Preview: Werder Bremen – FC Bayern

Justin Separator August 25, 2017

We’ve previously spoken to Joey about Werder in August 2016, when they were managed by Viktor Skripnik. Since then a lot has happened. A managerial switch and a strong last season for Bremen. Time to ask Joey about their current situation.

(Image: Matthias Hangst / Bongarts / Getty Images)

Hello Joey, how satisfied are you with the pre-season of your club?

Overall I’m pleased. However, I’m not overly euphoric. It seems as if the defence has become more stable which is unexpected considering the injury of Moisander and Grillitsch’s departure. Moisander is our key player in defence and transition. His positional awareness, commanding of the backline, ball security and accurate build-up play under pressure are vital. We’re really missing that in all phases at the moment, that’s why the current stability is good and all but that fact also takes away any sort of euphory from pre-season.

That being?

In possession the team is on a similar level to the second half of last season, although it was supposed to be improved upon. That’s not a compliment. There are good passing sequences here and there and it’s definitely better than it was under Skripnik or Dutt but we don’t create enough pressure. There’s a lack of speed and verticality in our game and we’re unable to stretch the opponent’s formation with a sudden change of speed. One definitely notices, that we’ve not had a lot of practice in that in recent years and certain deficits in some of our players. In the backline only Veljkovic has shown glimpses of decent build-up play while Sané and Bauer are a wasteland in that area. In midfield, Eggestein and Delaney are well-developed in that aspect but there’s a lack of group dynamic to utilise it. That we’re missing a target man going forward is another weakness. Kruse is technically adept, works his socks off in midfield, though, this leads to him not being available for a pass in the final third. Bartels is dynamic and looks for goal, however, he’s not the type of player to calm things down and process balls with his back facing goal. Insofar, we might have stabilised the defence but haven’t significantly improved going forward. Probably even regressed due to the losses of Grillitsch and Moisander. I haven’t pointed out our attack as an issue on Twitter without reason.

In August 2016 you praised the attacking and aggressive approach of Skripnik, while criticising the missing coverage. The shifting was too ball-focused, the pressing too uncoordinated. How has that changed under Nouri?

Werder has improved tactically in all aspects since Nouri has taken over. This is down to improved individual quality (especially Kruse) but down to better coaching, too. The principles Nouri is repeatedly talking about are working. One pays more attention to cover space instead of players, has a feel for when to switch opposition players, better communication and has developed structured with or without the ball, that simply weren’t there under Skripnik. Overall the football has become more stable and more thoughtful and is currently building the foundation for further developments. The pressing is a good example: We’re not over-committing as we did under Skripnik. We’re switching our pressing lines, we’re keeping our formation and aren’t man-orientated but rather keep an eye on passing lanes as well. That is certainly a clear step forward compared to Skripnik.

Nouri has led Werder back to the upper half of the table. Can he maintain that level?
(Image: Alexander Hassenstein / Bongarts / Getty Images)

In which areas can Werder still improve in terms of tactics or what is Nouri’s eleven prone to?

We can and have to continue to improve in all areas. Against the ball we’ve massively improved but are still susceptible to individual mistakes. This is a matter of quality (especially without Moisander) and practice as well. The more rehearsed the automatism are, the easier it is to stay focused even under pressure. In possession we still have the most room for improvement. We’re often too ponderous and aren’t able to get behind the defensive lines of the opponent with pressure and speed or pulling apart an established backline. A target man, who can retain and distribute the ball as well as being available for Augustinsson’s crosses would be really helpful. Apart from that Nouri should make the step from a 3-1-4-2 to a 3-4-2-1, in my opinion. Without Grillitsch we’re missing a key player of our midfield trident. A double pivot consisting of Delaney and Maxi Eggestein has a lot of potential and two wingers behind a target man would make it easier for us to gain control in possession. On one side Kruse would be integrated better without losing any presence going forward while creating a useful and well-suited role for Kainz.

As an intermediate-term goal you suggested getting back into the competition for an international spot. 8th place was reached quickly. Is Werder able to maintain this level?

As matters now stand, I’d be surprised. Our competition has gotten better, we lost some quality and teams like Schalke, Leverkusen or Wolfsburg will stabilise after we were able to take advantage of their poor seasons. It would be illusive to genuinely expect the team to compete for Europa League spots this year. A safe midfield spot is possible, if no other key player gets injured.

