Bundesliga Review – Week 7

After two arguably incompetent coaches on the sideline for Wolfsburg, in Martin Schmidt they’ve now got their hands on a proper coach that knows what he wants, but how does the current squad fit his infamous tactics?

Schmidt’s tactics are certainly that, infamous, believe me. Ask any Bundesliga-fan and they’ll know that the former 1. FSV Mainz 05 head coach played aggressive gegenpressing with quick attacking football. It was never a secret and it’s hardly a rare thing to see nowadays in football. Many coaches have tried and succeeded, but as many coaches have tried and failed with this highly aggressive pressing system. Therefore, let us first establish what is needed for a high pressing system and through that we can answer the question of how the current squad at the club fits into this system of Schmidt.

In a high pressing team you need a few components. First of all you need players who are good at doing the pressing itself, quick and agile wingers, strikers and midfielders who help each other in order to achieve a team goal, which is to win back the ball.

The second component is a press-resistant midfielder, a player who is not stressed when pressed. This is crucial due to the fact that a gegenpressing system relies upon the team itself being able to endure pressing, in order to then press the other team. To be able to do that you need to have one or two press-resistant players in the squad, players who can actually grab the chaotic game by its neck and guide it in the right direction. This player should also be the one supplying the counter-attacking passes when the ball is subsequently won.

Then you need a reliable goal scorer. You can’t win back the ball that high up the pitch, counter-attack with lots of players and then loose the ball. You need a man who can score the vast amount of chances you’ll get if the system is played right.

Now, Wolfsburg’s team has certainly not been used as it should have been. It might seem obvious if you look at the results, but it truly hasn’t. This is a squad made for a pressing manager, not the possession game that Valérien Ismaël and Andries Jonker tried to play. This is a squad assembled for one sole purpose and that is to win back the ball after losing it and to do that quickly. Players like Landry Dimata, Paul-Georges Ntep and Yunus Malli are perfect for pressing high up the pitch and the newly bought Ignacio Camacho is a perfect example of a press-resistant midfielder. Players like Yannick Gerhardt and Max Arnold fit like a glove in this possible new system and things might now look much brighter for the Wolves from Lower Saxony.

The prospect of Schmidt reuniting with Malli in this pressing system is very exciting as well and we might just see another level of creativity during the remainder of this season. During the games under Jonker, creativity was always an issue. Wolfsburg fans are used to goals, used to entertainment, but under Jonker and Ismaël that was not to be found. Football became a ghost that haunted the minds of the once so devoted fans of VfL. If that’s the case however, you may call the Swiss Schmidt a proper Ghostbuster.

Schmidt at Mainz was fantastic at times and you just wondered what would have happened had he received more funds from the club itself. Now he’s at a wealthy club, one of Germany’s richest, he can apply his knowledge and experience as well as his tactics to a squad basically assembled to do the very thing he wants it to do. For what it’s worth, it would not be a surprise if Schmidt emerges from this interesting gig as the Jürgen Klopp of Wolfsburg.

1 | A 3-0 defeat at PSG on Wednesday meant that Bayern Munich fans had got what they wanted the following day. Carlo Ancelotti had departed the Bundesliga club following a poor run of form. Just two defeats in nine Bundesliga and European games combined may not seem a bad return for the majority of clubs but for Bayern Munich it’s a run of form that needed dealing with and a decision was made which resulted in the sacking of the Italian.

Made by the Bayern Munich board, it’s a decision that has divided fans and from the outside looking in, it’s a bit like supporting Arsenal in a way that two sets of fans have opposing views. Some wanted Ancelotti to stay, the others wanted him to depart. But their run of form may go a little deeper than the head coach. Neither Franck Ribery, Arjen Robben nor Thomas Müller have reached their usual standards this season which has seen Bayern slump, throwing away a two-goal lead against VfL Wolfsburg, which was the last straw in the league for Ancelotti.

Some have criticised the transfer dealings made throughout the summer, while even Robert Lewandowski has questioned Bayern’s recruitment policy, telling Spiegel: “Bayern has to come up with something new and be creative, if the club wants to keep luring world-class players to Munich. And if you want to keep up at the very highest level, you need these players’ quality.”

Many have also criticised Ancelotti’s training methods while many fans question as to why he wasn’t sacked in the summer after just one season. Under the Champions League winning coach, Bayern haven’t progressed as well as they had hoped, instead stagnating – as MiaSanRot journalist Susie Schaaf put it in a tweet: “Boring football. No fresh ideas. Tried to pound a square peg in to a round hole.” That statement alone is shared by a large share of fans. It’s also worth noting that Ancelotti’s sacking is the earliest Bayern have dismissed a manager, being the only time they’ve rid of a manager before December.

