 2022 consolidated this fact even further after that she was a great contributor during all of Austria’s games against England, Northern Ireland, Norway, and Germany.
Zadrazil is not a young player, she is 29 years old and her career started at FC Bergheim / USK Hof in 2009. She had a brief American experience in 2015 when she played for the Washington Spirit Reserves before moving to Germany to play for Turbine Potsdam from 2016 to 2020, the year in which she was recruited by Bayern Munich, one of the most renowned teams in women’s football alongside teams like Lyon, Chelsea, PSG, Manchester City.
Zadrazil has been exceptional in both Bayern Munich and Austria’s midfield throughout the last few years as she contributed to numerous victories and put on some great performances in the Frauen-Bundesliga as well as in the Women’s UEFA Champions League. The player is known for her offensive skills and especially for her shooting and playmaking abilities. And at the same time, she is characterised by a powerful physical condition that allows her to win in duels.
In this tactical analysis scout report, the focus will be put on the Austrian’s positions, roles and skills. Moreover, the analysis will cover Zadrazil’s playmaking and offensive skills in relation to her teams’ tactics.
Positions and roles
Zadrazil is a midfielder who alternates between playing as a defensive midfielder and as a central midfielder. She plays with the same efficiency in these two positions whether on the right or on the left, knowing that her abilities allow her to be at her best in the defensive midfielder position since she has the physical abilities needed to defend and intercept passes while at the same time she can participate in the playmaking process from the back and advance to join attack whenever possible.
These are exactly Zadrazil’s roles at Bayern Munich as well as at Austria. It is true that she is not a goalscorer yet she proved on several occasions that she can score beautiful goals from different situations and with distinct techniques.
The experience acquired over the years gives Zadrazil a sense of responsibility that allows her to lead the midfield and be a captain on the pitch even if she is not wearing the armband. And that’s fundamental for both Bayern Munich and Austria since it gives stability and guarantees organisation in terms of movement and marking.
As the following heatmap shows, Zadrazil usually covers all midfield zones, advances and retreats a lot per match and knows how to conserve her energy for her defensive duties which change based on the opponent and on the team plan. But overall, Zadrazil’s roles are mixed and include both defensive and attacking ones, knowing that she advances to the final third so often.
Zadrazil’s passing accuracy average equals 79,6% while her successful passes to the final third reach 65,2% per game. These statistics mean and confirm that Zadrazil is not only a defensive midfielder but also a midfielder who has offensive duties and who executes them very well. She regularly provides assists and key passes to her teammates and contributes a lot to the build-up play and switching from one wing to the other in a smooth way.
In the following example, we chose to shed some light on how Zadrazil’s balance and physical abilities help her in some situations to create the difference. She uses her strength to keep the ball at her feet despite the disturbance and, at the same time, she manages to spot the adequate passing option and provides a complicated assist that was not expected by her opponents.
Moreover, Zadrazil applies pressing instructions in a perfect way especially when she gets some freedom to advance more often and when she is employed as a central midfielder. This pressing often brings its fruit for Zadrazil since she uses all her power and intelligence to anticipate passes and intercept the ball in dangerous places such as in the example shown below.
Zadrazil spotted the perfect timing for her intervention here as soon as she knew that her opponent’s pass was not 100% accurate. What was remarkable in this action is the quickness in making the passing decision and in executing it. Zadrazil provided the assist with her first touch in order to allow her teammate to win some time over her markers and have the space for shooting. Such playmaking skills allow Zadrazil to play as an advanced playmaker and excel at this role as well, knowing that she has all the characteristics needed to do it.
It is true that defensive midfielders are not really required to be excellent goalscorers, yet nowadays, head coaches need to have ten outfield players who can score as they know that their players can be put in goalscoring situations at any moment of the match and therefore, have players who can score increases teams’ winning chances. In fact, Zadrazil doesn’t lack defensive abilities as she wins 69,2% in defensive duels. The only aspect that she needs to improve is the aerial duels since she wins 47,3% in aerial duels.
From an attacking perspective, she averages 33,8% on target which is not a bad number for a defensive midfielder. Nevertheless, she has shown on the pitch that she can really be a solution in terms of goalscoring, especially in big games that need character and personality. She usually shows up on such occasions and perhaps the best example that consolidates this idea is her goal from long range against Chelsea in the 2021’s UEFA Women’s Champions League semi-final second leg. It was a powerful shot from distance that went through everyone until it hit the crossbar and fell inside the net.
In addition, Zadrazil knows when to exploit opportunities and advance without the ball towards the back of defensive lines in order to receive passes inside the box, acting like a proper striker. She scored a beautiful goal against Denmark lately by making use of her off-the-ball movement before finishing the action in a great way. Such movements often make defences struggle as they don’t expect such situations to be created with players like Zadrazil. They usually expect it from advanced playmakers, strikers or wingers, and that’s why penetrations from central or defensive midfielders are always dangerous.
Their unpredictability makes them even more fatal, but at the same time, these penetrations need to be finished well and that’s why not every midfielder can make successful penetrations. Zadrazil is the kind of player who knows exactly how to deal with these attacking situations successfully and she can improve on this aspect even further.
Zadrazil is actually one of the best midfielders in Europe and she is at her peak at the moment. The challenge for her is to keep improving and keep playing at the same level for more years. Putting on some solid performances in the upcoming World Cup would be excellent for her as well, especially if she plans on changing her team in the future and in finding a better opportunity, knowing that the player was already among the best midfielders during Euro 2022.