Bundesliga 2020/21 - FC Köln vs Borussia Mönchengladbach - tactical analysis - tactics

In this tactical analysis, we concentrate on the Bundesliga derby between FC Koln and Borussia Monchengladbach. We provide you with some tactics and statistics in this analysis of the Rheinderby, in which Gladbach won confidently with a 3-1 scoreline away from home.

Both teams had bungled their season starts. While Köln are still pointless, the team of Marco Rose had just one point on their account. Markus Gisdol’s team are now 13 games back-to-back without a victory, whereas the Champions League competitor Gladbach could offset their false start. Gladbach have now won five out of six of the last Rheinderbies.

Line ups

Bundesliga 2020/21 - FC Köln vs Borussia Mönchengladbach - tactical analysis - tactics

Coach Gisdol played with a new 3-5-2 formation as he changed his starting line up on two positions. He substituted Drexler and Sörensen for the injured captain Hector and the youngster Thielmann. The former Borussia Dortmund man Wolf, who was signed by Köln this week, would be substituted in the second half.

Köln, as the underdogs, wanted to press Gladbach high. They overloaded the central midfield to gain a numerical advantage there since they wanted to choke off Gladbach’s build-up over the centre. Furthermore, Köln tried to stabilise the flanks against Gladbach’s fast wingers. After Köln trailed by two goals, Gisdol switched their formation to a 4-2-3-1 formation to compact the half-spaces.

On the other side, Gladbach played with the same formation as in the match before. Coach Rose trusted in his new 4-2-3-1 formation with the same staff. Embolo could have been an option for the starting squad, but he had some training deficit after his injury. Still, one of Gladbach’s strongest pivots, Zakaria, is not fit.

Gladbach set up high pressure in the first minutes to Köln’s last line and these tactics worked out very well. If Gladbach did not counter-attack, they switched the game over to the midfielders Kramer and Neuhaus in the half-spaces. Pléa would shift the ball as the last man to the quick wingers.

Gladbach’s numerical advantage in build-up

At the beginning of the game, Köln tried to press Gladbach high. They wanted to prevent Gladbach’s combinations straight from the beginning but they also tried to make sure that Gladbach would not overrun Köln over the wings. So coach Gisdol operated with a five-man line, which stood high around the half-way line. The remaining five players would compress the centre and press Gladbach’s build-up. This tactical approach went down the drain because of several reasons. Köln were unable to intercept Gladbach’s combinations, nor were they able to forestall some chances for Gladbach.

Here are some stats which demonstrates Gladbach’s dominance: the foals had 76% possession in the first 15 minutes. Overall, they had 60% possession. Furthermore, Gladbach had an expected goals value of 2.05, while Köln had just a value of 0.82 expected goals. Rose’s team also had 87% passing accuracy over the game and they outplayed Köln in this category, as they had 82% passing accuracy. On average, Gladbach attacked 0.47 times per minute, and in the first 15 minutes, it was even 0.8 times per minute. Moreover, Gladbach had ten passing combinations, which took longer than 45 seconds – Köln just two.

Indeed, Köln had a numerical advantage in the centre. Gladbach kept possession in the build-up through their short passing game due to the positional play of the pivots. Köln were not able to obtain any direct duels. So Gladbach forced Köln to shift to one side and then they switched the play to the other side. Gladbach combined with quick passes. As a result of Köln’s compressing the centre, Gladbach got some numerical advantage on the wings.

Bundesliga 2020/21 - FC Köln vs Borussia Mönchengladbach - tactical analysis - tactics

The tactical analysis above shows Gladbach’s numerical advantage on the right wing. They shifted their build-up to the wings where Gladbach had now four players against three opponents. Due to Köln’s back five, there was some space in the half-spaces in front of the last line. Gladbach’s only striker Pléa moved into these number eight positions and Thuram took the position of the striker. As a consequence, Pléa’s direct opponent followed him and this was the situation that Gladbach combined for. Now, Pléa’s job was to act as a target man as he shifted the ball directly to the pivot Neuhaus.

Bundesliga 2020/21 - FC Köln vs Borussia Mönchengladbach - tactical analysis - tactics

In the tactical analysis above, you can see how Gladbach outplayed Köln’s tactics. They played an indirect one-two over two stations. After Hofmann passed, he ran his route down the sideline. The game shifted more to the middle – so did also Köln’s back five.

After Hofmann went in the shadows of the first two defenders, he ran parallel to the goal line. He was now fully uncovered. As the ball was in the half-space on the left side, Thuram played a through pass to Hofmann who found himself through on goal with just the goalkeeper to beat. You can see that Gladbach levered out three of Köln’s back five and the remaining two were too far away. So coach Gisdol wasted a player in some way, who could have helped defend the half-spaces.

