Borussia Mönchengladbach – RB Leipzig: Leipzig Beaten At Their Own Game (3-0)
Leipzig’s philosophy is one which seeks to excel in transition phases, but here their counterpressing here was beaten by Gladbach, making it hard to establish control of the match. Their possession game was also unable to break through the Gladbach pressing, and they struggled to threaten as they suffered a 3-0 loss.
Tactical analysis and match report by Josh Manley.
Marco Rose secured an ideal result against his former club in his first match as RB Leipzig manager with a 3-0 win over Borussia Dortmund. For this match his side lined up in a 4-2-3-1 system, with Benjamin Henrichs, Willi Orbán, Joško Gvardiol and David Raum as the back four and Amadou Haidara alongside Kevin Kampl in the double pivot. Dominik Szoboszlai, Emil Forsberg and Kevin Nkunku were the three attacking midfielders behind striker André Silva.
Gladbach meanwhile had only been defeated once this season under Daniel Farke going into this match, including forcing Bayern Munich to drop points at the Allianz Arena. They also lined up in a 4-2-3-1 shape here, spearheaded by Marcus Thuram up front. Jonas Hoffman and Lars Stindl were the wide attacking midfielders, while Christoph Kramer was deployed in a number ten role. Julian Weigl and Manu Koné were the double pivot ahead of a back four comprised of Joe Scally, Marvin Friedrich, Nico Elvedi and Ramy Bensebaini.
Gladbach earn early lead
The home team were the ones who started the game more brightly in terms of their possession game, although neither team was able to perfectly get to grips with playing through the opponent’s press, something which became a theme in the match. However, Gladbach were able to take the lead within ten minutes thanks to Hofmann’s strike.
Both teams had some structural similarities with and without the ball. With the ball, both used a fairly narrow 4-2-3-1 shape, with the three attacking midfielders starting between the lines and the fullbacks providing the width.
Without the ball, again both were quite compact. Gladbach’s pressing scheme was a bit more man-oriented against Leipzig’s buildup, while Leipzig played a zonal system trying to block the midfield spaces and force Gladbach wide.
With the man-oriented pressing from Gladbach, there were sometimes spaces available behind the central midfielders when they were pulled further up the pitch by Leipzig’s central midfielders. The likes of Forsberg and Nkunku could exploit these spaces if the passes were good enough from the deeper buildup players.
Gladbach looked to press high early on.
Initially, Leipzig struggled to find the right passes, but this improved as the half went on and they were able to force Gladbach back more often, sometimes by playing wide first before moving the ball inside. However, in most cases, once the ball reached the final third, the play was not sufficient.
Leipzig are a side focused on transition phases, but their counterpressing was not the best here, as the first pass from Gladbach often was not closed down adequately and therefore able to get them out of pressure. This was also partly down to the good target-man play from Thuram, who they were able to locate with longer passes to start their own counter-attacks.
Gladbach made it 2-0 ten minutes before half-time on the counter-attack, with Thuram assisting Hofmann for his second goal of the match.
No chance for Leipzig recovery
Rose tried to revitalize Leipzig with two half-time changes, as Xaver Schlager replaced Haidara in midfield and Timo Werner came on in attack for Forsberg. However, before his changes could exert much influence on the game, they were already 3-0 down. The third goal was added by Bensebaini who benefitted from a failed offside trap from Leipzig after clearing the ball from a Gladbach corner. Stindl delivered the cross, and Bensebaini had plenty of time to control the ball and find the net.
If there was to be a Leipzig fightback in the second half, it was pretty much ruined by this goal. With the lead that Gladbach held, they were now sitting deeper and closing the spaces between the lines that Leipzig had wanted to exploit in the first half.
Struggling to build anything centrally against what was now quite a compact 4-4-2 shape in the Gladbach half, Leipzig needed to use the width well. While there were a couple of promising moments, natural width is not Leipzig’s biggest strength, and they struggled to convert approach play into chance creation.
Leipzig struggled to break down Gladbach’s compact 4-4-2 shape.
Thuram continued to be a good outlet for Gladbach on the counter-attack and a thorn in the side of Leipzig’s counterpressing. Gladbach continued to hold a scoring threat thanks to this, and Leipzig were never able to mount really convincing spells of pressure on the Gladbach box.
Yussuf Poulsen made an appearance from the bench in place of Silva, as did Hugo Novoa in place of Henrichs as Rose looked to add some width. Meanwhile Gladbach made a flurry of late changes, using all five substitutes in the final ten minutes with victory already secured. In truth the second half was relatively easy for Gladbach after their third goal, and they ran out comfortable winners.
Gladbach were a consistent threat on the counter-attack and they took their chances well once they reached the final third. They started out pressing aggressively, but also adapted well to sitting deeper once in the lead. Once they were able to prevent Leipzig’s central progression, they found it relatively easy to repel attacks.
Leipzig were disappointing in their inability to control the match better with their counterpressing, as the first pass for Gladbach was often not pressured quickly enough. In possession when they were chasing the game, they struggled to get into decisive areas following their circulation outside the Gladbach shape.
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