1. FC Union Berlin Analysis

2. Bundesliga · Sat, 15.12.2018

union1. FC Union Berlin

2 – 0

bochumVfL Bochum

Table of Contents

General Notes

  • Team Plays with 4-4-2 Double Pivot Formation

  • Extremely counter-minded team, attackers run willingly to the offensive third (video 1)

  • If winning team tends to preserve the current result rather than to score more. Players do not press aggressively, instead they play long balls if under pressure, but also want to use their chance for a counterattack if there is no pressure applied by opponent

  • Not fast center backs, sharp low passes in behind defensive line should make the difference

  • Most dangerous player: Manuel Schmiedebach

Video 1. Example of an explosive counterattack perfectly carried out by Union players

Offensive Play

Transition to Offense

  • Defensive players behave passively and do no support attackers by counter. As a consequence, there will be a large distance between defensive and attacking players in a center area with lost of possession in the offensive third just after an unsuccessful counterattack (figure 1)

  • Team usually tries to move the ball out of pressing zone as fast as possible

  • Goalkeeper never hurries to restart the game after getting the ball until his team is losing. When restarting he prefers to play short with less risk. Plays long in case of opponent and time pressure

  • Polter starts to run in a free space behind the opposition defensive line once team wins the ball in the defensive third (defenders should be careful with long balls here)

Figure 1. Large distance between attacking and defending players after an unsuccessful counterattack

Offensive Organisation

  • Build-up: Reichel and Friedrich are positioned on the left and right side of the own penalty box respectively. Parensen stays in the penalty arc zone with Zulj 10 meters further (Figure 2)

  • Goalkeeper prefers to play short by a goal kick (usually to the right side of the penalty box, to Friedrich, see figure 2), but if an offensive pressing is applied by opponent then he plays long and the whole team moves up front

  • Defenders very often play high long balls directly to the middle or attacking third. All the attacking players run then willingly to the area where such a long ball is supposed to land

  • Very dangerous and fast counterattacks mainly through the central zone

figure_6Figure 2. Build-up positioning

Defensive Play

Transition to Defense

  • Team remains pretty inactive in the first 4-5 seconds after losing possession (this time can be used to counter with long distance passes accompanied by sprints)

  • Forwards do not apply active pressure after the loss of the ball in the final third. Team takes its time to reorganize itself and recover

  • Too much space is also left on both flanks just after an unsuccessful counter

Defensive Organisation

  • Usually not aggressive offensive pressing (forechecking), becomes somewhat more aggressive when the ball is played laterally (to a full back or to a winger)

  • Sometimes large distances appear between defensive line and both defensive midfielders (can be exploited by playing sharply and directly through the central zone)

  • While ball oriented movement the whole team tends to shift towards the ball side, the opposite flank remains completely free (figure 3)

  • Forwards do not defend actively

  • Defensive midfielders and attacking players sometimes fail to fall back in order to support the defensive line if opponent plays long (second balls advantage can be exploited here, see video 2)

  • Team is very good organised in the defensive third. Difficult to penetrate inside the penalty box

  • Forwards don’t chase goalkeeper aggressively

  • Both defensive midfielders are usually low positioned during defensive phase

  • Defenders do not try to take control over the high ball in the defensive third by giving advantage to play long with one touch and less risk rather than to win possession back

Figure 3. Open lateral zone appears after an overly performed team’s ball oriented displacement
Video 2. Passive behaviour of defensive midfielders and attacking players if opponent plays long (exploit second ball advantage)

Set Plays

Set Plays for

  • Corners: Trimmel, in-swinging to the near post

  • Frontal free-kicks: Zulj, near post

  • Lateral free-kicks from the left side: Trimmel, in-swinging into the goal area

  • Lateral free-kicks from the right side: Trimmel, out-swinging to the far post

  • Throw-ins from the left side: Reichel, short distance without risk when in the defensive third, long to the opponent’s penalty box when in the middle or attacking third

