Tactical Analysis: Leverkusen 2-3 RB Leipzig — Two Strong Ball-Oriented Sides In An Intense Battle

Bayer 04 Leverkusen vs RB Leipzig. The battle of two pressing-sides. Two strong ball-oriented clubs, as they faced each other on an intense-Friday night in Leverkusen. After 90 minutes, Leipzig came out as the winner.


The starting line-up before Compper got injured. Marvin Compper was taken out and subtituted by Benno Schmidtz. Stephane Ilsanker, who started at the right hand side, shifted to the center as Schmitz was plotted as the full-back.

Bayer Leverkusen

As usual,  the formation of Roger Schmidt was a 4-2-2-2 basic shape in their pressing -play.–  a resting-press that allowed some space and time for the opposite central-defender to hold the ball but blocked any possible chances through the center.

On attack, there were many interchanging positions, particularly between the striker-duo and the two advanced-wingers. Admer Mehmedi and Hakan Calhanoglu kept moving across the pitch whether to help create an overload or got involved in the execution-phase. Both wingers, especially Julian Brandt, were often found roaming far from the left hand-side to the right.

The Leverkusen press also impacted Leipzig;s decision in playing as many as long-balls forward. But, on the other hand, this also came along with the typical build-up of Hassenhuttl’s boys. One scheme of the away side build-up relied on the strength of Yussuf Poulsen in bringing his teammates into play by utilizing his abilities in winning aerial-duels and hold-up the ball..

When in possession and started from the back, Leverkusen took a more patient approach as, if it was possible, they tended to circulate across the back line to find any open space while RBL was involved in horizontal shifting. To go against Leipzig’s two-forward press, Schmidt’s men often displayed a three at back + one player at six look. The three at the back had a distinct purpose — it established an invite for RBL’s second-line of press to come out to press the half-back, as it might create progression access through the flank.

It was basically a good idea, but it was not easy as it might appear. At times, Leverkusen’s back-line seemed to be too quick in releasing a floated long ball forward despite the lack of an intense press to force them to do so. On  other occasions, Die Werkself were unable to find or create clean access to progress through Leipzig’s press.

In their progression, Leverkusen’s players displayed some strong ball-orientation moves as they had to overload the ball-side areas to penetrate through the near-flank or half-space. One of their best moments occurred during the  8th minute. The three at back managed to access the flank after some horizontal-circulation. Leverkusen progressed via Benjamin Heinrich, the fullback, and generated space to penetrate into the deeper of RBL’s defense by overloading the ball-side half-space.


Leverkusen progressed through he flank.

Having dropping deeper and received a pass from Jonathan Tah, Heinrich got further forward to the upper-zones. The near-side #6, Baumgartlinger, came close in case the right back needed support. As Heinrich moved forward, the near-side #6 stayed deeper to cover the deeper ground.


Overloaded the ball-side half-space.

When they could not generate such play within the deep-area circulation, Baumgartlinger acted as an additional defender by dropping deep to the space between the central defenders. That was enough to ensure the numerical-advantage, but it was hardly an effective way to progress, since the #6 movement had just resulted in a stable circulation in the first-line without much impact to the progression directly. This was why many of Leverkusen’s progressions were made through the wide-area.

In their 2nd phase of play and final-third penetration, Leverkusen displayed two different tactics. You can see the first one above. They overloaded the near-side to find the way through the same-side. The other tactic overloaded the ball-side to open the space on the opposite-side. In this second tactic, Leverkusen used the full-backs as the passing targets of the switch.

Such switch-play had also showed how good Leverkusen’s ball-oriented movement was. The overload was stable as Leverkusen managed to play the proper ball-orientation which was supported by many players capable of playing in the tight space. It was also stable because of the support from the #6 who stayed deeper and acted as the deep-lying midfielder in the local-overload. In many scenes, the #6’s positioning enabled him to be the wall who bounced forward the back-pass.

Leverkusen’s first goal was a good example of their tactical execution.  Baumgartlinger made two one-touch passes to keep the circulation alive before Leverkusen managed to confuse RBL’s defense by generating a third-man run play.


The process of the 1
st goal.


The scoring situation unfolded after Baumgartlinger’s second one touch pass to Wendell. The third man run was acted by Brandt. The youngster made an arch run, received a through-pass from Calhanoglu, and provided the game-opening goal by Kevin Kampl.

RB Leipzig

Similar to how Leverkusen approached the final-third penetration, the visiting side also displayed their strong ball-orientation since they needed to overload the ball-side area to generate penetration opportunity. RB Leipzig’s players were exemplary in executing such a scheme.

They had to face an intense press by Schmidt’s boys but found success thanks to the spacing,close distance, and staggering which established some useful collective pressure-resistance. Hasenhüttl’s troops were just amazing at playing in the tight space. A fast combination using one-touch passing helped Leipzig  by-pass Leverkusen’s press.

But, in contrast to Leverkusen, Leipzig clearly felt comfortable relying on long-ball play more than the home side did. RBL didn’t play out of the back, but tended to directly play the floated-long pass to Poulsen. In other opportunities, they played the flat long ball forward to Timo Werner who often occupied the wide area in RBL’s counter-attacks. The latter had been one of the prime schemes playing directly to Werner’s proven ability to dribble with pace and agility. With Leverkusen  known as a highly-compact side more than happy to keep it extremely narrow in the center, Werner;s wide-area occupation seemed to be a potentially highly-successful tactic..

Emil Forsberg’s role in penalty-area penetration was extremely important. The 25 year-old Swede provided a lot of strategic options by tucking in from the left to the center. From the 10 area, Forsberg was able to connect the middle and forward line as well as made a late move making use the open space created by the #9-duo.

In the second-half of the match, with RBL trailing 2-1 and about 25 minutes remaining, Hasenhüttl decided to bring Oliver Burke in to replace Poulsen. This substitution was clearly intended to load more speed into Leipzig’s attack. Also, Burke has a better ability in playing in a tight-space than Poulsen.



Werner and Forsberg swapped position. Fo