The match between Union Berlin and RB Leipzig on the first Bundesliga match-day included two debuts at once. At first, it was Union Berlin’s first game in the German top-flight. Secondly, it was RB Leipzig’s first Bundesliga match under their new manager Julian Nagelsmann.
Therefore, the match promised to give first signs on whether Union Berlin can keep up with top Bundesliga sides and how Nagelsmann will merge his style of play with the RB Leipzig DNA. These questions and more will be answered in this tactical analysis.
Lineups and formations
Union Berlin coach Urs Fischer lined up his side in a 4-2-3-1 formation. In front of their back four, Grischa Prömel and Robert Andrich pairing up as the double pivot were supposed to ensure defensive stability.
RB Leipzig, on the other hand, deployed Nagelsmann’s favoured 3-1-4-2 formation. With Marcel Sabitzer and Kevin Kampl, the midfield entailed creative players behind the fast striking duo consisting of Timo Werner and Yussuf Poulsen.
Union Berlin’s 4-2-3-1 system was supposed to nullify Leipzig’s strengths to play through the centre using their midfield three. As Leipzig nominally played with a single pivot and two advanced midfielders, this created direct opponents for Berlin’s midfielders. However, the dynamic movement of Nagelsmann’s midfield three enabled them to break Berlin’s man-oriented approach which will be discussed further in the following analysis.
Nagelsmann’s tactical blueprint at RB Leipzig
RB Leipzig operated with a lot of central combinations during their positional attacks.
Leipzig used decoy movements to free one advanced midfielder between the opposition midfield and defence. Often the ball near defensive midfielder of Union Berlin followed his direct opponent which opened up a gap in midfield.