Tag Archives: Werder

Werder Bremen 0 –2 Twente: Overattacking Werder does not take advantage of Twente’s shortcomings

The fourth and possibly crucial match of the Champions League Group stage meant an away match for reigning Dutch champions Twente at the hands of German side Werder Bremen. Having lost in Bremen by no less than 4-1 during last year’s Europa League knockout phase, memories of shattered European football aspirations are still very much vivid among the fans of the Eastern Holland side.

Only two weeks ago these teams faced each other in Enschede, playing quite a disappointing match where both sides mainly aimed not to lose the match.  A 1-1 final score was perhaps the best reflection of the on-pitch performance. Twente took a very cautious approach, even playing at home, leaving attacking midfielder (and natural striker) Luuk de Jong on the bench and opting for a formation not dissimilar to the 4-1-4-1 Preud’homme used last weekend in their 0-1 victory away at PSV.

The starting line-ups

In their previous match, Werder Bremen did, for a change, not go in head over heels and patiently looked for attacking options from a base of two holding midfielders in a stable 4-2-3-1. Upfront, Wesley and Hunt were given quite some positional freedom and made good use of it. But it was only until former Twente player Marko Arnautovic entered the pitch that the game sprung to life. After a rather ‘out of the blue’ opening goal for Twente, it was the Austrian striker who deservedly equalized for Werder.

In today’s match Twente missed their two controlling midfielders Janssen and Brama through injury. Veteran midfielder Landzaat showed his excellent form in replacing Brama during the past weeks and right-back Rosales is drafted into the Twente midfield to complete the double pivot.

Werder fielded an on paper rather familiar 4-2-3-1 formation, but played centre-back Prödl on right-back and creative midfielder Wesley in the left full-back position. Captain Frings formed the centre-back partnership with Per Mertesacker. Especially interesting was the pair of Ruiz and Wesley, two creative players by nature.

The first half

The match started out with Werder, as expected, taking up very advanced positions, often fielding all their outfield players in the opposing half. Both full-backs took up very advanced positions on their respective flanks and on top of that, even one of the centre-back looked to connect to the midfield too. While sometimes this would overload the midfield, the dynamism of Hunt and Marin in Werder’s attacking midfield prevented this from happening.

Twente, meanwhile, was forced to retreat deep in their own half, but did create several big scoring chances from incisive breaks. Unfortunately Mark Janko could only show his lack of pace on most of these occasions. Also, Chadli’s wasteful shooting did not help.

Most of their Eredivisie matches, Twente succeed in creating their chances through the middle, but today, lacking important passing skills with both Brama and especially Janssen out, the centre midfield was below standard. Particularly Rosales’ first half passing accuracy of 4 out of 11 attempts personified Twente’s midfield problem. No single players succeeded in completing more than nine passes in the first half, leading to an overall passing accuracy of 47% (!). You don’t need too many math skills to figure that stringing a few passes together and looking to create an attack is virtually impossible with that kind of passing stats.

Although Twente did not get their own game running, they did succeed in keeping Werder out of their own box. Crosses, mainly coming from the right flank, where Prödl put in an excellent effort, and dangerous free-kicks won by Hunt on the left flank formed Werder’s main source of attacking danger in the first half. But apart from Pizarro hitting the post on an exceptional attack through the middle, their goal scoring threat was easily matched by Twente’s quick breaks.

The second half

No personal or tactical changes meant that the second half carried on like the first half did. Werder’s danger consisted of curling sideline free kicks and Twente looked to seize upon one of their breaks. But Twente came no further than hitting the post through Nacer Chadli, in a move that slightly resembled their goal against PSV last weekend.

From a tactical standpoint, Werder did change a vital element to their game. While in the first half they limited the playing field, effectively controlling space by positioning their defensive line on the halfway line, in the second half they chose a deeper stance, drawing Twente onto them and looking to take advantage from Twente’s generally overrun midfield. Although not only opening up spaces for themselves, Werder did manage to create an even more open and free-flowing attacking game.

