As the curtain comes down on what is considered as a chaotic season for the Bundesliga, RB Leipzig travelled to Augsburg’s WWK Arena as they attempted to fend off competition from Borussia Mönchengladbach for third place – the pressure of securing three points was clear. Eventually, they came out from the game on top and delivered what they were expected to through Timo Werner’s last brace for the club. This tactical analysis will analyse Leipzig’s 2-1 win over Augsburg and how Julian Nagelsmann’s side controlled the match over Heiko Herrlich’s side.
With several names returning to the starting line-up, Herrlich opted to keep the same 4-2-3-1 formation from their 1-1 draw against Fortuna Düsseldorf. Andreas Luthe was chosen in goal for the last match, but he was replaced by Tomáš Koubek as the starting goalkeeper. Among the players who were absent this match, Simon Asta was missed out due to a knee injury problem. Fortunately for them, Tin Jedvaj was back from suspension as he stepped into the right-back spot immediately.
Fredrik Jensen and Jan Morávek weren’t included in the team sheet as they remained doubtful for this match. Sergio Córdova was fit enough to return among the substitutes with Eduard Löwen, Stephan Lichtsteiner and Marek Suchý, while Alfred Finnbogason led the line for Augsburg.
Leipzig had several key players missed out through different injuries when they travelled to Augsburg, but all eyes were focused on Timo Werner, who played his last match for the team before his move to Chelsea, as he led the line and received support from two attacking midfielders Emil Forsberg and Dani Olmo. Nagelsmann did not have the services of Austrian duo Marcel Sabitzer and Hannes Wolf due to their injuries, and striker Yussuf Poulsen was also unavailable.
Tyler Adams and Amadou Haidara were chosen to play in the centre of the park for Leipzig as they offered impressive work rate and the ability to link up the play. Two promising youngsters from the club’s academy in Dennis Borkowski and Tom Strauß were included on the bench, alongside Kevin Kampl and Christopher Nkunku.
How RB Leipzig Controlled the Ball and the Match
Under Nagelsmann, Leipzig have been known as a possession-oriented side as they have the tendency of holding the ball more often. Against Augsburg’s 4-4-2/5-4-1 low-block, they were able to do exactly the same thing, especially inside their half and the middle third since there were not many occasions where the home side pressed aggressively. As seen below, Augsburg players remained discipline to their defensive shape and attempted to overload the middle area of the pitch, which prevented Leipzig from passing the ball in between the channels.
Leipzig countered against that instruction by having three attacking players pinning down Augsburg’s defenders while both Adams and Haidara attempted to move in between the midfielders. They would move wide occasionally and aimed to create a passing triangle on both flanks to receive the ball from the centre-backs. This forced Augsburg’s defensive shape to shift across, allowing Leipzig to move the ball quickly to the opposite flank. On many occasions in the match the away side attempted to execute their plan to progress the ball into the final third and it was an effective way to create chances for them.
But while they managed to get the ball into the final third, Augsburg’s low-block also gave Leipzig another challenge that they needed to overcome. When the away side managed to progress the ball forward, Rani Khedira would drop in between the two centre-backs and created a back-five, with Marco Richter filling Khedira’s position. They tended to stay compact in front of goal and attempted to block Leipzig’s shots from outside the box.
Eventually, Leipzig only managed to make four shots on target, in which two of them were converted into goals inside the box. Furthermore, it is worth noticing that most of Leipzig shots were taken place down the middle area since crosses were not a viable option for them.
Leipzig had one occasion where they were able to break down Augsburg’s defensive shape and Nordi Mukiele was very unfortunate not to convert his shot into a goal. By relying on Dani Olmo’s movement as he dragged Carlos Gruezo from his position, it allowed the French right-back to underlap into the box. From outside, Haidara sent an amazing through ball towards Mukiele and opened up a chance for him. Augsburg were quick to adjust their defensive strategy, specifically the midfielders, who were asked to stay discipline and to prevent Leipzig from creating similar chances once again.
