Bayern Munich 4-1 Eintracht Frankfurt

The formations.

A quickfire second half double saw Bayern Munich leapfrog Frankfurt in the table and move to within five points of the Champions League spots.

From the off, Bayern deployed their usual pass n’ patience tactics in the face of a 4-5-1 – part and parcel of being the visiting side at the Allianz Arena. Louis van Gaal had two playmakers on the pitch in Bastian Schweinsteiger and Toni Kroos, and two direct attackers in Franck Ribéry and Thomas Müller. With so many options in the Frankfurt half, Michael Skibbe kept his banks set, rather than pressing Bayern vigorously and leaving gaps for them to exploit.

Nevertheless, Theofanis Gekas’s game is based on running, so he was left to hurry the centre-backs and Anatoliy Tymoschuk. Not only is the Greek international highly effective at doing this, it also helps him score goals. In the first half, Gekas forced several errors from Daniel van Buyten and Breno, and at one point found himself one-on-one with Hans-Jörg Butt. However, the former Portsmouth striker fluffed his lines, and Sonny Kittel did little better with the follow-up.

The 17-year-old Kittel was making just his fourth appearance for Frankfurt, and was a thorn in the side of Bayern down the left. Quick to join in or make counter-attacks (something Frankfurt did decisively – no second thoughts, no holding and waiting for Bayern to flood back), Kittel also sent in a series of testing set pieces for Marco Russ, Halil Altintop, Aleksandar Vasoski & co. to hurl themselves at.

On the subject of big guys and headers, Skibbe’s primary tactic at restarts involved long punts to the centre circle for the 1.96m-tall Alexander Meier to flick on for the deliberately semi-circular midfield three and Gekas hovering behind him in amongst Bayern’s defenders. Yet when they got the ball down in Bayern’s half, the lack of space available saw Frankfurt panic, and either squander possession, or pass back to Ola Nikolov. Continue reading

Legia Warszawa 3-0 Arka Gdynia

The starting formations.

Adam Wysocki thinks Legia were lucky to win this weekend after a helping hand from Japan…

Legia Warszawa were indebted to a pair of goalkeeping errors and an incorrectly awarded penalty as they beat a Arka Gdynia side who bossed the game.

Arka manager Dariusz Pasieka started the game with a 4-1-2-2-1 take on the 4-5-1 formation. Michał Płotka was deployed as the defensive midfielder-cum-third centre-back, as Pasieka instructed just three of his players to station themselves offensively. That trio did a decent job of pressing high up the pitch in the first half-hour, forcing Legia’s backline into playing hurried long ball football.

However, Arka were often too passive in possession, and only knew how to attack their opponents on the break. Nevertheless, this tactic delivered a golden opportunity in the 20th minute, but Marcin Budziński fluffed his lines.

Legia, meanwhile, lined-up in a 4-2-3-1 formation similar to the one used last week against Wisła Kraków. Miroslav Radović played as the left-sided attacker, Maciej Iwański to his immediate right, and on-loan Flamengo man Bruno Mezenga was left to plough a lone furrow up top.

Pasieka has proven in recent seasons that he’s adept at setting his sides up defensively, so it was no surprise to see the visitors nullify the threat posed by the home side. Warszawa couldn’t get close to Arka’s ‘keeper initially, and soon watched on as the visitors eased into the game and monopolised the goal attempts. Continue reading

St Pauli 1-1 Wolfsburg

The formations that started the game.

Wolfsburg were held by an industrious St Pauli side but might consider themselves lucky to escape with a point after an abysmal first half performance.

St. Pauli were on a bad run of form coming into this round 13 match, with just one victory in six. They’d gone 265 minutes without scoring (keeping their record as the Bundesliga’s lowest scorers in the process), despite the fact that just a few weeks ago, they were riding high in sixth spot.

VfL Wolfsburg, meanwhile, arrived at the Millerntor seeking only their second away success of the season. It looked like they’d have to do it without their prized attacking trio though, as Grafite, Diego and Edin Džeko were all deemed doubts. However, the latter pair were eventually passed fit to start.

St Pauli pressed Wolfsburg all over the pitch from the off, and ensured the visitors were never allowed to control the game. Physically stronger and mentally hungrier, Holger Stanislawski’s 4-1-4-1 compensated for the potentially exposable length of the pitch it covered by keeping the midfield bank of four mobile – up and down, up and down, keeping Die Wölfe at arm’s length. Continue reading

Republic of Ireland 1-2 Norway

The formations that started the game

Norway continued their fine recent form by beating Ireland on a rainy Wednesday night in Dublin.

From the off, Ireland were moving well against a compact Norway side set out in three very flat banks (4-5-1). But although Ireland retained possession, and had passing options, the ball was stuck in harmless areas. Despite the Irish being set out in a 4-4-2, you could argue that they actually had four banks – the widemen pushing up higher than the very deep centre-midfielders.

