How Wolfsburg manage to stretch Real’s defence ?

Tomorrow evening, Zidane’s Real Madrid will face its biggest challenge since he’s in charge : qualify for the semi-finals of the UCL despite a 2 goals handicap against Wolfsburg. If Real Madrid’s attackers can overcome anybody when they are at their bests, it is mostly the defense that will be expected for this game : any conceded goal would force Real Madrid to score 4 to qualify.

In the first row, Wolfsburg had clearly exploited Real Madrid’s weaknesses, the Spanish team being far from being as concerned by defensive tasks as during the Clasico, a few days before.

Plus de détails : FC Barcelone 1-2 Real Madrid, l’analyse tactique

Zidane pointed it at the end of the game : « For me, it is a surprise, because we didn’t expected to suffer as much during the first half. We did a no-game. We didn’t have the efficiency and the intensity that we wanted. We take a goal quickly and a second one on a mistake. »

Wolfsburg’s two goals came quickly indeed, during the first 30 minutes of the game. However, Real Madrid had the first big chance of the game : Benzema’s shot was saved by Benaglio (13th). Wolfsburg replied with their first goal (Rodriguez on penalty, 16th) and then by a chance lead by Draxler and finished by Maximilian Arnold (25th).

The interesting thing with these two goals is that they were built the same way. Each time, Wolsfburg succeeded in switching quickly one side to the other to free Draxler against Danilo. The Brazilian full back lived a nightmare on a statistic point of view (no tackles, interceptions or clearances).


On the first goal, Vierinha switches side and put Draxler in a 1vs1 situation against Danilo.

The second goal starts on the right, ends on the left. This time, the team went through Luiz Gustavo, alone in the midfield, to meet Draxler on the other side. Helped by Rodriguez to double in the channel, the young German has had all the time to take on Modric and go inside the pitch, before playing back to the right side on Bruno Henrique.


As for the first goal, Luiz Gustavo is unmarked by the BBC and is an easy solution for Vierinha.


Immediately, Ricardo Rodriguez goes to the opposite side to provide solution to the midfielder.


Ronaldo is late compared to Rodriguez, who meets Draxler in the attacking third.


Without any support from the BBC, it is a 7 vs 5 situation. The real problem is around the ball : Modric and Danilo are 2vs2 against Rodriguez and Draxler.


Draxler roams inside to attack the Croatian. On the other side, Schürrle drags Marcelo inside, which frees Bruno Henrique.


The Brazilian has all the time he needs to raise his head and take informations, in order to pinpoint his cross-in.


Maximilian Arnold dashes to the first post, without any reaction from the Madrid defenders. Sergio Ramos does not take any information on what happens behind him.


Next to him, Pepe is more concerned by Schürrle and Draxler’s positions, both available with a back pass.


Bruno Henrique finally chooses to cross strongly to the first post. Arnold surprises Ramos, who never saw him coming and then scores a goal.

It is by occupying as much as possible the width of the field when they were in possession that the Germans have exposed these weaknesses in Real Madrid’s defensive organization. Los Merengues finally went back into their pre-Clasico problems : they didn’t defend as a team and the BBC was not here for these defensive tasks.

Wolfsburg’s plan with the ball was obvious : push back the opponent’s midfielders by carrying the ball on the flanks… Just like for Atletico against Barcelona, the idea was then to build up and take advantage of the spaces created between the midfielders and the forwards to find a new option for an attack. Atletico had found spaces in the heart of the game (Torres’ goal for the lead), Wolfsburg found these on the sides.

This Wolfsburg’s animation was clearly visible in the statistics, as the maps below reveals it : in Madrid’s side, the team’s game went mostly through the flanks.


Left to right : distribution of the passes received for Wolfsburg, passes in the last third, chances created, transversals (note that on the 6 transversals, 5 took place in the first half).

For Real Madrid, qualification will therefore depend on the defensive intensity on the sides when Wolfsburg will have the ball. It will be important to stop their opponent to go through the flanks. The BBC will be forced to do some defensive tasks in order to block the passes coming back from these areas. The good thing is that with such a stretched opposite block, Real Madrid is likely to have opportunities on quick attacks if they get the ball back.


With such a stretched block, Wolfsburg can be threatened when they loose the ball.

Coincidence (or not), Real Madrid suceeded against Eibar (4-0) in this exact issue. Playing on the left side of Real Madrid’s midfield, James Rodriguez was very active without the ball (7 tackles, 6 successful) and contributed to lock down his channel in front of Arbeloa. One of his intervention was at the start of the 4th goal, scored by Jesé. An example to follow to believe in la remuntada this Tuesday evening in the Santiago Bernabeu.

Translated by P.M from this article.

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