Hertha BSC hosted Werder Bremen on Friday evening. Both teams had a lot to prove in this game. Hertha BSC have failed to win their last three home games. Werder Bremen were winless in their last four games. The low point came only a week ago, when they were on the wrong end of a 7-0 demolition carried out by Bayern Münich.
Hertha started in 4-2-3-1 formation. Per Skjelbred was moved to the left wing from central midfield, where he started against Augsburg. Nico Schulz started at left full-back. John Brooks started in central defence in place of Sebastian Langkamp. Ronny was included in the starting line-up as the central attacking midfielder.
Werder's defensive shape
Werder Bremen didn't press Hertha. They sat back in their own half, waiting for the home team to bring out the ball. Werder planned on capturing the ball in midfield, hitting Hertha on the break with the pace of Elia, Hunt and Petersen. Even though Werder were defending in a 4-1-4-1 formation- which is suitable for congesting space in one's own half - they were vulnerable on the wings.
Werder's back four was positioned narrowly. This allowed the Hertha full-backs - Schulz and Pekarík - to push high in possession, and provide width to the home side's attacks, requiring Elia and Di Santo to track their runs. This negated Werder's tactics completely as even if Werder won the ball, their wingers had to start from such a deep position that Hertha had time to transition into a defensive shape, or foul the Werder attackers in the visitor's half. This was on display when Schulz fouled Elia when the winger won the ball from him and started a run deep from his own half in the 10th minute.
Hunt exposes the space behind the full-backs
Hunt was drifting to the wings, running into space behind the Hertha full-backs. Werder took the lead in the 15th minute, when Hunt made on of these runs to the left. Hosogai tracked his run, leaving space in front of the defence. Hunt cut back the ball to Petersen, who fired past Kraft from outside the box.
Werder's lead came against the run of play, and Hertha equalised only two minutes after going behind. Hertha's dominance on the wing came to fruition. Di Santo left his man, which allowed the home team to make a three against two situation on the left side. Gebre Selassie gave away a penalty.
Werder conceded for the second time as a result of their poor defending in the 26th minute. Every Werder player was late to close his man down. Every Werder player was still in an moving position when his direct opponent got the ball. Gebre Selassie was in a narrow position, while Lukimya stepped into midfield. The ball was played behind him, as Hertha took the lead.
Hertha's second goal also demonstrated how reactionary Werder's defending was. They were loosing their shape constantly due to the players moving towards the ball even if it wasn't in the space they were supposed to mark. This had a domino effect. If a player left his space, and the ball was played into it, another player had to step up, leaving his space open.
At the same time the lack of pressing meant that Hertha could choose which areas they wanted to target. Pressing is not only important because you can win the ball back in your opponent's half, but you can influence where your opponent is going to attack. He will not have time on the ball, and will be forced to make the passes you allow him to make.
The second half
Even though Hunt put Werder on level terms before the break, Hertha scored for the third time only three minutes into the second half. Werder were let down by their poor organisation again. Hertha had the ball on the wing, with four Werder players around the Hertha player in possession. It is vital to win the ball, or at least not let the opponent pass it on as the defending team is imbalanced in such situations. Werder failed to put adequate pressure on the Hertha player in possession, who played a through ball for Cigerci to run onto. Pekarík got on the end of his cross, and even though his initial header was saved by Wolf, Ronny passed the rebound into the empty net.
|Four Werder players surround the Hertha player in possession on the wing.|
The Werder players should have been more aggressive as it is deadly
to allow the opponent to play on the ball when your team is so imbalanced.
Bargfrede was overwhelmed in midfield. He had so many tasks to carry out, that he failed at all of them. He had to shield the defence, win back the ball in central midfield, start counter-attacks, drift towards the wings to double up on the player in possession, and drop into defence if a defender stepped up to midfield. Hertha had no problem with keeping the ball between Werder Bremen's defence and midfield.
|Hertha's short passes in the second half. Notice how many short passes they could play |
between Werder's midfield and defence.
(Image taken from Squawka.com)
Werder Bremen could have done better by introducing another defensive midfielder, thus maximising their chances of winning the ball as close to the Hertha goal as possible. Robin Dutt took off the defensive minded Makiadi instead, and sent on the attacking midfielder Mehmet Ekici.
Even though Werder Bremen took the lead, it would have been surprising if they had won this game. They have lacked the discipline and quality to neutralise Hertha's threat. The home team made the most of Werder's narrowness, and defensively poor wingers. Even though Hunt had a good game for the visitors - scoring once, and giving an assist - Di Santo and Elia had to track back too much to make the most of their talents.
Hertha were in control of the game after scoring their third goal. They dominated the midfield, which prevented Werder from counter-attacking.
In the end, Werder's poor organisation led to their downfall. Hertha were better in this match, and deserved to win it.