After a slow start into the second half of the season, Gladbach wanted to reduce the distance to the teams who are currently in a position for the Champions League qualification. Leipzig is one of those teams, however, Gladbach performed poorly and has to live with a 0:1 defeat. While Leipzig holds his third place in the league table
Dieter Hecking, coach of Borussia M´Gladbach used the normal 4-4-2 formation which they have used the whole season. Tobias Sippel had to replace Yann Sommer in goal, while Hazard played next to Stindl instead of Raffael. Both got supported by Grifo on the left wing and Herrmann on the right wing.
Ralph Hasenhüttl on the other side chose a 4-3-3 formation instead of the classic-Rb formation the 4-2-2-2. So, Timo Werner was the lonely striker and got supported by the two wingers Sabitzer and Bruma, however, both played as inverted wingers almost the whole game. In midfield, Diego Demme played as a holding midfielder in front of the back-four while Keita and Kampl supported the offensive players from deep.
Normally Leipzig is the team who focus on the transition phases and early ball recoveries. In this game, though they had a lot of possession because Gladbach similar to their approach against Bayern defended deeper in a compact central block with their two four-man lines. So, Leipzig got forced to create chances through having longer periods of possession.
Therefore, they used their central midfielders Kampl and Keita quite often. Both started the offensive actions in the halfspace. On each side, there were different tactical variations in order to break through Gladbach´s compact defensive shape.
On the right side, Konrad Laimer the right back pushed forward to offer a wide passing option while Sabitzer positioned in the space between the lines. Kampl started the attacks through his preferred right halfspace or even from the wing because he tended to move out of the centre to receive the ball. Kampl played a hybrid-role. He either occupied the halfspace or he supported Laimer on the right side. For instance, there were a few scenes in which Laimer received the ball and Kampl made an overlapping run. Furthermore, Kampl started a few attacks from the right sideline. In those situations, Leipzig tried to find a diagonal route from the wing into the halfspace or the centre. On the left side they tried to use quick combinations and dribblings from Keita and Bruma.
Keita received the ball in the centre with a lot of space. Due to the deep position of Diego Demme Leipzig had a 3v2 advantage and could easily overplay the first line. The graphic above shows the problems Leipzig had. Keita has a lot of space but no immediate passing option, except Kampl, but Keita didn´t see him. Werner, Sabitzer and Bruma as well as the right back Laimer, first of all, had to move into position which costs time. In the end, Leipzig was able to shift the attack to the right side after Sabitzer received the ball.
Leipzig biggest problem was the lack of speed during the attacking phase. They rarely switched the attack quickly from one side to the other, so Gladbach had time to shift and reduce the available space near the ball. Consequently, Leipzig got forced into tight spaces. After a pass in between the lines, Leipzig had no passing option to continue the attack.
Their first offensive line with Bruma, Werner and Sabitzer was quite flexible. Sabitzer regularly moved to the centre because Kampl and Laimer occupied the right side. Bruma also tried to connect with Werner and Sabitzer by moving into the centre or the halfspace. While Timo Werner moved a lot, he attacked the spaces between full-back and centre-back with off-ball runs or dropped deeper to support the midfielders. The problem was that Leipzig was not able to find his three offensive players between the lines or with passes behind Gladbach´s defense consistently.
Leipzig struggled to quickly switch sides. While Diego Demme had a deeper role to support the build-up Kampl and Keita quite often played deeper as well. So, Leipzig had five players in a deeper role which made it hard for them to quickly switch sides. However, those situations rarely happened, rather they overload one side but lost connection to the other side. However, the break Gladbach´s block you have to move them in order to open space.
Leipzig´s different formed pressing
Because Hasenhüttl changed the formation in which he lined up his team Leipzig shaped differently while the opponent had the ball. It was rarely observable that they pressed in their usual 4-2-2-2. In those few exceptions, one of the central midfielders (Keita or Kampl) joined Werner in the first line.
More often Leipzig pressed in a 4-1-4-1 formation. Out of this 4-1-4-1, they could easily switch to a 4-3-3 when they wanted to press higher. Very surprisingly Leipzig didn’t press the defenders of Gladbach regularly. More often they formed their 4-1-4-1 shape and settle a bit deeper near the halfway-line. That´s why Kramer or Zakaria, Gladbach´s midfielders received the ball in the space in front of the defensive line without any pressure.
However, when Leipzig wanted to press higher they could use their numerical advantage to cut passing options and passing lines for the ball carrier. Timo Werner´s task was to isolate the central defenders of Gladbach and therefore force the build-up to one side.
