The Wildparkstadion played host to a surprising top of the table clash as Karlsruhe welcomed Hamburger SV on Sunday afternoon. The hosts have had a strong start to their return campaign in the 2. Bundesliga with wins over Wehen Wiesbaden and Dynamo Dresden whilst disposing of Hannover in the DFB Pokal. However, they enter on the back of a 2-1 defeat at Holstein Kiel where they were a victim of their own demise after a strong opening phase. Hamburg on the other hand are unbeaten heading into matchday four after a win at home to Bochum last time out.
This tactical analysis takes a look at a thoroughly entertaining fixture where north meets south. Yet it was Hamburg who prevailed with a 4-2 victory which sees them remain top of the 2. Bundesliga table for another week.
Despite succumbing to defeat on matchday three, Alois Schwartz opted to maintain the starting 11. The only difference coming in formation, instead of a 4-4-2 Schwartz opted for a 4-1-3-2. Allowing Wantizek to be more progressive in the final third with Lukas Fröde shouldering more defensive responsibility in the lone six role.
Dieter Hecking made the one change from the side that took victory last time out with Khaled Narey coming in for Jeremy Dudziak. Hamburg also saw a shift in formation with Narey’s inclusion, 4-1-4-1 was replaced with 4-2-3-1. Sonny Kittel playing behind Lukas Hinterseer with Narey playing out wide.
Hamburg’s ability to exploit the wide areas
Whether it was a plan going into this game for Hecking, Hamburg had a field day utilising the wide spaces when going forward. In attacks, 33% came from the left hand attacking side and 38% came from the right. They were able to do this through their ability to break down the Karlsruhe press in early phases and with spaces to exploit, playing the ball out wide and allowing options like Hinterseer to be targets further on.
The initial scenario is early in the game and we can see how Hamburg are able to open pockets of space in midfield, exploit those and create an attack. Gideon Jung plays the ball into space and allows Kittel (out of shot) to come towards. The hope is to draw the player closest to David Kinsombi towards Kittel.
Wantizek is indecisive and at the moment Kittel wheels around and plays to Kinsombi. Kinsombi can turn and go which opens up the space in behind Dennis Roßbach. The ball is played to Narey who has options to cross. Whilst the opportunity isn’t fruitful, it became increasingly evident that this would be a focal point for Hamburg going forward.
Hamburg continued to persist with this method and 12 minutes before half time they would extend their advantage. We start with Kittel on halfway who has received the ball from Adrian Fein. Fein has done the hard yards by breaking the Karlsruhe press before laying off to Kittel. Kittel spots Jatta in acres of space and plays the ball accordingly.
The option to shoot is unrealistic but the space towards the edge of the six is more than viable. Hinterseer and Kittel are both making runs to the space as shown in the image. Jatta waits for Hinterseer to get body position before playing the ball. The end result is Hinterseer laying off to Kittel and 2-0 Hamburg. The foundation is set from the beginning of each play, quick movements with and without possession and exploiting the spaces out wide. Hamburg had great success by forcing Karlsruhe to defend tight before kicking the ball out wide and going forward.
Old habits die hard
Last season, Hamburg were equal with Duisburg in goals conceded from set-pieces with 17. Despite the early attempts to rectify the defence with some success, it would seem that set-piece defending is still an issue. On countless occasions Daniel Heuer Fernandes’ looked vulnerable anytime a good set-piece from Karlsruhe was taken. This part of the analysis will look to dissect why this was the case.
Our first situation comes from a free-kick. Wanitzek is over it and we see structurally it is sound from a defensive perspective. Hamburg’s defensive line is relatively straight and with multiple Karlsruhe players goal side, they could be caught offside. However, there are two issues, one being that there are three Hamburg players overcompensating a short free-kick to Lukas Grozurek. As a result, this leads to the second issue which is Philipp Hofmann. Hofmann is Karlsruhe’s top goalscorer in the early stages of the season with three. It would be assumed the Hamburg defence would account for him. As Highlighted he happens to be the only Karlsruhe player unmarked.
The free-kick from Wantizek is perfect with Hofmann able to meet the ball untouched by a Hamburg defender. Incredibly Hofmann heads the ball over the crossbar, failing even to test the Hamburg goal. The warning signs were there and it would be only a matter of time before Hamburg conceded.
