SC Freiburg – Match Report vs Leipzig 16/5/2020

This is a guest piece from Daryl Gouliard.

As the Bundesliga returns, the attention of many fans were placed on the title race where Leipzig were chasing leader Bayern as they aimed to close the 4-point gap between the two teams. At their home, the Red Bull Arena, they welcomed SC Freiburg in a tight match since the away side were focused on creating a 5-4-1 low-block against Leipzig direct attacking pressure and to protect their early 1-0 lead through Manuel Gulde’s touch following Vincenzo Grifo’s free-kick. Leipzig, on the other hand, controlled much of the ball and emphasised on playing out from the back and pushed their team high up the pitch. But while they were able to regain possession quickly inside Freiburg’s half, their equalising goal came in the 77th minute through Yussuf Poulsen, allowing them to keep one point at home.

Ratings

  • A1 – Very good, could play higher
  • A2 – Strong potential to play higher
  • B1 – Good, strong player at level
  • B2 – Potential to be strong player at level
  • C – Average for the level, rewatch
  • D – Below average in this match

Robin Koch

Player Profile:

  • Nationality: German
  • Age: 23
  • Date of birth: 17/07/1996
  • Current club: SC Freiburg
  • Career: 1.FC Kaiserlautern, SV Dörbach, Eintracht Trier, SC Freiburg
  • Main position: Centre Half
  • Secondary positions: Defensive Midfield
  • Preferred foot: Right

Deployed as a central midfielder for this match alongside Nicolas Höfler, Koch had definitely caught the eyes of Ralf Rangnick but still need to prove a bit more if he wants to impress the former Leipzig manager. When playing in his preferred role, centre-back, he tended to be used as a ball-playing defender so it was no surprise to see him dropped a bit deeper during the match to connect the centre-backs with the midfielders up front. While he did not drop as deep as Höfler, he positioned himself behind Leipzig front three and making sure that there was a player occupying the mentioned space. It allowed Freiburg to create more effective transitioning situations and put their attacking trio in a good position to approach the 16-yard box, and Koch also made good use of their movements by sending passes that they could receive and continue their run.

In Freiburg’s low-block, an aspect of his play that caught the attention was his discipline as he rarely stepped out of his position to press Leipzig’s centre-backs. Instead, he controlled the space around him well to make sure no attackers were able to move behind his back and receive the ball. This trait hindered Koch from diving into tackles, which turned out to be a good thing since he did not give away free-kicks in dangerous areas. Still, he was able to stand on his feet when recovering the ball and was able to use his dribbling ability to start a quick attack for Freiburg. It is something that he can look to improve in the future but being able to dribble allowing Koch to take on the situation by himself while encouraging his teammates to join the attack. On the other hand, he showed his ability of marking the opposition’s players well to prevent them from making runs into the 16-yard box and he was able to support Lienhart occasionally when it came to cutting out possible passing lanes around Freiburg’s box.

Rating – A2

Koch is definitely a one-to-watch for the future given the rumours that are circulating about his future. While he still has the option of staying put and forms an exciting trio with Lienhart and Nico Schlotterbeck, he might tempt to look for a higher challenge in different leagues and maybe different countries. Still, his performance against Leipzig was good although he was not deployed in his preferred position as he still provided the needed coverage for the defence while actively involving in the team’s build-up through his passes and dribbles. Freiburg’s defensive mentality for this match might not be ideal for him to showcase his full talent, but Christian Streich will have something in mind to get the best out of Koch.

Alexander Schwolow

Player Profile:

  • Nationality: German
  • Age: 27
  • Date of birth: 02/06/1992
  • Current club: SC Freiburg
  • Career: SV Allendorf, SV Wehen Wiesbaden, SC Freiburg, DSC Arminia Bielefeld (L)
  • Position: Goalkeeper
  • Preferred foot: Right

Schwolow has picked up his form from before the league suspension to help Freiburg keep one point in a tough match against Leipzig. In the first half, Freiburg were looking for the opening goal, they opted to push their shape a bit higher and it allowed Leipzig to win the ball more often in the middle third and created counter-attacks towards his goal. But Schwolow dealt with those chances well with his reflex and made several crucial saves to keep his side the lead entering halftime. One of the aspects of his play was he rarely left his line to make tackles or interceptions, but rather stayed in the 6-yard box and anticipated the situation to make the decision of diving to save the shot or not.

In the second half, Freiburg dropped deep and created a low-block inside of their defensive third. While they gave Leipzig more time to control the ball, the home side were not able to find a way through and at times, were forced to make long shots. Again, Schwolow dealt with those shots well as he timed his dive well to block the ball from entering the goal. Furthermore, Leipzig also attempted to send crosses into the box and Schwolow authoratively claimed the ball quite comfortably as he went out at the right time and right spot to intercept the cross and regain possession for Freiburg.

