Tactics Journal

by Kyle Boas

Analyzing football tactics

From Bayer Leverkusen wing-back to wing-back

Bayer Leverkusen work from inside to out, ignoring the run of open players on the wings, saving that pass for the moment they want to play the final pass. They try to make sure that the player’s second touch is always threatening: a cross, a cut-back, a one-two into the half-space.

Figure 1.1 - Bayer Leverkusen in transition to attack. Alejandro Grimaldo is open.

For context, Qarabag FK went down to 10 men in the 62nd minute, but did not relax and “park the bus”. They continued to try to attack, scored a goal, but left massive amounts of space for Leverkusen.

What I found interesting is that when in transition, throughout the entire match, Leverkusen ignored the pass to the player holding width on the wing. They elected to play through the middle whenever possible.

Figure 2.1 - Alejandro Grimaldo and Jeremie Frimpong maintain width.

If you play the ball to the man on the wing, that will draw a defender out to them, and the opposition defense will shift over. That player receiving the ball is cornered.

If you never play the ball to the man on the wing, that threat of the pass always remains in the mind of the opposition full-back. They can’t move out to mark the man holding width until that ball is played, because that would leave space open in the half-space. They are always ready in space.

Figure 2.2 - Josip Stanisic steps forward to maintain width on the right when Jeremie Frimpong moves into the box.

That threat always needs to remain, so if Grimaldo or Frimpong get forward, inside, someone should then take their place.

Then when the pieces are in place, Leverkusen will try to play to the open man on the wing. Work the ball around, back-and-forth if necessary, and then use that built-up space to attack the box.

Figure 3.1 - Alejandro Grimaldo crosses to Jeremie Frimpong.
Figure 3.2 - Jeremie Frimpong volleys the ball with the inside of his foot and scores.

That is how Bayer Leverkusen scored their first goal. From wing-back to wing-back. Free man on the wing holding width to free man on the wing holding width. Cross and score.

Match: Bayer Leverkusen 3-2 Qarabag FK, 14 March 2024

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