Ten-man RB Leipzig dropped points against bottom-of-the-table SC Paderborn in a disappointing collapse. Schick’s 27th-minute strike gave Leipzig the lead, but Dayot Upamercano’s second yellow card right before half-time proved too costly for Julien Naglesmann’s side. Paderborn academy graduate and captain, Christian Strohdiek, snatched a point for his side as he converted a rebound from a corner in the 92nd minute. In this article, I will provide a tactical analysis of the match.
For Leipzig, it was a missed chance to pull away from Borussia Mönchengladbach and Bayer Leverkusen in the race for UEFA Champions League qualification. This would be the fourth time Leipzig would secure a top-four spot in as many years in the Bundesliga. For Paderborn, it’s a crucial point in their battle against relegation. After securing promotion to the Bundesliga for the first time in 2014, they were famously relegated in back-to-back seasons, finding themselves in 3. Liga. Their promotion into the Bundesliga was in the same swift back-to-back manner, but now 11 points away from safety, their relegation looks inevitable once more.
Leipzig lined up in their usual 4-2-2-2 formation with U.S. International, Tyler Adams, slotting in for the injured Marcel Sabitzer in central midfield. Roma loanee, Patrik Schick, filled in for the injured Yussuf Poulsen at striker. Marcel Halstenberg returned from suspension but was replaced by Manchester City loanee, Jose Angeliño, at left wing-back.
Paderborn lined up in full force with defensive midfielder, Klaus Gjasula, returning from his third yellow card suspension this season. Their 4-4-1-1 counter-attacking formation focused on clogging up the middle and spraying crosses into the box.
Leipzig tactical analysis
The youngest side in the Bundesliga will be disappointed not to secure a win against the struggling Paderborn team. Their previous four matches against Paderborn ended victoriously, but this stalemate meant that they failed to secure their first competitive five-game win streak against a single side.
Paderborn’s success in clogging up the midfield forced Leipzig to play in the wide areas. Nagelsmann’s tactics encouraged this with wing-backs Angeliño and Nordi Mukiele surging forward in the attack. This left them vulnerable on the counter but provided the necessary support for wide linkup play.
Dani Olmo caught my eye with his technical ability and defensive work rate. Even while playing at right attacking midfield, he had the joint highest defensive duels attempted and won at 13 and seven respectively, tied with Mukiele at right wing-back. He impressed by winning the ball back high up the pitch to exploit Paderborn in transition. No Leipzig player bettered his 16 passes in the final third. He came close to scoring in the second half, but an agile save by Leopold Zingerle denied him.
The pace of Olmo, Timo Werner, and Christopher Nkuku threatened Paderborn constantly. When they picked up the ball near the touchline, they cut inside and either squared it to a teammate or unleashed a shot. Their movements were supported by one-two passes with players in central positions.
When Werner moved outside, the wide player, Nkuku or Olmo, supported him by filling in his central position. Here, Werner moves outside while Nkuku moved centrally to progress the ball. Werner saw the space that Nkuku vacated in the centre and cut inside. His shot was ultimately blocked, but the fluidity of the front four regularly pulled Paderborn’s players out of position.
A constant thorn in the side of the Paderborn defence, Timo Werner failed to end his goal drought at home, extending this streak to six games. He had a chance to seal the game in the 67th minute after beating the keeper but pulled his shot wide. Nevertheless, he was arguably the best player on the pitch. He had an 86% pass completion with 10 passes in the final third. He led his team creatively with three dribbles, four crosses, and one assist, the most on his team. His four shots and 10 touches in the box was better than everyone else on the pitch. It’s clear why Liverpool, Chelsea, and Manchester United are looking to activate the German International’s €55m release clause.
Leipzig gave Paderborn no breathing room as they attempted to win the ball back high up the pitch at every chance. This is displayed by their low PPDA (passes allowed per defensive action) of 9.1. Their pressing tactics were incredibly intelligent and intentional. A poorly played ball to a Paderborn player was their trigger to press. The goal was to block any options and force a turnover. In the first half, they deployed a full pitch press as seen in this tactical analysis below. Although Leipzig commits a lot of players forward, they use this as a positive when they lose possession. Similarly to Manchester City, they aim to win the ball back as quickly as possible, using their offensive overload as an offensive press. Here, midfielder, Kevin Kampl, and left wing-back, Angeliño, are caught high up the pitch in defensive transition. They intelligently use the sideline as an extra man, forcing a turnover in Paderborn’s defensive third.
Starting the second half, Nagelsmann’s switched tactics, playing a 5-3-1 to secure their lead following Upamercano’s sending off. Marcel Halstenberg was subbed in for goalscorer, Schick, to play at left centre-back. To conserve energy and stay compact, they opted to press Paderborn at the halfway line. This ultimately proved unsuccessful as they conceded two minutes before the final whistle.
With their season seemingly over, Paderborn played without fear against Die Roten Bullen. On many transitions, they successfully played out of Leipzig’s high press. This allowed them to catch Leipzig out of position, switch the field, and open up the wings. They used their extra man well in the second half and were dominant in their attack. In fact, they out possessed Leipzig with 52.7% possession. This led to their equalizing goal in the 92nd minute.
On the other hand, another yellow card for Gjasula means that he equals the Bundesliga record for yellow cards in a season (16). With four games left in the season, this unwanted record is likely to be broken.
Their defensive tactics allowed wingers, Kai Pröger and Christopher Antwi-Adjej to bomb forward in transition. Once winning the ball, Paderborn played quick balls into their two forwards. Their aim was to hold the ball up and play through balls into the channels to Antwi-Adjej and Pröger.
Paderborn was successful in exploiting Leipzig’s attacking wingbacks with 24 crosses compared to Leipzig’s 10. Their eight counter-attacks resulted in three shots, but a lack of end-product left them wondering if they could’ve secured more than a point against 10-man Leipzig. Their 1.54xG bettered Leipzig’s 1.35xG, who failed to continue their dominance following Upamercano’s sending off.
Paderborn defensive analysis
After a second-half thrashing by Borussia Dortmund ended 6-1 the week before, Paderborn looked to bounce back against Leipzig. Steffan Baumgart set his team up in a defensive low block. His aim was to prevent Leipzig’s balls over the top and dangerous play through the middle. Midfield talisman, Gjasula, and Sebastian Vasiliadis kept a low, compact line, close to their defence.
At times, Paderborn attempted to press high up the pitch. Unfortunately, this is extremely difficult against a team with ball-playing defenders like Angeliño, Upamercano (for half the game), and Mukiele. Their composure was complemented by the movement of the Leipzig midfield and wide players. Paderborn’s failure to organize an offensive press and Leipzig’s ability to play out of it resulted in the Paderborn offence and midfield getting caught out of position. In this analysis below, Kampl comes deep to receive the ball and provide Upamercano with an outlet. Angeliño adds width, staying as close to the touchline as possible. In addition, Paderborn’s press was poorly organized here. Kampl easily lost his marker, Angeliño was free on the outside, and Upamercano had too much time on the ball. The only outlet they were able to block here was Leipzig defender, Lukas Klostermann.
Both teams walk away from a match that could’ve ended either way. The Paderborn supporters will be the happier set of fans, securing a point away against a quality side. The tie extends Leipzig’s record to 11 league games without defeat. In order to reach a Champion’s League qualification spot, three wins out of the last four games of the season are needed. On the other hand, it extends Paderborn’s record to 11 league games without a win. 11 points from safety and eight points from a relegation playoff spot, Paderborn’s drop is imminent.