Bundesliga 2020/21 - FC Köln vs Borussia Mönchengladbach - tactical analysis - tactics

This image shows a similar situation. You can see that the full-backs fanned out to the sidelines. They lured Köln to the left wing with some short-long, flat passing combinations. Then they gave the ball to their most technical defender – Mathias Ginter. Both pivots stood in the centre to open the alley through the halfway-spaces. As mentioned before, Köln lacked players for these spaces. Also, Gladbach had a numerical advantage and stood in a staggered formation. They offered three passing options to their centre-back. Ginter overplayed five opponents with one pass.

Köln’s bad positional play

So Köln started with the wrong tactics for their formation against Gladbach. If Köln did not press, they try to stay compact. But it was also here that Köln lacked some communication. and they had big problems with long balls.

A long ball is a tactical resource, which is easy to defend. If a player makes a backswing as he is not attacked, the last line has to drop deep. One defender goes into the direct duel, while the rest of the last line secures him. Therefore, they have to drop deeper. But you can also suppress a long ball by pressing the player with the ball. As a consequence, he would not have enough time and space to play the ball long. When Köln stood compact, Ginter could play precise long balls without any pressure.

Bundesliga 2020/21 - FC Köln vs Borussia Mönchengladbach - tactical analysis - tactics

The still above shows how Köln’s offence stood compact in the centre. You can see clearly that Ginter has a lot of space as he makes the backswing for a long ball. Gladbach’s pivot offered also a passing option next to the defender. Thus, Köln’s four players in the centre covered one man – this is not efficient.

Bundesliga 2020/21 - FC Köln vs Borussia Mönchengladbach - tactical analysis - tactics

Thuram ran his route from the sideline to be at maximum pace when he arrived in the centre while Köln gave Ginter enough time and space to play a long ball. In fact, Köln’s back five should have reacted to Ginter’s backswing. Ginter played it long in a flat degree with a lot of pace. In the picture above, you can see that Köln’s last line seemed to be taken aback.

There was no backing from the full-back and the second centre-back. The red lines show where the defenders should have been in this situation. Also, the defender in the direct duel stood too high – his body position should be in the direction of the ball. Only Thuram anticipated the ball well.

Bundesliga 2020/21 - FC Köln vs Borussia Mönchengladbach - tactical analysis - tactics

Here is another similar situation. Gladbach scored their first goal after this long ball. Again, Köln seemed to be taken aback. The last line did not drop deep like in the situation before. Again, there was no backing. Hofmann did not control the ball well and dribbled away from goal. And so, Köln got some time to reorganise themselves, but they fell asleep. Pléa pushed up in zone 14 while Köln’s central midfield stood still. He got a poor pass but still had enough time to prepare his shot. The striker scored with a finisher into the lower right corner.

Köln fell asleep at set-pieces

After Gladbach took the lead, they did not stop to confuse Köln with some easy tricks. Köln did not wake up. Next to long balls, set-pieces are easy to defend. You have to stay focused and be present in the direct duels.

Bundesliga 2020/21 - FC Köln vs Borussia Mönchengladbach - tactical analysis - tactics

The image above shows a set-piece, which led to the corner for the 2-0. The long ball before the first goal was also the first pass after a free-kick, too. You can see, that Köln defended with seven (!) men in the room against two players from Gladbach.

Köln’s right-back had to be inserted to cover one of the two men. As a result, the marked player from Gladbach went into space for a short passing option. He had so much space that he got the ball passed as a direct assist for a shot. Bensebaini finished directly and Köln’s goalkeeper blocked it, resulting in a corner.

Bundesliga 2020/21 - FC Köln vs Borussia Mönchengladbach - tactical analysis - tactics

This image shows the corner, which led to the second goal for Gladbach which came from the right side. Köln defended in the room and not man-to-man. Again, Köln had a numerical advantage of two players. One of these surplus men could have covered the first post. The first post is the most dangerous zone for a corner because there is less time to calculate the ball. Also, it is more dangerous for the keeper to move out of his box to intercept the ball.

Gladbach’s Lainer ran from the penalty spot straight in the direction of the goal. Afterwards, he curved around his opponents, who were closer to the first post. As he was in their shadow, they did not take notice of him when Köln should have communicated here better. Lainer went to the first post and headed it in. He was unmarked due to the miscommunication from Köln’s defence. Afterwards, Gladbach made it 3-0 at the beginning of the second half. They then went on to maintain the lead.

Conclusion

All in all, Gladbach put Köln under extreme pressure and scored twice in the first 15 minutes. Köln were not on the same level – especially in the head. As such, Gladbach found several solutions to build up from. Furthermore, Köln fell asleep in the wrong situations. Gladbach scored by utilising long balls and set-pieces, which should have been easy to defend. Apart from this, Köln scored after a pressing in the final minutes of the game when the outcome was already decided.

Köln now stand with their backs to the wall as the calls for coach Gisdol are growing ever louder. On the next Bundesliga matchday, Köln are playing against Frankfurt at home. They need to get some points on their account. Gladbach could maintain in their line with a positive result against Wolfsburg at home.