Thomas Schaaf wouldn’t be Thomas Schaaf if he wouldn’t come up with another attacking chance. Taking off holding midfielder Bargfrede and introducing Marko Arnautovic meant that with about half an hour to play Werder played a 4-1-3-2 formation, committing five players to their attack.

An attacking mind: Werder Bremen manager Thomas Schaaf

With the match potentially going either way it was a moment of technical brilliance where Bryan Ruiz controlled a running ball with his backheel, forcing Thorsten Frings into a cynical foul and a subsequent red card. Werder continued their attacking path in a 3-2-3-1 formation, but quickly paid the price. Nacer Chadli took full advantage of the space opening up on Werder’s half and saw his deflected shot hit the back of the net with only ten minutes to go. A few minutes later it was Luuk de Jong who finished to match by scoring 0-2 from a header.

In the end

In fact this match, as so often is the case with Werder, could have gone either way, but as also is so often the case, did not go Werder’s way in the end. Committing five players to the attack may steal the hearts of large parts of the football fan community, it does not deserve to steal their minds. There would have been smarter ways to take advantage of Twente’s shortcomings in midfield. By opening up space in withdrawing their defensive line, Werder played into the hands of Twente who succeeded in completing almost three times as much passes in the second half as they did in the first half. The technical skills of Bryan Ruiz and the pace of Chadli proved enough to score the winning goal in the end.

Twente 1 – 1 Werder Bremen: A self fulfilling prophecy for defensively tuned Twente

Dutch champions FC Twente faced Werder Bremen at home for their third Champions League Group stage match tonight. This offered them a chance at revenge for both team’s match-up last season when the Germans knocked Twente out of the Europa League competition in the first knock-out stage. After winning 1-0 at home, Twente went on to lose the second tie 1-4.

Twente’s Champions League campaign

This year’s Champions League campaign brought both teams one point so far. Twente managed to hold Cup holders Inter to a 2-2 home draw in a match that must have generated the team quite some respect throughout the footballing world. Playing an open and attacking game at home, supported by a great crowd, Theo Janssen was definitely the man of the moment, scoring from a beautiful direct free-kick.

Their second CL game also saw a Dutchman walk away with the ‘man of the moment’ credits, albeit a bit of a debatable honour that time. Rafael van der Vaart shone in many aspects that night. After scoring the opening goal and missing a penalty, he got his second yellow card about one hour into the match. In the end the match ended in a 4-1 defeat for Twente.

Werder Bremen’s season so far

Their opponents Werder Bremen have got two similar results after two games. Their first game was drawn at home 2-2 with Tottenham and they went on to lose 4-0 at Inter’s San Siro. Their national campaign doesn’t see them flying high too. After a 3-2-3 opening to the season, Werder is now ranked 11th in the Bundesliga and only Borussia Mönchengladbach’s defense has let in more goals than Werder’s 17.

The starting line-ups

Twente’s 4-2-3-1

Regular 11tegen11 followers will know by now that Twente manager Michel Preud’homme abandoned his predecessor’s successful 4-3-3 interpretation to play a clear 4-2-3-1 formation.  This allows to incorporate both talented striker Luuk de Jong in a man-in-the-hole role and target man Mark Janko upfront. They play split wingers with right winger Ruiz having much of a free role, drifting in to the centre of the pitch. Midfield balance comes from Wout Brama who tends to occupy a defensive position quite close to his defensive line and Theo Janssen whose left foot provides the creative spark for them.

However, tonight Preud’homme chose to field the more defensive minded veteran midfielder Denny Landzaat instead of Luuk de Jong. This meant a strengthening of the midfield and a turn back to the 4-3-3 formation that brought them a few disappointing 0-0 draws at the beginning of the season.

Schaaf’s formations

Bremen’s manager Thomas Schaaf has been their manager for 11 consecutive seasons now. His success at the club is easily illustrated by pointing at their successful Champions League qualification for five seasons in a row now.

