How Union beat another league leader in Gladbach

match analysis teaser

This is a teaser post of the Bundesliga Bulletin Newsletter, signups are available at 5$ per month or 50$ per year. Maybe like what you’ve read or you have a friend who’s a huge Bundesliga fan, you could

Give a gift subscription

In hindsight…

Perhaps Gladbach should have seen this coming, says the hindsight (bias) in many Bundesliga observers, after all on MD3, table-topping Dortmund came to the Stadion An der Alten Försterei. They met a tactically-sound, selectively aggressive, pressing and counterattacking side that firmly dispatched them, after BVB failed to take their chances in the first 20 minutes, while Union finished theirs via Marius “belter” Bülter and Sebastian Andersson. Maybe dr. Felix Brych could have foreseen it, after all he was also the referee on August 31st. At any rate, Union, 3-1 winners, also won the game on XG 2.1 to 1.8, just like on Saturday, where their 2-0 victory over league-leading Borussia (we’re like 2 more coincidences away from a listicle piece) Mönchengladbach was supported by 1.6 to 1.1 XG per the excellent, which uses Statsbomb data!

Fischer’s plan to stop the Foals

Union looked to have found something: due to Ingvartsen’s technical ability, he could play a number 10ish role in a 3-4-1-2 and while Sebastian Polter’s lack of those abilities saw him lose out to Anthony Ujah. The introduction of little-used Felix Kroos (brother of Toni Kroos, playing because of the 5th yellow picked by Robert Andrich, who has been one of the surprises of the season, coming from Heidenheim), especially in a double pivot with veteran Christian Gentner. Their tasks would be to almost man-mark Denis Zakaria and Florian Neuhaus, two of Gladbach’s creative hubs, while Ingvartsen’s pressing and cover shadow would try to stop the ball progression of Christoph Kramer. The gameplan was thus to press Gladbach very high, ideally to win the ball, but at the very least, stop Zakaria’s dynamism and Neuhaus’ ball progression from getting it forward to Thuram, Herrmann and Pléa. A long ball from Sommer was also a desirable outcome, as Gladbach’s non-Thuram attackers don’t pose much of an aerial threat.


Outside battles and aerial duels

Yet, the most interesting part of Fischer’s setup was on the outside: using the athletic Trimmel and Lenz vs. the Wendt-Lainer duo. Already in the 2. Liga, Union would press high with 6 players and you saw something similar even against Mainz.

The ball -near wingback (Lenz) would press higher, while the ball far (Trimmel) could tuck in (as seen above) against a team like Mainz which doesn’t attack wide with its strikers, but vs Gladbach who use the width well with Marcus Thuram, Trimmel would have a different task. His job, as you can seem from him being so deep with Thuram that he isn’t in this pic, was to help Marvin Friedrich out.

While the 6 man press did its job of making Yann Sommer play mostly long balls - the Swiss GK did have a few nice press-breaking cutbacks and passes - it sometimes left Oscar Wendt as the free man. The veteran Swedish LB however doesn’t always have the speed or the optimal positioning (played too far up in the first 30 mins) to hurt Union, so Trimmel could help out with the duels against Thuram.

Thuram would lead Gladbach with 13 aerial duels, winning 6 of them, while Friedrich’s 44% was the only Union defender with a sub 50% rate as his fellow defenders were in the 60-83% range on 18 combined attempts.

For the full analysis and much more Bundesliga content