The first leg of the Bundesliga relegation playoff between Wolfsburg and Eintracht Braunschweig saw the visitors restricting access to the six space, so the home team had to build up their game in other ways. The man marking of Braunschweig was played over by Wolfsburg with long balls to Ntep and Gomez, with Didavi enjoying freedom of space between the lines due to the structure of Braunschweig’s pressing.
So how did Braunschweig’s press look?
In the middle third Braunschweig applied an active defending that prevented access to the six space. The two strikers – Hernandez and Nyman – started from a position that covered the passing lanes to the defensive midfielders Guilavogui and Luiz Gustavo. At any pressing trigger – miscontrol, slow pass, pass behind the receiving player – the ball near striker pressed the ball while the other striker moved inside to the six space. If the defender who came under pressure first passed on the ball, the other striker pressed the receiving defender, while a Braunschweig central midfielder moved up to mark the defensive midfielder in the six space. Out of Hernandez and Nyman especially the first one was tenacious, once even pressing Luiz Gustavo almost on the sideline.
Knoche was put under pressure frequently in the first twenty minutes, mainly because Wollscheid’s passes were either behind him, or too slow, which forced the right central defender to play a long ball to the same side winger. The two central defenders got too far away from each other on some occasions, which made it easier to press them since they couldn’t count on the support from the other central defender.
Wolfsburg’s way of building up without the six space
Due to the man oriented nature of the Braunschweig midfielders, the space between them and the strikers became too large, which made it easier for Wolfsburg to collect second balls. After moving up to mark the defensive midfielder in the six space, a large gap appeared with only Moll occupying it. This left more space for Didavi to collect second balls, after hopeful long balls from Knoche.
On one occasion Knoche played a long ball to Gomez, the back four of Braunschweig was too large, the channels between the central defenders and the fullbacks was big due to the manmarking tendencies of both fullbacks. Didavi attacked the ball near channel after collecting the layoff from Gomez.
Another method of building up without using the six space involved one of the Wolfsburg holding midfielders rotating out into the ballnear halfspace, out of the cover shadow of one of the strikers. On the right side when Guilavogui got the ball, he was immediately pressed. The pressing was even more successful, as the team structure in front of him was poor, namely Didavi, Malli and Trasch were all too far, the distances became too large to play forward.
Wolfsburg could create space by Gerhardt moving up next to the sideline on the left side, Luiz Gustavo moving out to the deep left halfspace, almost as a third defender. Didavi pulled his marker – Moll – into the central zone, but moved back very deep. This opened space in central midfield for Luiz Gustavo to dribble forward, and attempt to pass through to Ntep running into the channel.
In transitions Nyman asked for the ball in the halfspace, on the outside of Wollscheid. The other striker was either in the other halfspace, or asked for the ball in front of the defence. The midfielders immediately played the ball forward upon winning it, letting the Swedish striker drive at Wollscheid, creating the best chance of the visitors from one of these counterattacks.
On the left side in ball circulation Gerhardt moved inside to the advanced halfspace, with Ntep staying on the outside. Gerhardt’s movement kept the Braunschweig fullback Suer inside, with enough distance from Ntep that Wollscheid could find the French winger with the ball. After Ntep got the ball Gerhardt made a run on the blindside of the fullback into the channel.
In the above instance Wollscheid was not pressed, due to the involvement of Luiz Gustavo. The ex-Bayern midfielder moved clos to Wollscheid in the deep halfspace, just enough to attract the press from Nyman, and free up Wollscheid. Nyman didn’t attept to press Wollscheid after he got the ball back from Gustavo.
At other times Luiz Gustavo didn’t help the ball circulation with his off the ball positioning, sometimes coming too close to Guilavogui when the Frenchmen got under pressure in the left half space (video below). The whole team structure when the ball was in the left halfspace didn’t help retain the ball. Trasch and Malli were both too far from the ball, and horizontally on the same line. Neither of them moved into the ballfar halfspace, or the centre to ask for the ball in the space behind Moll. Spaces opened up in central midfield as a result of Braunschweig’s aggressive manmarking, but Wolfsburg couldn’t capitalise. Even if the diagonal found a wide man on the right side, the structure behind him wasn’t there to press second balls. The diagonal was immediately under pressure, and Braunschweig could have countered if it wasn’t for last ditch tackles.
The buildup of the visitors
On the left side Reichel moved inside, when Velsvik stepped in free with the ball. They made space for Velsvik by Boland inviting the pressure with playing a wall pass to Moll. There was too much space between the lines of Wolfsburg when Velsvik stepped in, and Malli tucked inside too much – almost behind the Guilavogui – leaving the pass to Hochscheidt open.
Reichel was playing on the last line, looking to run behind in the channel between Knoche and Trasch, while Hernandez played goalside of Knoche. This way Braunschweig created a numerical overload on the ball side.