After Bayern’s 2-2 draw at Hertha BSC on Sunday, once again throwing away a two-goal lead, the Bundesliga champions find themselves five points behind leaders Borussia Dortmund who are thriving under new head coach, Peter Bosz.

Poor performances, stagnating training methods and senior players turning against him, it was time for Bayern to react. With Willy Sagnol now instated as interim head coach, it’s a period of change for Bayern Munich. The chances of them winning the Bundesliga have now diminished, but it remains equally important that they qualify for the Champions League. Whoever comes in next whether it’s Thomas Tuchel or Julian Nagelsmann, they need a platform to build on.

2 | Everything may have gone for them last season but at the minute, Cologne really can’t catch a break. One of two teams currently winless in the Bundesliga this season, the other being Werder Bremen, FC sit on one point with just two goals in seven games. They already need three wins to get out of the relegation zone and of course, that’s only if results go their way.

Their 2-0 defeat against RB Leipzig on Sunday epitomised their performances this season. They’re creating chances but they’re just not scoring, which perhaps goes to show just how much they relied upon 25 goal striker Anthony Modeste last season. Qualifying for Europe for the first time in 25 years, Cologne hit the woodwork three times against Red Star Belgrade on Thursday night, succumbing to a 1-0 defeat at home while Sunday was a similar story. The best they’ve started a game this season, Peter Stöger’s side could well have been 2-0 inside 20 minutes, with Yuya Osako missing key chances – his goal eventually came but 10 minutes from the end, it was too late.

Milos Jojic missed a glorious opportunity while RB were clinical in front of goal, with Lukas Klostermann and Yussuf Poulsen netting. €17 million signing Jhon Cordoba, brought in to replace the goals of Modeste, tried his best as he always does but like the rest, failed to find the net. With Jonas Hector and Marcel Risse already out injured, the last thing they needed was the Colombian to pick up a muscle injury, which could see him out for around one month. On Friday, Cologne completed the free transfer of 38-year-old Claudio Pizarro, the Bundesliga’s highest-scoring foreigner and his introduction on Sunday was nothing less than expected. He assisted Leonardo Bittencourt with practically his first touch, only for it to be ruled out for offside, marginally. It really does sum of their season so far.

The international break probably comes at a good time for FC and with VfB Stuttgart up next in two weeks, it’s surely only a matter of time until they get their first three points of the season.

3 | If the Bundesliga does one thing right it’s foreign imports, namely from Japan. A plethora of players from the Asian country have featured in German football for a number of years and just some of the names include the likes of Shinji Ono, Atsuto Uchida, Shinji Okazaki, Hiroshi Kiyotake and a number of others. MD7 of the Bundesliga was certainly one that favoured current Japanese players in the Bundesliga.

Borussia Dortmund’s Shinji Kagawa became the all-time Japanese top scorer in Germany, scoring his 38th league goal with a delightful chip against hapless Marwin Hitz, in goal for FC Ausgburg. One time Chelsea target Yoshinori Muto also rescued a point for 1. FSV Mainz 05 against Wolfsburg on Saturday while Japan international Yuya Osako also scored a late consolation for Cologne against RB Leipzig.

Hamburger SV’s Tatsuya Ito made his debut for the club and at just 20-years-old, he looks to be a real talent if Saturday evening was anything to go by. It’s not easy to make your debut against your fierce rivals – in this case, Werder Bremen – but Ito did just that. Small and agile, the young winger isn’t afraid to take on his marker and although wasteful in the area, his decision making will come with game time and more experience. It’s certainly a good start to life in Germany for Ito.

Elsewhere, it’s as though Genki Haraguchi perhaps isn’t appreciated just as much as he should be. Making the move to Germany in 2014, the 26-year-old already has 102 games in all competitions for Hertha BSC while his performance against Bayern Munich on Sunday was arguably his best yet. His silky, Messi-like feet inside the area assisted Ondrej Duda to score Hertha’s first of two against Bayern Munich.

It’s easy to forget just how many Japanese players have made a name for themselves in Germany, while we can no doubt expect this continue, perhaps even more so now that we’re seeing an increasing number of clubs head to Asia for their pre-season tour.

By Axel Falk & Daniel Pinder.


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