February 20, 2017

Match Day 6 Round Up – Köln and Kaiserslautern impress on derby day

Another week, another eventful match day in the Bundesliga.  Four red cards in the first five matches was an unusual occurrence for the league but indicative of a very combative round of football.  Köln got the result of the day with their impressive win in Leverkusen while Stuttgart, Mönchengladbach and Hoffenheim all recorded important wins.  Hamburg lost their fifth in six matches and remain at the bottom of the standings while Hertha Berlin, Augsburg, Werder Bremen and Nürnberg all had to share the spoils.

Below is a quick summary and analysis of the day’s two biggest results:

 Bayer Leverkusen 1 – 4 1. FC Köln – First glimpses of Solbakken’s system working

Formations, courtesy of spox.com

Since taking over, Solbakken has been scrutinized and his tactics questioned by media and supporters alike but he may finally have silenced some of those critics after Köln’s emphatic win and performance against Leverkusen in the Rhine derby, their first win there in 15 years.  The former Copenhagen manager said from day one that it would take some time to win his players over, get them to understand and learn his system and style of play and then execute it effectively on the pitch.  The learning curve resulted in a slow start to the season and despite Köln having some of the better passing and possession statistics in the league (6th in the league in both categories) they have been largely disappointing so far.  Against Leverkusen, Köln showed the first glimpses of that system coming together. Two goals from Podolski and one apiece from Novakovic and Jajalo rounded up Köln’s best performance of the season while Rolfes’s consolation goal was not enough to spare Leverkusen’s blushes.

Leverkusen had a couple of chances to score in the first half with Derdiyok and Schürrle coming close but Köln remained steadfast and combative.  The ability to retain the ball and win it back cleanly is another feature Solbakken has been working to instill in his squad. (Köln are 4th in the league in won tackles)  Another characteristic of Solbakken’s philosophy has to do with the use of space, particularly in midfield.  Whereas other sides are adamant in pressing their opponents into turnovers Solbakken emphasizes patience, positioning and organization.  The defense is an organic unit that moves in unison and almost baits opponents, which also explains the difficulty and time it takes to effectively implement it as a viable tactic.  The same applies to their midfield four where players operate in zones and have to maintain positional discipline at all times to either defend or attack.  It really is a system the truest sense of the word. A set of connected components forms a more complex and competent whole that when executed properly can have a tremendous stifling effect on the opponent.

Podolski and Novakovic's passing in the 10 minutes they scored 3 goals

Köln got Solbakken’s ideas right against Leverkusen and the more the match progressed the harder Leverkusen found it in the center of the pitch. Augusto and Rolfes had a combined 22 misplaced passes as a result of Köln’s disciplined and collective defending.  Riether and Jajalo did well to close any channels usually exploited by Rolfes and Augusto and as a result Leverkusen became perplexed in the final third.  More and more Leverkusen’s play became desperate and shapeless and that gave Köln the space and time to counter, resulting in three Köln goals in 10 minutes.  Podolski and Novakovic were left unchallenged for large parts of the match and always got the better of Leverkusen’s isolated and fragile defense.  At times Köln looked like an upgraded version of Slomka’s counter attacking Hannover, executing attacks with pinpoint precision and speed.  The game had effectively been decided after Köln’s third goal and Leverkusen were left wondering how they just conceded more goals in one match than their previous five games combined.  Perhaps Leverkusen suffered from the midweek trip to London but there was no denying Köln’s thoroughly executed performance.  With it, Solbakken proved that trust in a manager’s abilities and ideas along with patience can yield great results.

 Kaiserslautern 3 – 1 Mainz – Wide play dominates game

Marco Kurz celebrated Kaiserslautern’s first win of the season against Mainz, a welcome relief for the Red Devils as they are lifted out of the relegation zone for the first time.  Kaiserslautern delivered a spirited performance in the Rheinland-Pfalz derby while Mainz again squandered a lead and struggle defensively.  Choupo-Moting gave Mainz the go ahead goal but Kaiserslautern replied brilliantly and scored three unanswered through Sukuta-Pasu, Shechter and Tiffert.  Both teams were hit hard in the summer with numerous key players leaving, putting in doubt whether they could repeat their impressive respective seasons last year.  It has been a struggle for both so far so a win here was crucial if they wanted to reverse those fortunes.