Leverkusen were successful with an aggressive 3-4-3 formation in the second half against Bayern. Is this a possibility for Bremen? What line-up do you expect?

Anything could work out, however, we don’t have the individual quality of Leverkusen’s attack. Brandt alone would lift us to another level as a team. Tactically it’s definitely possible that we’re going in a similar direction. I don’t think the usual formation will be changed much, so I’m expecting the usual 3-1-4-2/5-3-2. Considering Nouri’s more defensive approach recently, Gondorf could start ahead of Kainz in midfield.

Who are the key players in green and white this season?

Kruse is the most influential player going forward obviously. His game in tight spaces as well as his class on the ball are incredibly important for us. Moisander is our best player in defence by a mile and especially his build-up play makes him important. Maxi Eggestein has already developed into a defining role in Werder’s game. At central defensive midfield he’s more present than ever, has become better against the ball, is solid at heading and is reliable in the build-up play. If he can push on from there and deliver some more in attack, he’ll make headlines.

Furthermore, I think Augustinsson is capable of bringing his creativity to the Bundesliga. I’m a big fan of his clever overall game and his multi-variant passing, he’ll certainly get a decent amount of goal contributions.

Werder Bremen is expected to play courageously on Saturday. They certainly have noticed FC Bayern’s performance in the second half of the opener and Alexander Nouri likes to prepare his team with a plan towards his opponents.

We try to predict Nouri’s approach but will it be enough to endanger FC Bayern on the second matchday of the season?

Scouting report

In the game against Hoffenheim, Werder played in a certain style that could work out on Saturday. They only had 37% possession, 75% successful passes, but won more duels than their opponent. They also had 11 shots, which is only three less than the team of Julian Nagelsmann (14).

Regarding their defence, they tried to stay compact but did not act afraid or too far back in their own half. The biggest difference between both teams was the possession.

Their formation changed depending on the respective situation on the field. Most of the times they played in a 5-2-3 formation, which changed to a 3-4-3 or 3-1-4-2 in possession, while defensively a 5-3-2 was the preferred solution.

Both wingbacks tried to put pressure on Hoffenheim, if the ball appeared on their side. At any given opportunity, Bartels, Kruse and Kainz, also pressed the opponent early up the field, while Delaney and Eggestein provided security from central midfield.

Those positions mentioned above will be key against FC Bayern, no matter who exactly plays there. It is likely that Werder tries to copy Bayer Leverkusen’s approach in midfield. FC Bayern struggled heavily after the shifting to 3-4-3 of the opponent. One of the biggest problems appeared to be in the centre. Rudy, Tolisso and Vidal did not manage to outnumber the opponent in build-up-play, or create safe passing options. Either, they were standing too close together, too far apart or behind the pressing line of Bayer Leverkusen.

Bayern were outnumbered against Leverkusen too often.
(Image: Maja Hitij / Bongarts / Getty Images)

As a consequence FC Bayern’s defence rarely was able to handle the pressure, which resulted in rash clearances back to Bayer 04. With that not only possession, but the control of the game, shifted as well. With a more deadly striker, they could have won the game.

Werder Bremen needs to force FC Bayern to play those long balls by closing down the midfield or by creating pressing-traps. They won’t be pressuring high up the field but a midfield-pressing, which can be shifted forward, if necessary, is conceivable. However most of the time they will stay back, trying to counter their opponent.

Considering all of the above, there are three tasks for FC Bayern to solve in the game on Saturday.

1. More movement in midfield

The average positioning of Rudy, Tolisso and Vidal shows that they played in a straight line most of the times. In the first half this worked quite well due to the lack of pressure by Leverkusen. It will be Rudy’s task to take on responsibility and to give instructions to Vidal and Tolisso. Vidal often acted way too uncoordinated and Tolisso had to secure Kimmich’s attacks on the wings. As a result the room, Rudy had to cover, became too big.

In this set-up, he is the playmaker and has to learn to adapt to changing situations. Towards the end of the game last Friday, it got better again.

Bayern’s midfield line musn’t be static. There are a lot of ways to create space. Under one condition: everyone has to move more. Central midfield needs to be more creative.

