Wolfsburg have been the positive surprise of the Bundesliga season so far. This is Dieter Hecking's first full season as their head coach. His approach of paying attention to even the smallest detail have resulted in an impressive start to the season, which saw them defeat the likes Borussia Dortmund and Schalke. 

 Hamburg had a shaky start to the season. They have sacked Torsten Fink in September. Hamburg had better results with Bert van Maarwijk so far, but it remains to be seen how long the relatively good form will last. 

The formations

 Wolfsburg started in a 4-2-3-1 formation. Their biggest miss was Diego. Daniel Caligiuri played on the left wing in his absence, Perišić moved to the right wing.

 Hamburg started in a 4-2-3-1 formation. They have also missed a creative player. Rafel van der Vaart was unavailable for selection. Tolgay Arslan started as the central attacking midfielder.

Wolfsburg's early intensity

 Wolfsburg started the game with very intense pressing. They pressured one-on-one against the players on the dominant side (the dominant side - or wing - is the one which has the ball), while Olić blocked the passing opportunity to the centre-back on the other side. Arnold marked the holding midfielder that was closer to the ball.

 Wolfsburg applied pressure not only when Hamburg started the play from a goal-kick, but also when Hamburg have regained possession after a Wolfsburg attack.
 Such pressuring  forced a wayward pass across Hamburg's own box in the 5th minute, which Olić collected, but his shot missed the goal. Caligiuri won the ball from Westermann when Hamburg tried to bring out the ball from the resulting goal-kick.
 Olić's finishing was poor throughout the game, which was one of the reasons why Wolfsburg failed to win the match, despite dominating Hamburg in the early stages. 

 Hamburg had been poor in their build-up play in their last game - against Hannover - as well. In fact, Hannover took the lead after winning the ball from Hamburg's holding midfielder, Thomás Rincón. Wolfsburg's gameplan was based around regaining possession as high up the pitch as possible.

 Wolfsburg did a good job of pressing. Most of Hamburg's passing involved backwards or sideways passes in their own half. They tried to play vertical long balls behind Wolfsburg on the wings, but both Rodriguez and Ochs stayed tight to their man, preventing them from reaching the ball and keeping it in Wolfsburg's half. 

Hamburg's passes in the first 20 minutes.
(Image taken from Squawka.com)

 The problem with Hamburg's build-up play was down to the positioning of their players. They didn't use the full width of the pitch which made it easy for Wolfsburg to apply pressure when a player got hold of the ball. At the same time, pre-rehearsed moved to help a player loose his marker, or create numerical advantage in an area of the pitch were missing. Even though there were signs that the players tried to improvise, but the understanding was lacking. Çalhanoğlu dropped deep into the holding midfielder's position - pulling Ochs with him - on one occasion, but Jansen didn't attempt to make the forward run on the wing.

Wolfsburg's build-up play

 On the other hand, Wolfsburg had no problems with bringing out the ball. Their centre-backs stretched the pitch, allowing Luiz Gustavo the space to play between them. The two full-backs pushed quite high, staying on the wing. Even when Wolfsburg kept possession in Hamburg's half, the full-backs played ahead of the ball. It is very rare to see both full-backs play so aggressively in possession.

 At the same time the wingers played more centrally. Olić drifted towards the dominant side, with the wide attacking midfielder positioning himself as a second striker on the other side. The full-back stayed wide, enabling Wolfsburg to switch the fulcrum of the attack on a regular basis with diagonal passes. When the full-back received the diagonal, the winger on his side moved towards him to provide a short passing option, while Olić and the winger from the other wing made runs towards the goal to attack a possible cross.

 Naldo was more than happy to dribble the ball out of defence. Luiz Gustavo closed behind him and became the second centre-back in such cases.

Naldo's heat map. He dribbled the ball out of defence
 on multiple occasions.
(Image taken from Squawka.com)

 Wolfsburg left themselves vulnerable at the back with the full-backs pushing up. Hamburg's central attacking midfielder - Arslan - drifted to the wings regularly with the intention of exploiting the space.

 Wolfsburg's superior physicality shone through in another statistic. Wolfsburg have won 30 out of 37 attempted take-ons. Wolfsburg were stretching Hamburg as much as they could, which resulted in a lot of one-on-one situations. The Hamburg wide players had to cover a lot of ground to get close to the Wolfsburg wingers whenever a diagonal was played. This exhausted them, and made it impossible to mark Perišić and Caligiuri.

 Wolfsburg's take-ons. They have won 30 out of 37 attempted.
(Image taken from Squawka.com)

Lucky goals

 Hamburg took the lead in the 19th minute, even though Wolfsburg had been dominating the game in the opening stages. Çalhanoğlu's free-kick bounced off the bar, back onto Benaglio. The ball bounced into the net. 

 Wolfsburg equalised in the 30th minute from the penalty spot. Westermann challenged Caligiuri in the box. Some have suggested that maybe Caligiuri made the most of the challenge. 

Wolfsburg's holding midfielders

 The two holding midfielders - Medojević and Luiz Gustavo - stayed a bit behind, centrally, but closer to the dominant side. This enabled them to congest the area and pressurise if the ball was lost. However, this left the other side of Wolfsburg vulnerable to counter-attacks

 This was on display in the 52nd minute, when Hamburg countered. The cross was won by the Hamburg defenders in their own box. As Wolfsburg's holders were a bit to the left, they were too far away from the Hamburg central defenders and midfielders to apply pressure.

Hamburg's late dominance

 Wolfsburg's early dominance and high tempo took its toll. The home team was visibly tired in the last 20 minutes. They played a high line. Hamburg played vertical balls behind the defence. Wolfsburg's defenders were quick enough to regain such balls in the first 70 minutes, but struggled in the last 20 minutes. Benaglio was called upon to perform vital saves. Hamburg have even hit the post.

Hamburg's passes in the last 20 minutes.
They were allowed to play the ball behind Wolfsburg's high line.
(Image taken from Squawka.com)

 Dieter Hecking decided to protect the draw, and made defencive substitutions. A defender - Marcel Schäfer - came on for Olić. Timm Klose came on for Robin Knoche with three minutes to go.


 Wolfsburg were dominant in the opening stages of the game. Hamburg were dominant in the closing stages of the game. Hamburg took the lead against the run of play, but Wolfsburg equalised shortly after. Hamburg could have scored the winner as Wolfsburg struggled against the long balls played behind their defence. 

 Wolfsburg have extended their unbeaten run to six games, while Hamburg have taken four points out of their last two games, which is a definite improvement compared to the poor form they were in at the beginning of the season. 

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