It was a hard fought match with a total of 34 fouls. both sides eager to get all the points.  Mainz characteristically started in a very aggressive manner, which put Kaiserslautern on the back foot but it was Kaiserslautern who had the best chance early on through Shechter. It was another example of a lot expended energy from Mainz with little to show for it, which was becoming a worrying trend for Tuchel’s men.  That made the opener all that more surprising.  Allagui sent in a cross from the right, which Risse cleverly headed into the path of Choupo-Moting. Both teams did most of their attacking down the flanks and usually prefer to play out wide.  Bungert and Pospech were especially involved and so were Dick and Jessen for Kaiserslautern.  It was also where Kaiserslautern’s equalizer originated after Dick’s cross from the right was headed past Müller by Sukuta-Pasu.  Kaiserslautern then took the lead early in the second half after a Tiffert corner, which Müller parried into the path of Shechter.  Just like that Mainz were chasing the game.  Tuchel brought on attacking players Ujah and Ivanschitz shortly after only to be punished six minutes later.  This time, Jessen sent in a cross from the left, which was deflected by Riise, but anticipated by Tiffert and headed past Müller.

Passing game of Kaiserslautern fullbacks

Overall, Kaiserslautern made good use of their fullbacks and were able to outplay Mainz in midfield as a result. Although Tiffert and Walch started out wide both played very close to their central midfielders, giving plenty of space to Dick and Jessen to use or make overlapping runs.  Polanski had his poorest outing yet this season, losing 91% of his tackles in midfield while Kirch completed 27 passes and won 11 tackles. As was the case so often last season, when Tiffert played well, Kaiserslautern usually won.  Tiffert played his 200th Bundesliga match against Mainz and had his best performance of the season to date.  He was heavily involved all day, scoring the third and playing a part in the second.  While Mainz focused most of their game out wide, Kaiserslautern found a better balance between their wide and central play.  That begs the question; why does Tuchel insist on sticking with a tactic that has yielded so few results this season?

Other Results

Hamburg 0 – 1 Borussia Mönchengladbach

Goal: 0:1 de Camargo (65.)

Hamburg: Drobny – Mancienne, Westermann, Rajkovic, Aogo – Tesche, Rincon – Jarolim (69. Berg), Skjelbred (56. Son), Jansen (56. Töre) – Petric

Gladbach: ter Stegen – Jantschke, Brouwers, Dante, Daems – Marx (66. Nordtveit), Neustädter – Herrmann (66. Bobadilla), Arango – de Camargo (90.+4 Stranzl), Reus

Referee: Sippel

Attendance: 55.797

Yellow cards: Jarolim, Tesche / Neustädter, Reus, Arango

FC Nürnberg 1 – 1 Werder Bremen

Goals: 0:1 Ekici (23.), 1:1 Wollscheid (61.)

Red Card: Wiese (Bremen, 16.)

Nürnberg: Stephan – Chandler, Wollscheid, Klose, Pinola (46. Bunjaku) – Simons – Hegeler, Feulner, Mendler (60. Mak), Esswein (78. Wießmeier) – Eigler

Bremen: Wiese – Papastathopoulos (6. Schmitz), Prödl, Wolf, Ignjovski – Bargfrede – Fritz, Hunt – Ekici (65. Naldo) – Arnautovic (18. Mielitz), Pizarro

Referee: Drees

Attendance: 43.121

Yellow Cards: Eigler / Ignjovski

1899 Hoffenheim 3 – 1 VfL Wolfsburg

Goals: 1:0 Babel (20.), 2:0 Firmino (24.), 2:1 Dejagah (68.), 3:1 Firmino (85.)