Not being able to progress the ball into the box often, but Leipzig still had one simple attacking option that has been proven effective for the last several seasons. In the role of an advanced forward, Werner tended to sit in between Augsburg defenders and waited for through balls to be made towards his run. His opening goal of the match was the clear example of that trait of his.
On a quick counter-attack, Werner found himself sitting behind Jeffrey Gouweleeuw and was not offside due to Felix Uduokhai’s right foot. Haidara was also aware of the situation as he sent a through ball to Werner, allowing him to make his trademark run of sprinting towards the box with the ball. His second goal happened in a similar fashion, but Angeliño’s pass beaten Augsburg’s defensive shape and set Werner in a comfortable position to receive the ball.
While Leipzig struggle when playing against low-block teams, such as Augsburg, the advantage of being able to hold the ball more often and a vintage attacking move secured them three points. Werner will certainly leave a big hole to fill at Leipzig as he offered a unique option to progress the ball into the box and he demonstrated that with his last two goals for the club.
Augsburg’s Early Attempts to Beat RB Leipzig
Augsburg were always on the back foot for the majority of the match as they could not gain possession and create chances. Furthermore, they were pushed back into their defensive third by Leipzig and had to rely on counter-attacks to threaten Yvon Mvogo. Still, it was not the case during the first ten minutes as the home side played with confidence whenever they had the ball.
They put an emphasis on playing out from the back through Gouweleeuw and Uduokhai while also being wing-oriented. Setting up in a 4-2-3-1 also gave them an advantage in overloading the wide space and that was what they capitalised to progress the ball forward. As seen from the shot below, it is noticeable that Augsburg tended to attack down the wings, particularly the left-hand side of Philipp Max and Ruben Vargas.
Max and Vargas possessed a huge threat in terms of pace and their movement also opened up space for teammates to move into. On the opposite side, Jedvaj did not offer as much attacking prowess as his colleagues, which left the attacking responsibility into André Hahn’s hands. Still, he created several chances down the right-wing and gave Angeliño some hard times.
When mentioning about Max and Vargas’ movements, one particular moment from the match stood out. Way before Werner scored the opening goal, Khedira came close to open the scoring as his shot was driven a bit to the left of the goal. But the way Augsburg players built up to the moment of the shot was very fascinating to watch.
In the shot below, notice how Vargas’ movement dragged Mukiele out of his position and since Olmo did not cover the space that the French defender left, Max was free to overlap up the pitch. Although Leipzig’s defensive line managed to shift across and covered the left-wing, Vargas once again showed up to attract Ibrahima Konaté’s attention and allowed Max to continue his run and receive the ball. While his cross did not find any player inside the box, it fell right to Khedira, who arrived late on the edge of the box.
They came close to scoring a goal, but they would have to wait until the 70th minute to find an equaliser. Vargas’ volley was undoubtedly spectacular to get Augsburg back into the game, but it was only one of several moments that Augsburg did manage to create a chance. From their passing map above, it can be seen that they did not have much of the ball inside the final third, but rather inside their defensive and middle thirds.
One of the reasons was due to Leipzig’s 1v1 pressing high up the pitch. Although the away side did not press aggressively, they attempted to block the ball carrier’s possible passing lanes and forcing him to either make a back pass or to clear the ball. It was a very similar pressing concept to theirs, but Leipzig managed to narrow the passing distance between each player and moved the ball quickly, which allowed them to beat the press more easily.
It was hard to see Augsburg come out of the match with anything, although they came close to a point when Vargas scored a spectacular equaliser. They were forced to sit deep for the majority of the match and while not having much control of the ball, and those two major factors prevented them from keeping at least one point at home.
In Werner’s farewell match, he showed Leipzig fans his quality and ability once again with two crucial goals that sealed a third place finish. He will be missed a whole lot due to his style of play and how he supports the players around him. On the other hand, Haidara’s performance went under the spotlight completely, but he showed his defensive prowess by supporting Adams while also making key passes to create chances for the attackers.
It will be a crucial summer transfer window for Leipzig, especially with the task of replacing Werner up top. They have built a very young squad, but with many big clubs still sniffing around their talents, the recruitment team will need to work with Nagelsmann to find the players who can fit the German manager’s tactics while still have rooms to develop.