Games are decided in midfield. Süle and Kimmich failed too many times to play trough the opponent’s attackers, because there were no opportunities. To heavily depend on Mats Hummels, who finds teammates even in those situations, seems to be quite risky.

Against Werder Bremen the midfielders need to move, shift and run all the time, to avoid pressure by the opponent. Creating triangles in build-up play will be necessary as well. They need to show Werder, that their pressing approach has no effect, which makes it more likely for them to want to stay back.

Hoffenheim managed to open up spaces with runs all over the field. Diagonal shifting of the defensive midfielder and wingbacks moving into the centre is only one way of doing so. FC Bayern will be clever enough to find suitable solutions. The aim should be not to get outnumbered in pressing situations. Especially without Thiago, who can provide structure, but unfortunately is unlikely to play on Saturday.

2. Defend as a team, attack as a team.

It is hard to predict, if fitness was a factor or other issues caused struggle for FC Bayern in the last game. However, the team broke with on-going play time. Staying compact is very important, especially without possession. Leverkusen had too many chances by overloading the half spaces. FC Bayern’s midfield could not cope with the room, so opponents could get themselves in promising situations. It was simply too easy to get between backline and midfield.

Leverkusen crossed runs and shifted frequently to outplay the defence. Marked opponents got free and spaces were opened.

This space needs to be closed, to avoid Kimmich to get into one-on-one duels over and over again. To fix this, not only vision but willingness to run will be key in this season.

In some dangerous counter situations it became obvious, that the squad did not act as a unity. While three players were starting to counter, the rest of the team followed too slowly. After loosing the ball, the attackers more or less did not care, so that there was no counter-pressing approach whatsoever.

3. Intensify counter-pressing

This brings us to task number three. Ancelotti does not like to take risks with his pressing approach and we all know that. However, counter-pressing in general, should not be avoided completely.

In a way this can be seen as the result of solving the other tasks. With more triangles, more structure and more movement in possession, it is likely that the counter-pressing will improve as well.

Overall the team had a few issues, but the first half in general makes us feel exited to see more this season. If the team manages to provide and improve the structure around Kimmich on the right wing, the chances to be victorious in the second game are great.

Variability in passing-play, willingness to run and structure – if FC Bayern manages to improve in those areas, Werder Bremen will have a hard time on Saturday. On the other hand they have the chance to cause some struggle in midfield. The transition from the first to second third of the pitch and how Werder is able to pressure in this area will be key to determine the winner of the game.

Facts and stats

  • At home Werder won 20 times against FC Bayern with 14 draws and 23 wins for the Bavarians.
  • FC Bayern won all of the nine last matchups in Bremen. The last defeat in northern Germany was in 2006 (3-1). Overall the last victory of Werder dates back to 2008 (5-2 in Munich).
  • The last game without any goals between those teams was in 2010. Since then there are 4.3 goals scored on average.
  • Kick-off is on Saturday 15:30 CET.

Experts’ predictions

In this section, an external expert will give their opinion on the game in a couple of sentences and predict the end result. A correct prediction earns them three points, a correct tendency (win, draw, loss) one point. This will be compared to a second prediction, made by Miasanrot’s editorial team. At the end of the season, we will see whether the external experts gained more points than the Miasanrot team.

Tobi earns the first three points of the season by hitting the result spot on. Right now the Miasanrot team leads with 4-2. Kevin Scheuren, expert of the last game, did not get any points with his prediction in favour of Bayer Leverkusen.

This week Christopher is predicting the game against Bremen, trying to extend the lead against Joey.

Joey: Werder will stay back, try to close down the midfield and counter if possible. Defensively they will try to push FC Bayern to the wings and force them to cross, which is unlikely to work out very well. Sooner than later FC Bayern will find a way to get into the half spaces and score the first goal. As a result Werder opens up, has some dangerous attacks but Bayern scores again. Final result: 2-0.

Christopher: Werder has surprised me quite a bit with their defensive approach against Hoffenheim. Most of the time they gave up possession and tried to counter their opponent. I expect them to use similar tactics against FC Bayern. For FC Bayern it will be key to avoid counterattacks, with which they struggled against Leverkusen. In the end FC Bayern can count on the individual quality of their players and wins 2-0.

Translators: Michael & Luca

»Eier, wir brauchen Eier!«

— Oliver Kahn

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