SC Freiburg – Match Report vs. Bayer 04 Leverkusen (19/12/21)

Freiburg and Bayer Leverkusen clashed on the 19th December 2021 at the Schwarzwald-Stadion. The two teams were vying for Champions League qualification spots and the winner would take 3rd place going into the Winderpause. Freiburg were ultimately victorious, winning 2-1. A fair result as xG suggests 2.9-1.4 in Freiburg’s favour. Below I have analysed two of Freiburg’s youthful players: Nico Schlotterbeck (22) and Woo-Yeong Jeong (22)

Ratings:

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

Nico Schlotterbeck

Player profile:

  • Nationality: German
  • Age: 22
  • Date of birth: 1/12/1999
  • Current club: SC Freiburg
  • Career: Freiburg II, Union Berlin, Freiburg
  • Position: CB
  • Preferred foot: Left

 Nico is an expansive player. He carries progressively often before passing equally as progressively. His weight of pass is outstanding and in the majority of cases is faultless. Schlotterbeck rarely loses possession when passing despite such expansiveness. This is not only indicative of his ability on the ball but a synergy and tactical understanding of his teammates. Schlotterbeck’s dexterity aids this greatly: Thus he is able to add a dimension to his team’s buildup. Albeit, when progressively carrying Schlotterbeck is prone to turnover if exposed to pressure and thus his decision making can be questioned at points. Nevertheless, Schlotterbeck has impressive progressive ability whether it be at his own feet or when releasing. For his youthfulness, he expresses a minimum level of fear or reluctancy.

As aforementioned, Nico shows no reluctancy in attacking. In these attacking phases of play Nico is comfortable in any orientation. He drifts wide to receive the ball but also offers a form of recycling or inversion in progression from which he acts as a nuclei and catalyst for any Freiburg attack. Similarly, his defensive orientation is varied and he looks apt and capable in all of them. Sometimes, he will pounce out of the defensive line in the attempt of placing pressure on opponents in a low-block phase aided by his domineering figure and build. A pertinent example of this was the occurrence that a player in close proximity had failed to scan and maintained a closed body shape and hence was unaware of his surroundings. Thus, Nico acted and imposed himself upon this player and forcing a turnover. Inversely, there were cases in Freiburg’s low block where Nico would somewhat operate as a sweeper slightly deeper than his defensive counterparts. This low block obviously comes without the risk of playing opposition onside in the majority of cases and commonly with Bayer’s wide progression, Nico was able to infringe the dangerous option which is known as the ‘cutback’. Nico is able to play in a high line with relatively quick recovery speed and the intelligence to maintain synergy with teammates making up the lines which allows him to apply pressure when the ball is progressed in-between the lines and inversely to cover gaps. 

Schlotterbeck is technically secure. His aforementioned passing stands out as a prominent feature of his game but his plethora of innate abilities bolstered by his build and natural stature. Albeit there was occurrences when I felt that Schlotterbeck’s movement felt somewhat clunky. His agility is certainly a weakness which can be found in Schlotterbeck’s game although this is counteracted by his speed. In 1-on-1 duels, Schlotterbeck maintains a strong, low and most importantly dictating positioning. Players require extreme nimbleness or evasive skills to pass Schlotterbeck in his undesired ways. By this, I mean that Schlotterbeck commonly forces players on to their unfavored foot or into a position of unease at which he may concede some ground before effectively intervening to intercept/block a pass or cross. Yet, at points his challenges are cumbersome. Schlotterbeck (aided by his frame) is also an evasive player at attacking set piece situations.

Rating – A1

Schlotterbeck undoubtedly has the profile and skillset to excel at the highest level. 

Woo-Yeong Jeong

Player Profile:

  • Nationality: South Korean
  • Age: 22
  • Date of birth: 20/09/1999
  • Current club: SC Freiburg
  • Career: Bayern München II, Bayern München, SC Freiburg II, Freiburg, Bayern München II (Loan), SC Freiburg
  • Position: 10
  • Preferred foot: Right

Woo-Yeong Jeong strikes me as a versatile player. He seemed utterly apt up taking many attacking positions on the pitch and is equally comfortable in the process of reaching these positions. He easily interchanges positions with his fellow attackers. Movement is an outstanding strength in Woo-Yeong’s game. The young attacker showed great agility to evade Bayer’s man-marking system in multiple set play situations. Moreover, Jeong was effective in progression when combining with team-mates. Woo-Yeong acts as a pivot for Freiburg’s progression in many cases- occupying the half-space prior to receiving the ball and after moving the ball he often makes incisive runs into space and viable passing lanes. These aforementioned post-progression movements are usually in the form of an overlap or an underlap thus occupying wide areas or the central area in the 2nd or 3rd phase of the pitch and as aforementioned he is at ease receiving in these positions. Therefore, regardless of his technical ability (which I will come on too) Woo-Yeong is an extremely valuable attacking asset for Freiburg.

The Korean winger excels in the defensive aspect of the game, indicative of his tactical nous. Similarly, to his attacking versatility, Woo-Yeong is effective in many disciplines of the defensive phase. He effectively triggers a ‘gegenpress’ immediately after loss of possession, he rarely compromises the rest of the team by pressing individually and thus his triggers provide a tactically correct and effective process for the team. His pressing is usually provocative (forcing a pass, usually lateral/backwards). He is also effective in Freiburg’s 4-4-2 mid-block tucking in at the first line of defence when Bayer are in a steady state of attack. He effectively shifts as part of this line to ensure Bayer’s progression is difficult whilst also not being over-eager and thus refrains from jumping out of the more rigid shape. Woo-Yeong’s defensive ability is irrefutably aided by his unwavering work rate. In the late stages of the game, Woo-Yeong would rush back following Bayer’s counter attack, with a relatively strong recovery speed. In these cases, Woo-Yeong’s defensive game was once again provocative and resulted in a turnover on occasion. In one-to-one situations, Woo-Yeong holds a strong defensive shape, he effectively jockeys players therefore dictating their movement. This is made even more impressive by Woo-Yeong’s short and light frame.

As aforementioned, his movement already provides a great deal of attacking value to Freiburg without considering technical ability, but this effectiveness is only increased by his technical ability. Woo-Jeong portrayed an innate ability to take and progress the ball with a minimum of hesitation. Thus, he is an effective progressor of the ball. Many of his passes are penetrative yet Jeong showed a 360º range of passing which exemplifies his efficient scanning and strong decision making. Woo-Jeong intersperses successful basics of the game with attempts of flair. These exuberant passes are usually successful and I think the ratio of which he attempts simple to flair passes allows for him to effectively retain possession whilst on occurrence deceiving defenders and simultaneously progressing the ball. Furthermore, Jeong effectively uses an open body shape in attacking transition which enables him to take the ball onto his preferred foot and quickly release the ball to a team-mate, a stronghold of his game. Woo-Yeong’s progressive carrying is somewhat infringed by his weak foot. He often ends up in awkward situations despite having the spacial advantage over his defensive counterpart, his dribbles can be somewhat counterintuitive due to his isolation in dextrality. 

Rating – B2

Woo-Yeong Jeong shows glimpses of excellent play yet his carrying infringes his total effectiveness in the attacking phase. Nevertheless, Woo-Yeong certainly has a great degree of potential.

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