Bundesliga MD 07 Preview: FC Bayern vs. Eintracht Frankfurt
It took until 30 September but now coach Oliver Glasner has finally secured his first victory with Eintracht Frankfurt. Against Antwerp, it looked for a long time as if the result would end up remaining at 0-0 and thus mark the seventh draw in a row. But then substitute Gonçalo Paciência saved his club by scoring from a penalty kick.
Those who heard the jubilations after the game might have got an idea how liberating this victory must have been. Frankfurt’s expectations have grown in recent years. With the successes in the DFB-Pokal, the Bundesliga, and the Europa League, a desire for more began to grow. But last summer, a radical change took place the extent of which could hardly have been expected.
Bruno Hübner, Fredi Bobić, Adi Hütter – these are just three of the many names that left Frankfurt at the end of the season. But they are arguably some of the central building blocks of the club’s success in the recent past. Now the sporting director is Markus Krösche (formerly of RB Leipzig), and the team is coached by Oliver Glasner and a new coaching team.
This very condensed account of what happened in the summer is for the most part already enough to explain why things are possibly not going as well as hoped at Frankfurt at the moment. Some important details are missing, such as the dispute over Filip Kostić and his desire to move to Lazio or the one with Amin Younes.
But let us focus on football. With Glasner, Eintracht have hired a coach who differs quite a bit from what Hütter stood for. If Hütter is a lover of heavy metal – aggressive, physical football based on intensive pressing and a very direct and vertical play, the former is probably more of a jazz lover. For him, suppleness and calmness are more important.
And yet, again, the two are not as far apart as they seem. Glasner, too, demands intensity from his players in the game without the ball, and Hütter, of course, does not like careless turnovers in midfield. But Frankfurt’s shift from fast-paced gegenpressing football to a more controlled approach is nevertheless remarkable.
In a way, Glasner is still dealing with the legacy he was handed by his predecessor in many respects. First of all, there is the rising pressure due to increased expectations. But much more decisive is the fact that a change from Hütter football to Glasner football cannot be done within a few match days.
The movement patterns are currently a big problem. When does a player move out of position, when does he maintain it? When in possession, who drops off and who pushes up? What are the pressing triggers and when is it better to maintain shape? These and many other questions still too often cause moments in games when individual and collective tactical mistakes are made.
Both the tracking of the defensive players and pushing up when pressing is triggered do not yet work as Glasner would like. This repeatedly opens up spaces for the opponents. For example, when Köln scored the opening 1-0, the situation had already been cleared when a long ball over the top suddenly exposed the entire back line. When the ball was played, Jonas Hector, the target, and other opponents in the centre – including Ellyes Skhiri, the eventual goal scorer, were not covered.
In another moment of the same game, Frankfurt’s offensive players moved out aggressively after a cross to the opposing full-back. However, the Köln players were able to break free and found a large space behind the first pressing line where they could pick up pace for launching their attack.
With 116.5 pressing situations per game, Frankfurt are statistically more passive than any other Bundesliga team. That in itself would not be a problem if they could still keep the important spaces covered, but they just are not able to do that dependably enough.
But these coordination problems are much more serious in the offensive. Five goals conceded in the last seven games would be acceptable if Frankfurt scored more goals up front. On the one hand, there is simply a lack of quality there after the departure of André Silva. But that alone would be too simple an explanation. Less pressure in pressing situations means less offensive transition moments, which in turn leads to Frankfurt having to score goals from rather dead and static game situations too often. And at the moment, they are simply lacking in moments of surprise.
Up to the penalty area, Frankfurt’s game often looks quite pleasing, but both in the midfield centre and in the penalty area, the team (still) lacks quality – tactically and individually. Glasner was used to a technically very strong centre at Wolfsburg, which he does not have in Frankfurt. For years, Eintracht has had a tendency to sign players in midfield who are strong runners, assertive and strong in duels – but under Glasner, they would benefit from someone with more creative skills in that area.
Several times, Köln managed to control Frankfurt’s defensive midfield with their compact diamond formation and were able to win the ball there. Most of the time, the chosen way forward is over the wings, where Kostić is of course the key player. But he, too, lacks teammates who can stretch the opponent with deep runs. Not enough movement, not enough territorial gains and, as a result, not enough scoring threat.
So far, the 4-2-3-1 has not proved to be particularly helpful in giving the team a basic structure in which they feel comfortable. That is why Glasner has now decided to carry out a change. Against Antwerp, Eintracht played with a three-man backline for the first time since the 5-2 defeat in the Bundesliga opener away to Dortmund.
- Offensive transition
- Individual quality with Kostić, Kamada and Hauge
- Play over the wings
- Penalty area occupation for and against crosses
- Coordination problems in all areas
- Lack of individual quality in holding midfield (technical) and in attack (positioning + finishing)
- Too few moments of surprise from low intensity passages of play
- High pressing too often not effective
- Players are too easily drawn out of position
- Initially often four-man back line in a 4-2-3-1 formation
- Now more a three-man backline; against Antwerp a 5-3-2
- Frequent bypassing of midfield in build-up play
- Lots of wing play, lots of crosses
- Target player Kostić
- Flexible mid block (sometimes higher, sometimes deeper)
Frankfurt have recently improved their game in a 5-3-2 formation:
- Martin Hinteregger is stronger during build-up play as the central centre-back in a back three.
- Three deeper central midfielders stabilise the centre
- Without the ball, it hurts less when a player is drawn out of the back five.
Going forward, however, what Frankfurt had to offer remained more tenuous. However, against Bayern a 5-3-2 would have an exciting side effect: it would mirror the 2-3-5 of the reigning champions. The Bayern team would probably react to this by not having the right-back push forward into midfield as often, which in turn could lead to an abundance of bodies in the centre. A careful use of man-marking could at least help avoid becoming too passive. At the same time, they offer Bayern the chance to capitalize on their individual quality.
Glasner will have noticed during video analysis that Bayern, if they have a notable weak point at all, are more vulnerable on the wings. The equaliser against Köln could be a blueprint for how they could also be successful on Sunday in the Allianz Arena. When the Bavarians do not press, they cleverly steer their opponents to the wings by compacting the centre. However, the serial champions are not without their faults and flaws. Especially through the wings, they have conceded a goal or two this season. A possibly sore spot that seems to be made for Eintracht and their wing dynamo Kostić.
Frankfurt are known to hit many crosses and to be particularly strong pushing up from deep. A typical pattern is that two players push the opposing centre-backs towards the goal, while behind them at least one player from midfield advances into the penalty area. Against Cologne, that was often Jens Petter Hauge. From Bayern’s point of view, it is therefore particularly important to keep an eye on the backfield.
If Frankfurt ever had a chance in Munich, then this is probably the time. However, going by recent form there is no question that Bayern are once again clear favourites. With their flexible movements, they should be able to exploit Eintracht’s weaknesses in the passing game.
Another win would be particularly important for Bayern, especially with a view to the away game in Leverkusen after the international break. With a win they could go quite a way on the road to another title in the Bundesliga early on.
Whether Frankfurt, with their first win of the season just recorded, can show a different face and in fact be a stumbling block for Bayern remains to be seen.