  • Throw-ins from the right side: Trimmel, short distance without risk

  • Penalty: Polter, to the right post from goalkeeper (video 3)

  • Polter can instantly restart the game after being fouled

Video 3. Penalty by Polter

Set Plays against

  • Man to man marking

  • Corners: only Abdullahi stays near the middle line, all other players are in the own penalty box. If team is winning then even Abdullahi goes further back to defensive third. No players near posts

  • Long distance frontal free kicks: one man in the wall

  • Long distance lateral free kicks: nobody in the wall, all players outside own penalty box (figure 4)

  • Middle distance frontal free kicks: two players in the wall

  • Throw-ins: players try to mark closely all potential receivers

Figure 4. Players positioning by long distance lateral free kicks



Rafal Gikiewicz #1

31 years
190 cm
Right foot
  • Very good in positioning

  • Punches high balls to the front and not laterally (video 4)

  • Can be unconfident by shots from large distance when the ball is on a knee level
    (video 5)

  • Never hurries to restart the game after winning the ball until his team is losing

  • By goal kick usually plays short to Friedrich who is positioned near the right side of the penalty box

  • Plays long when under pressure

Video 4. Gikiewicz plays the high ball
Video 5. Gikiewicz’s mistake


Left Full Back
Ken Reichel #14

31 years
185 cm
Left foot
  • Always keeps an eye on his direct opponent

  • Good tackling skills

  • Good long passing technique

  • Could be disoriented by feint

  • Blind crosses to penalty box

  • Poor shooting

  • Doesn’t try to take control over the high ball in order to win possession, plays long with one touch and no risk

  • Plays long along the sideline only if it can be a potentially dangerous pass, doesn’t like to play uncertain long balls (passes the ball to the keeper or another free player)

Left Center Back
Michael Parensen #29

32 years
180 cm
Left foot
  • Generally good at positioning, only one time lost his opponent

  • Clears headers to the central zone and not laterally
    (exploit second ball advantage, see video 6)

  • Somewhat overexcited by clearing all the balls near own penalty box. As a consequence possession is lost

  • Poor in agility (use dribbling and sharp feints against him)

  • Fouls easily outside own penalty box

Video 6. Parensen clears the high ball

Right Center Back
Marvin Friedrich #5

22 years
190 cm
Right foot
  • Uses feints when with the ball, not an ordinary defender

  • Very tall and good at winning high balls

  • Possesses high degree of emotional intelligence and stability when under pressure (video 7)

  • Not the best player regarding agility (consider prompt movement to the side followed by a shot against him)

  • Plays long ball under pressure if there are no other options

  • Long dribbling with the ball if there is a lot of free space in front of him (video 8)

  • Doesn’t try to take control over uncomplicated high ball, prefers more easy way by playing the ball long with one touch

Video 7. Example of emotional stability by Friedrich
Video 8. Marvin Friedrich dribbling skills

Right Full Back
Christopher Trimmel #28

31 years
189 cm
Right foot
  • Good in winning the ball at a close distance to an opponent (avoid close approach to this player)

  • First-class in headers

  • Good in clearing the ball with one touch

  • Can be dangerous at 1 on 1, exceptionally tricky player

  • Not a top speed player

  • Slightly pokes his opponent in order to disorient him. Very aggressive in duel (slight simulation can be useful)

  • Very actively supports his attacking teammates

  • Plays long under the pressure


Defensive Midfielder
Robert Zulj #32

26 years
189 cm
Right foot
  • Confident when the ball in his feet

  • Very aggressive player

  • Perfect field vision, plays quality passes in a free space

  • Poor in headers, doesn’t correctly estimate the ball trajectory

  • Unnecessary blind crosses to the penalty box

  • Goes aggressively towards opponent and fouls

  • Doesn’t use shoulder checking and clears the ball near own penalty area even if no danger present

Defensive Midfielder
Manuel Schmiedebach #24

30 years
171 cm
Right foot
  • Very agile player and conditionally fit

  • Supports attacking players by counterattack with his long runs to the opposite half