Red Card: Hitz (Wolfsburg, 80.)

Hoffenheim: Starke – Beck, Vorsah, Compper, Braafheid – Rudy, Kaiser – Babel, Sigurdsson (63. Musona), Obasi (60. Mlapa) – Firmino (86. Williams)

Wolfsburg: Hitz – Hasebe, Russ, Kyrgiakos, Marcel Schäfer – Koo (46. Jönsson), Josue, Träsch, Polak (33. Dejagah) – Mandzukic (68. Ochs), Lakic

Referee: Fritz

Attendance: 26.850

Yellow Cards: Beck, Firmino, Vorsah / Josue

 Hertha Berlin 2 – 2 FC Augsburg

Goals: 0:1 Hosogai (21.), 1:1 Lell (46.), 2:1 Torun (57.), 2:2 Callsen-Bracker (64.)

Red Card: Langkamp (Augsburg, 86.)

Hertha: Kraft – Lell, Hubnik, Mijatovic, Kobiashvili – Ottl, Niemeyer – Ebert (79. Ronny), Raffael, Torun – Lasogga

Augsburg: Jentzsch – Reinhardt (73. Brinkmann), Sankoh (59. Möhrle), Sebastian Langkamp, De Jong – Hosogai, Callsen-Bracker – Gogia (85. Davids), Baier, Bellinghausen – Mölders

Referee: Schmidt

Attendance: 48.385

Yellow cards: Mijatovic, Ottl / de Jong, Reinhardt, Brinkmann, Callsen-Bracker

 SC Freiburg 1 – 2 VfB Stuttgart

Goals: 0:1 Harnik (33.), 0:2 Harnik (73.), 1:2 Cisse (85.)

Freiburg: Baumann – Mujdza, Barth, Ferati (27. Putsila), Bastians – Flum, Schuster – Reisinger (75. Dembele), Makiadi, Abdessadki (70. Jendrisek) – Cisse

Stuttgart: Ulreich – Boulahrouz, Tasci, Maza, Molinaro – Kvist, Kuzmanovic – Harnik, Gentner (63. Hajnal), Okazaki (79. Gebhart) – Cacau (85. Pogrebnjak)

Referee: Winkmann

Attendance: 24.000

Yellow cards: Barth, Makiadi, Jendrisek / Molinaro, Kvist, Cacau, Okazaki

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Cristian Nyari

Cristian is a football writer and analyst living in New York City, fascinated with the history and study of the beautiful game and all it entails. Follow Cristian on twitter @Cnyari

4 Comments

  1. Thanks for reading! You must be buzzing about Gladbach’s season so far. Favre must have already gotten the key to the city.

    Agree on Kaiserslautern and Freiburg by the way, think along with Augsburg they are the top candidates to go down.

  2. Outstanding review. I really like that you gives us the rest of the matches a line-up and everything. I think it’s a good week for Werder and M’gladbach. The former come up with a point from difficult situation and playing for the most of the match with 10 men. As for my club, M’gladbach, we still stunned the opposition by keeping the troubled HSV at bay.
    I still think lautern will face a relegation battle, but a repeat of Saturday’s desperate performance can get ’em out of the crisis. Overall I don’t like the depth of their squad as losing a host of crucial players is not helping them.
    The relegation battle would also include Freiburg. They are currently struggled with key players injury such as my favorite player Rosenthal and the skipper Butscher. But if Dembele got extra minutes and the new coach get used to the club things might change. Keep it up.

  3. “At times Köln looked like an upgraded version of Slomka’s counter attacking Hannover, executing attacks with pinpoint precision and speed.”

    Fully agree!

  4. Glad for Marco Kurz and the Kaiserslautern fans that the Red Devils got three points. And I hope the Koln win quiets those initially dissatisfied with Solbakken’s methods — he’s a proven winner. Good results for Gladbach, Stuttgart and Hoffenheim — looks like this will be another wild ride in the Bundesliga. Very interested in how Sunday’s games unfold.

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