Rating – B1

Schwolow had a good game given that Freiburg opted to go with a defensive mentality and allowed Leipzig to control the match. He did face numerous shots but dealt with most of them pretty well as he neutralised it with his diving and reflexes saves, while claming the ball in the air comfortably with his timing and positioning. The goal he conceded was mainly not his fault since Poulsen anticipated the situation well for his header and there was not much he could do with it. But overall, Schwolow showed why he remains as a crucial player for Freiburg and contributed heavily in a successful campaign that Freiburg are enjoying.

Philipp Lienhart

Player Profile:

  • Nationality: Austrian
  • Age: 23
  • Date of birth: 11/07/1996
  • Current club: SC Freiburg
  • Career: SC Rapid Wien, Real Madrid, Real Madrid Castilla, SC Freiburg (L), SC Freiburg
  • Main position: Centre Half
  • Secondary positions: Defensive Midfield
  • Preferred foot: Right

Lienhart has been involved quite heavily this season but that progress was interrupted by his shoulder injury that kept him out for the majority of December. When he returned, he remained on the bench until the last match of February against Dortmund, where he returned to the lineup for the first time since the New Year and continued to play in Freiburg’s 3-1 win over Union Berlin. Deployed as  the central centre-back, Lienhart had an average game as he did not involve in many situations. During the team’s build-up, the Austrian centre-back tended to make short passes more often and rarely stepped out of his position, but rather left that duty for his colleagues Dominique Heintz and Manuel Gulde. Still, he acted as the connector between Schwolow and the remaining centre-backs since most of the goal-kicks were distributed towards him and allowed him to distribute it to the remaining two.

In defence, Lienhart showed his marking ability as he was tasked to follow Timo Werner’s movement and prevented him from receiving the ball from deep crosses. He completed that task in a decent way but did not appear to support Heintz in marking Yussuf Poulsen, an aspect that he should have proven more to keep the Danish striker from scoring the equaliser. As he was the deepest centre-back when Freiburg employed the low-block, he received plenty of coverage for blocking long shots and, as a result, he did not register as many tackles or blocked shots. But he did make several clearances from Leipzig’s crosses with him utilising his anticipation and positioning well to time his header and cleared the ball out of danger.

Rating – B2

Lienhart did not showcase a lot of his style of play from this match since he received plenty of support in Freiburg’s low-block. But he contributed to the team’s defence well by making headed clearances to clear the ball out of the box and provided coverage for his teammates on several occasions. He also showed that he can involve in the team’s build-up more by making passes, but would need to take the risk a bit more to send long balls towards Nils Petersen and Vincenzo Grifo, allowing them to start quick attacks. It would be recommended to follow his progress in the upcoming match as he is on his way to fulfil the potential he has while at Real Madrid.

Roland Sallai

Player Profile:

  • Nationality: Hungarian
  • Age: 22
  • Date of birth: 22/05/1997
  • Current club: SC Freiburg
  • Career: Diósgyőri VTK, BFC Siófok, Puskás Akadémia FC, Videoton, Palermo (L), APOEL, SC Freiburg
  • Main position: Left-winger
  • Secondary positions: Right-winger, Attacking midfielder
  • Preferred foot: Both

As the right-winger in Freiburg’s front three, Sallai had a decent performance before getting subbed off at the 60th minute. While he was able to show his attacking ability, there was definitely rooms for him to improve. His dribbling ability was good as he managed to shake off challenges from Leipzig defenders and entering the final third, and on several occasions, drawn fouls from them to win free-kicks for Freiburg. He made good use of his pace to outrun the defenders, but given that Leipzig started with three full-backs as their centre-backs, Sallai struggled on several occasions to enter the box without being challenged. An aspect that he could improve is his selfishness since there were situations that passing was the better option to open up a chance for his teammates, but Sallai opted to continue running with the ball and, as a result, lost the ball to Leipzig and put Freiburg’s defenders on the defensive mentality right away.

When he did not control the ball, he actively joined the team’s press in the first half and closed down possible passing options around Leipzig’s ball carrier. It was a positive side of his play, but he also showed a negative side when he fouled the opposition twice in the first half and led to him receiving a yellow card. Showing aggressiveness off-the-ball was a good decision from Sallai but when playing in a different system from Freiburg’s, it might not come with a positive result for him. 

Rating – B2

Would love to have another chance to watch Sallai again in next week’s Freiburg match as he did show a positive side of his play against Leipzig. He registered several successful dribbles and set up a couple of chances for his teammates when he has the ball. On the opposite side, he showed he can join the team’s press and willing to drop deep to swap position with Jonathan Schmid when needed to allow the former Hoffenheim player to support him. But other than that, Sallai did not demonstrate much against a tougher opponent and it was understandable and he will have other opportunities to prove his ability as Freiburg aim to push for a European spot at the end of the season.

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