The wingers of Leipzig then pressed the central defender who had the ball while closing the passing line to the fullback with their cover shadow. In those situations, Gladbach had the problem that their shape was too far stretched out. They missed the support of their offensive players in the halfspace.
Here you can see how Leipzig pressed higher. Werner tries to cut the passing line for the ball carrier in the centre while Leipzig´s left winger presses the ball carrier and simultaneously blocking the passing line to the fullback. For Gladbach, it is almost impossible to play through the middle to advance into the middle third. When Zakaria receives the ball Keita and Kampl can press him. The other players of Gladbach are far away and not reachable for the central defenders.
Consequently, Gladbach had to play through the wing or try to find their offensive players through long difficult passes. With more supportive players in deeper spaces, Gladbach would have been able to break Leipzig´s pressing which was far from perfect. Normally Stindl and Hazard offered a passing option in the halfspace near the middle-line, however, in this game they stayed higher while the wingers positioned wider which created a numerical disadvantage for Gladbach in the centre.
Most of the time Gladbach could advance into the middle third because Leipzig settled deeper. However, Gladbach couldn´t find an opening and their offensive players Hazard and Stindl were rarely reachable between the lines.
Ginter has the ball in the left halfspace and gets pressed by Timo Werner. Leipzig´s compact 4-1-4-1 makes it impossible for Ginter to find Hazard between the lines because Leipzig not only closes the passing lines they also have a major numerical advantage.
The only option for Ginter would be to pass the ball to Kramer who could try to relocate the attack to the other side, but even that is risky due to Werner´s and Kampl´s position, furthermore, if Kramer wants to switch through the other centre back, Sabitzer could immediately apply pressure.
Because Leipzig was compact in the middle Gladbach had to attack through the wing. Quite often they had two players who positioned wider which made their offensive shape even more unconnected. When they start their attacks from the wing, the central midfielders and strikers supported the ball carrier. However, they were not able to construct a shape which offered them enough diagonal passing options to break Leipzig´s defence. So, Gladbach maybe had a superiority on one side of the pitch but the ball carrier couldn´t reach his team-mates. As a reaction, their offensive players pushed even more to one side. Consequently, they lost their width in their game and the attacking attempts were easily defendable for Leipzig.
Leipzig only struggled to defend some counter attacks from Gladbach which they focused on. With Stindl and Hazard Gladbach have players who have the skill to play precisive passes even in the smallest spaces. Therefore, Gladbach was able to play out of Leipzig´s counter-pressing and attack the zones behind the high defensive line of Leipzig.
In the first half, the game missed the chances for goals. Gladbach waited for counter-attacks and had to deal with his possession problems while Leipzig couldn´t find openings in Gladbach´s compact defensive shape.
At the end of the first half Gladbach was able to control the game because of the deeper defensive block of Leipzig, Gladbach could advance with the ball easier. However, they had the same connection problems as before. The same thing was observable in the second half. Because of the missing connections between Gladbach´s players, Leipzig had a lot of open space available when they intercepted a pass or could win the ball back. The same problems applied to Leipzig too. In the first half, Leipzig´s counter-pressing was better because they pushed the ball forward while forming a connected shape. In the second half they tried to force things and attacked quickly but simultaneously they missed out on covering the important spaces. So, their counter-pressing in the second half was not compact too.
This course of the game is typical for the German Bundesliga. A lot of teams have a solid structure and focus on having a solid defensive shape with a well-organised pressing and counter-pressing. In the second half of a lot of games the teams take more risks to score a goal, however, many teams don´t have a clear plan nor a perfect structure in possession. In the first half they mostly attack in a group, for example creating an overload on one side. In the second half many teams don´t focus on overloading instead they try to play fast towards the opponent´s goal which destroys the structure for a successful counter-pressing. That´s why lots of games in the Bundesliga are very hectic and wild in the second half.
In the end, Leipzig´s new loan signing Ademola Lookman scored the crucial goal. Because he received the space in the centre to dribble a few meters. Leipzig was the dominant team over the 90 minutes. Coach Ralph Hasenhüttl obviously tries to implement a structured possession game, in order to give his team more ideas to break down a compact defensive block. To install that Leipzig needs more time however they faced one of the most compact defensive blocks in the league.
On the other side Gladbach started slowly in the second half of the season, they lost three of the four games they played this year. They have to improve massively during their possession phases to be more dangerous in attack.