  • Always follows his direct opponent when defending

  • Skilled technically, good first touch

  • Exceptional passing skills (video 9)

  • Good at ball interception

  • Behaves defensively incorrectly by attacking the player with the ball and doesn’t take into attention the open dangerous passing lane (video 10)

  • Sometimes plays in a rush long and imprecisely being under a pressure instead of keeping the ball under team’s control by protecting it with his body or by not a risky pass to a teammate (poor ball body protection)

  • Tends to select more risky and more promising pass than ensure the team remains in possession

  • Extremely aggressive in duel when trying to win the ball (video 11)

Video 9. Example of a quality pass performed by Manuel Schmiedebach
Video 10. Incorrect defensive behaviour from Schmiedebach
Video 11. Schmiedebach’s aggressiveness

Right Attacking Midfielder
Marcel Hartel #7

22 years
176 cm
Both feet
  • Possesses high start speed

  • Highest quality first touch (video 12)

  • Counter minded and switches rapidly to offense

  • Conditionally good prepared, high intensity running all over the match and large distance covered

  • Intense opponent chasing

  • High quality dribbling skills (video 13)

  • Sometimes loses his opponent (figure 5)

  • Panics under pressure and plays inaccurate

  • Plays in a rush to deliver the ball to the opponent’s penalty box (blind crosses)

  • Incorrect timing at 1 on 1

  • When defending shifts a lot to the left by leaving alone his opponent on the right

  • Doesn’t use shoulder checking when playing high ball

  • Shots if there is a possibility, doesn’t use feints

  • “One touch” minded

Video 12. First touch from Marcel Hartel
Video 13. Marcel Hartel’s dribbling
Figure 5. Hartel’s mistake in defensive positioning

Left Attacking Midfielder
Joshua Mees #8

22 years
181 cm
Both feet
  • High speed player

  • Good in tackling

  • Good passing skills

  • Poor in defending and winning the ball back without a foul

  • Has difficulties when under pressure

  • Chases opponent with the ball very aggressively

  • Sometimes exchanges his position with Reichel


Center Forward
Suleiman Abdullahi #20

22 years
185 cm
Right foot
  • Skilled technically, good first touch

  • Good at 1 on 1

  • Not good at stealing the ball (poor defensive skills)

  • Not the best left foot

  • Doesn’t keep the ball close to his feet by dribbling (video 14)

  • Makes technical mistakes when under pressure

  • Drops down and helps defensively

  • Shoots if the is a possibility

Video 14. Abdullahi’s dribbling

Center Forward
Sebastian Polter #9

27 years
192 cm
Right foot
  • Protects the ball with his back and knows the exact time when to dive (be careful not to foul)

  • Very clever player and knows the exact time when to run in behind and avoid offside

  • Good in supplying the second forward by winning a long high ball for him (video 15)

  • Deficient passing skills

  • Shields the ball with his back to an opponent which is technically not correct and it should be therefore easy enough to steal the ball (again, be careful not to foul)

  • Left foot could be better

  • Stays in center circle area in the defensive phase

  • Directs high balls to Abdullahi or Andersson

Video 15. Polter usually supplies second forward by winning a high ball for him


Center Forward
Sebastian Andersson #10

andersson27 years
190 cm
Right foot
  • Good first touch

  • Poor defensive skills

  • Deficient ball protection (video 16)

  • Not decisive enough to take the risk and set himself at 1 on 1, prefers playing back

Video 16. Andersson’s deficient ball protection skill

Attacking Midfielder
Akaki Gogia #11

gogia26 years
178 cm
Both feet
  • Good passing skills

  • Poor in protecting the ball (same as Polter, shields the ball with his back to opponent which is not technically correct, see video 17)

  • As an attacking lacks clarity in his decisions and an extraordinary solutions

  • Tends to shoot from large distance

Video 17. Gogia’s ball protection