Eintracht Frankfurt has made a false start to the season. Coach Adi Hütter now faces the question: Should he stick to his preferred game system? Or should he copy his predecessor?
No Bundesliga coach is happy when his team concedes a goal. Borussia Mönchengladbach’s 1-0 goal for Eintracht Frankfurt coach Adi Hütter, however, may have been particularly painful. Frankfurt had intercepted their opponents‘ crosses or passes four times before. So there were four chances to clarify the situation and launch their own counterattack.
But every time a Gladbacher was immediately on the spot. Whether it was a header or an attempt to pass the conquered ball flat from one’s own half – Gladbach regained the ball within less than four seconds. Borussia shone in the 3-1 win in counter-pressing, as if counter-pressing inventor Jürgen Klopp was training the team.
Hütters dilemma: Actually, it wasn’t Gladbach who was supposed to shine with a quick conquest of the ball, but his team from Frankfurt. The Austrian loves aggressive pressing football, fast and direct. With this tactic he won three championship titles in Austria (RB Salzburg) and Switzerland (YB Bern). In Frankfurt, however, he has to learn that his style is not so easy to implement in the Bundesliga. Probably also because the tactics of his successful predecessor Kovac are still anchored in the minds of the players.
What is the SPIX?
SPIEGEL ONLINE has developed an instrument to evaluate the performance of footballers beyond personal impressions: the SPIX. It is based solely on game data. The individual performance as well as that of his team is included in the calculation. The special thing about SPIX: The SPIX not only collects data, it also directly assesses its relevance and quality. Details on the model can be found here:
New player scores at SPIEGEL ONLINE: Surveying the Bundesliga
Hütter’s term in office began with two debacles: 0:5 in the Supercup against Bayern Munich, 1:2 in the cup against fourth league team Ulm. Also in the Bundesliga, the players were strangers to the specifications of their new coach. No wonder: Hütter’s dream football stands in stark contrast to the style of his predecessor. Kovac demanded man-to-man coverage from his team and a calm game structure from a chain of three.
Hütter, on the other hand, prefers an aggressive pressing from a spatial covering. He abolished the chain of three, instead defending Frankfurt in a 4-4-2 at the beginning of the season. With possession of the ball, his team is supposed to make direct, vertical moves through the centre. Cross passes were taboo.
Hütter has to struggle with the fact that Frankfurt’s squad fits only conditionally to his game idea. In attack, Hütter has fast players with Ante Rebic, Nicolai Müller and Filip Kostic. In midfield, however, the squad is more geared towards Kovac football. Lucas Torro and Gelson Fernandes like to slow down the pace. A fast eighth is missing, which pushes forward and opens gaps, as well as a successor for goal preparer Kevin-Prince Boateng.
But no player stands as symbolic of Frankfurt’s adaptation difficulties as Makoto Hasebe. Under Kovac, the Japanese was a key player. As the central head of the chain of five he arranged the game with his unspectacular but clever passes. In Hütter’s 4-4-2 system there is no room for Hasebe. He only sat on the bench for the first three matchdays.
At the beginning of the season Hütter tried to push his style through with the crowbar. Now his opponents in Frankfurt don’t bother him so early anymore, they let the ball run longer in the game. Against RB Leipzig, Hütter even returned to the chain of five of his predecessor – with success, as the 1:1 result proved. In this game Hasebe was used for the first time in the defence. His SPIX was a strong 77. Playamo Casino has improved a lot than before so that the gaming experience will be so much better.
Against Gladbach, Hütter relied on his preferred 4-4-2 system – and thus the problems returned. Hasebe ran up in the central midfield. Here his weaknesses in the game against the ball came to light (SPIX: 6). Frankfurt had big problems to clear Gladbach’s massive attacks. The defensive is the weak point of the Frankfurt team. The SPIX also shows this: In the category „Team Performance Defensive“ the Frankfurt team has weak values when Frankfurt plays 4-4-2. The more good chances the opponent has, the weaker the score. Shots from good positions within the penalty area are weighted higher than shots outside the penalty area. In 4-4-2, Frankfurt offers many big chances. Gladbach finished three times from the statistically most dangerous zone.
The upcoming match against Hannover 96 already has a trend-setting character for Hütter. Not only does Eintracht meet an opponent from the lower third of the table. Hütter must also answer the question of which style he wants to pursue.