Nevertheless, coach Giovanni Trappatoni will have been pleased with his attackers; Kevin Doyle, constantly dragging either Brede Hangeland or Henning Hauger out of position, and Shane Long always offering his colleagues run (either through the D, or down the left channel).

Norway were determined to play just as narrowly in attack as they were in defence. The tactic failed, however, because their players ended up on top of one another, and unsure of what to do, where to go and who was seizing the initiative.

The Irish were far more comfortable in possession, and relished the low tempo of a game where neither side did much pressing. Unsurprisingly, they took an early lead. John O’Shea stepped out with the ball after single-handedly breaking down a Norwegian attack, and slipped Shane Long clean through in the box. Continue reading

Wisła Kraków 4-0 Legia Warszawa

Goals scored by Piotr Brożek (41', 60'), Patryk Małecki (50'), & Cezary Wilk (84').

Andrzej Gomołysek believes these two title contenders have many improvements to make if they’re to go on and win the championship…

Wisła and Legia are two sides that encapsulate the unpredictable nature of the Ekstraklasa. So it was no surprise to see such a scoreline when the pair came face-to-face here.

The sides entered the game in very different moods: Legia on cloud nine after five wins in a row, eating up a significant chunk of the ground separating them from Korona Kielce and Jagiellonia Białystok at the top in the process (the pair of whom met at the weekend, sharing a 1-1 draw).

Wisła, meanwhile, had just lost in Poznań, and barely won against Cracovia in the derby. To make matters worse, Dutch coach Robert Maaskant decided to leave former Ajax winger Nourdin Boukhari on the bench for this match.

Instead, Biała Gwiazda lined up with Łukasz Garguła at trequartista, Tomáš Jirsák in centre-midfield, and Radosław Sobolewski mopping up behind them.

Legia coach Maciej Skorża lined his midfield up in a similar centrally-aligned fashion; Maciej Rybus at the heart, Ivica Vrdoljak mopping up behind him, and Miroslav Radović and Sebastian Szałachowski flanking the foremost two attackers.

Wisła hit the ground running, and attacked their guests from the off. Maaskant was using Jirsák as a playmaker, and although the Czech international put in a decent performance, his passing was as frustratingly inconsistent as it has been all year. Likewise, he’s not one to control the flow and tempo of a game either. Continue reading

Bayern Munich 3-0 Nuremberg

The first half formations.

Louis van Gaal tactically outwitted Dieter Hecking and set Bayern Munich on their way to a comfortable victory in the Bavarian derby.

Having converted Bastian Schweinsteiger into a defensive midfielder-cum-quarterback last season, Bayern’s Dutch manager elected to use the one-time winger in a more advanced position for the visit of Nuremberg.

Often exponents of the 4-2-3-1 system so popular in the world game today, Bayern started in a formation that resembled a 4-5-1 at its most languid, and a Christmas tree at its most attacking.

With both defences looking to stand high, and the visitors content to let Bayern have time on the ball, 20 outfield players were competing for space in a vicinity of the pitch encompassing around a quarter of its overall dimensions.

Bayern felt their way in using the calm manner Bundesliga fans have become accustomed to, and had both Tymoschuk and Schweinsteiger shuttling back to collect the ball off the hogging centre-backs.

However, Hecking had instructed Julian Schieber – joint top of the assists chart with Lewis Holtby – and the nearest midfielder nearest to vigorously press the piano-carrier. Continue reading

Hannover 0-4 Borussia Dortmund

The starting positions/general positions of the players

Dortmund condemned Hannover to a fourth defeat in six games as Jurgen Klopp’s side moved four points clear at the top of the table. Die Borussen set a new record in the process by becoming the first ever top-flight side in Germany to win each of their opening six away games, and the win, with goals from four different players, also keeps Dortmund tens points ahead of the Champions League chasing-pack.

From the first peep, Hannover saw more of the ball, but only in harmless areas. Good Dortmund pressing forced hurried decisions, and prevented Hannover from doing much. Mirko Slomka had his side invite pressure near their own goal by getting Florian Fromlowitz to roll short. The idea was to entice the league-leading visitors higher up the pitch as a unit, Hannover then scooping a ball over the top for either one of their alert strikers to run with, or feeding a wideman to carry down the channel and get the Dortmund defence back-pedalling.

However, Jurgen Klopp’s side are as ruthlessly disciplined as they are fit.  Dortmund harried Hannover into submission by hunting and biting in packs of three (particularly in the centre, where one of the deeper midfielders pushed up, and Mario Götze pushed in). Then, keeping their defence deep, they recycled possession and came forward themselves. And what a sight the stream of yellow shirts piling upfield is! Dortmund counter-attack with careless abandon, and are able to do so because neither full-back has a second thought about flying forwards. With the nominal attackers all still high after pressing the first ball, bodies abound for the carriers to either feed, or use as decoys. Continue reading