It took Karlsruhe 76 minutes to breakthrough, which came as surprise considering a couple of the glorious chances they had. What wasn’t surprising was their opening goal coming from a set-piece. Let’s start with the setup from Hamburg, who are playing a man-to-man set with the exception of David Kinsombi at the edge of the six-yard box and Jatta who is next to the keeper. The issue is, nobody has accounted for Daniel Gordon.
The ball in from Marc Lorenz is on point and Gordon is able to head in to give Karlsruhe a sniff. Whilst this is Hamburg’s first concession from set-pieces in the 2. Bundesliga this season, in this game alone we could’ve seen a couple of more. Whether these are mental mistakes or failure to be attentive to the little details, Hecking and co will look to ensure they offer fewer chances from set-pieces.
Unimpressive Karlsruher SC
From the outset, trainer Schwartz had set a task for his side without possession: to be brave and look to win the ball back within Karlsruhe’s attacking third. Whilst in principle it seemed like a great idea to attempt against Hamburg, the reality of the matter is the tactics implemented didn’t work. As a result, Hamburg were able to pick their way through Karlsruhe and in a matter of moments they were entering the attacking half. But why was this the case? Let’s explore the possibilities.
We begin midway through the first, when Hamburg have taken the lead and Karlsruhe are eager to find their way back into the game. Fein has received possession for Hamburg and you can see a commitment of five Karlsruhe players inside Hamburg’s defensive third. The issue with this kind of set-up is the space which Fein has receiving possession and the number of options at his disposal. Fröde who is sitting deep at halfway almost inviting Fein to run with possession rather than play to a teammate.
In this sequence, Fein does take the invitation to move forward with purpose and goes near halfway unopposed. With Karlsruhe tracking back, Fein can pick out a team in Kittel who is circled or a number of other options to play towards.
Later in proceedings with Karlsruhe chasing the game, the weight of number approach is very much used. Again, the success isn’t there. Rick van Drongelen has the ball and four Karlsruhe players are looking to even numbers up and force van Drongelen back to the keeper or hoof down the line. The issue is the space behind this wall of four which invites a Hamburg midfielder to present an option to the van Drongelen.
An option which the Hamburg captain takes with authority and its Kittel who takes possession. In this phase, Kittel has turned and even with two Karlsruhe players draped all over him, he is able to maintain possession. Kittel can play to Kinsombi or play wide to Gyamerah or Narey on the right. Whilst Karlsruhe were brave in looking to force the issue against Hamburg, it would seem that some structural issues allowed the visitors to ease their way through the defence.
The Kittel Effect
If his name hadn’t been mentioned enough, Kittel was everywhere in the victory over Karlsruhe. Kittel was one of Hamburg’s big signings from relegated Ingolstadt last season and had a point to prove. After signing a four-year deal to remain in Ingolstadt prior to last season, Kittel failed to replicate the form that had made him one of the hottest 2. Bundesliga players on the market. Hamburg managed to pick him up for a free as Kittel and they are reaping the rewards. Four 2. Bundesliga appearances for three goals and an assist.
His performance in Karlsruhe was superb as the stats above showcase, two goals in the game coming at vital points when the hosts were pressing the issue. He managed to play 82 minutes before being replaced by Dudziak as fatigue played a big part in the substitution. With the replacement, Karlsruhe managed to reduce the deficit to one before Jairo Samperio put the game to bed in added time. Kittel’s influence on the game telling and the statistics showcased his importance not only on the game but how well he has integrated in Hecking’s side. The effect that Kittel had on the pitch was certainly a difference-maker in Hamburg winning in Karlsruhe.
It was a slow burn for Karlsruhe who took their time in creating a response, and when they did the contest was out of reach. However, they didn’t lose any admirers after almost coming back from a three-nil deficit. It was an excellent effort in character building which gave Karlsruhe a chance to potentially draw the game. It is two defeats on the bounce but not a whole lot to worry about.
Hecking summed up Hamburg’s performance perfectly: “We are glad that we were able to win the game and played superbly for 65 minutes”. And he is right, it was 65 fantastic minutes and a three-nil lead before the energy levels dropped allowing Karlsruhe a way back. Whilst you can’t fault Hamburg’s performance too much, there were some old habits such as set-piece defending which have to be fixed as the season goes on. Hecking has done well in the early stages of the season, but his biggest test still lies ahead.
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