Schaaf is known as an offensive thinking mind. His preferred formation is the 4-4-2 diamond, but he’s known to use a 4-2-3-1 line-up regularly this season too. Both formation are characterized by a playmaker in-the-hole and this position brought fame to both Diego and his successor Özil over the past years. At present it seems ‘German Englishman’ Aaron Hunt who takes up the role behind the Werder striker(s). Hunt’s excellent off-the-ball skills were recently described very well by Tim Hill.

Tonight Schaaf went with a 4-2-3-1, probably in order to fit in two defensive midfielders given the fact that it’s an away match for Werder and their defense has been quite leaky this season so far.

Werder manager Thomas Schaaf

The cautious first half

After an opening ten minutes where Twente dominates possession, but did so mainly on their own half, the first incident of note was their star player Bryan Ruiz receiving the ball after smartly taking up a position between the lines of Werder’s back four and the double defensive midfielder shield. His shot went wide, but perhaps more concerning for Twente’s supporters he seems to have injured himself slightly. Although he was able to carry on, Twente held their horses for at least ten minutes and this allowed Werder te enter the match.

Werder did so by smart ground combination, especially over their right wing where winger Wesley and full-back Fritz combined well. Add the fact that Hunt started drifting in from the left flank, putting his excellent off-the-ball skills into effect and the dynamics of Werder’s attack become quite clear. They did however not succeed in reaching lone striker Almeida enough, and his isolated position was reflected in his half time pass completion rate of 6/16 (38%).

Both teams lost an important player due to an injury occurring without any opposing player around. Twente captain Wisgerhof had to be replaced with new acquisition Bengtsson at centre-back and Werder’s influential goalkeeper Tim Wiese had to be replaced with young Mielitz, who made an uncertain impression in his first save and invited Twente to test him from distance at that time.

The second half

Many would have hoped for Luuk de Jong to come on, but Preud’homme cautiously decided not to do so. Switching Bryan Ruiz and the utterly disappointing Chadli was his only half-time move. His counterpart Thomas Schaaf didn’t make any half-time changes, so it was no surprise that the disappointing level of play carried on in the second half.

Former Twente striker Arnautovic replaced Hugo Almeida upfront with half an hour to play and this did influence Werder’s game positively. He played with more positional freedom compared to the static role that Almeida played, allowing him to see more of the ball and allowing Wesley and Hunt more space upfront to move into. Werder did dominate the game at this phase, but it surprisingly the goalmouth action was to be seen on the other side of the pitch.

Twente’s golden boy this season has certainly been Theo Janssen and it was him appearing in front of young Werder goalkeeper Mielitz to fire in a close range rebound. Twente got the fairly late opening goal and all that was needed was fifteen minutes of control.

Celebrations of Twente's short-lived lead

But it took Werder only a few minutes to equalize. Twente’s off-day was illustrated at best when six defending players failed to put any pressure on Hunt who found Arnautovic with a through ball in the heart of Twente’s defense. Brama, later on to be named man of the match by the stadium speaker (sic!), lost out to Arnautovic on physique and the Austrian international finished the move cleanly.

In the end both teams came quite close to scoring the winner, but Mielitz came to Werder’s aid by stopping Janssen’s lifted ball and at the other end of the pitch referee Bo Larsen came to Twente’s aid by disallowing a late Pizarro header for a slight push.

In the end

In all fairness this was a disappointing match. Twente’s fear was expressed as Preud’homme dropped his offensive 4-2-3-1, preferring Landzaat in a 4-3-3 over a more offensive-minded Luuk de Jong. This create quite a gap between Twente’s midfield and attack and consequently their performance was generally disappointing.

With the away match against Bremen coming up next the second place in the group is still within reach, but Twente will have to come up with a better game plan as the defensive installment of Denny Landzaat over Luuk de Jong turned into a self-fulfilling prophecy tonight.