On Saturday, Germany’s two dominant teams faced each other in the Frauen-Bundesliga. In the last nine years, one of Wolfsburg and Bayern has always won the league title.
This season, however, the Frauen-Bundesliga looks more competitive than ever, and both teams have already dropped points. Much was at stake for both teams, as the direct duels are often decisive in the title race. In a thrilling match, Wolfsburg took the three points from Bayern thanks to a header by defender Kathrin Hendrich.
The match showed again what strengths and weaknesses Bayern and Wolfsburg have, and who their standout players are. Here’s a comparison of their goalkeepers, defence, midfield, attack and coaches.
Bayern’s goalkeeper Laura Benkarth has been at the club since 2018. Her performances are mostly solid, but the 29-year-old is not known for making outstanding saves. This season, she didn’t make many mistakes, but Benkarth could have caught the cross that led to Frankfurt’s equaliser in Bayern’s 2-3 defeat to the Eagles.
Against Wolfsburg, she didn’t have a chance to save Hendrich’s header.
Her counterpart at Wolfsburg, Almuth Schult, is more experienced and has 64 caps for Germany. However, after giving birth to twins last spring, it seemed like she wasn’t back to her best yet.
The 30-year-old could have saved Cristina Girelli’s shot that resulted in Juventus’ lead in Wolfsburg’s recent Champions League game. In the match against Bayern, she impressively showed that she is still one of the best goalkeepers in the league.
With another goalkeeper, Wolfsburg could have conceded three goals or more, but Schult made several fantastic saves.
Defence: Bayern without their best centre-back, but with two quality full-backs
Embed from Getty Images
Bayern’s defence is severely weakened by the injury of Marina Hegering. The centre-back was outstanding last season, and her experience is valuable for the team. The 31-year-old is strong in aerial duels, and key for Bayern’s build-up play with her precise passes. This season, Glodis Viggosdottir or Carina Wenninger have played in Saki Kumagai’s side, replacing Hegering. The Icelandic and Austrian internationals are decent alternatives, but the team misses Hegering’s leadership qualities. Thus, Bayern’s defence has looked uncoordinated at times. A second problem is defending crosses: all three goals the Bavarian side have conceded against Frankfurt resulted from crosses, as well as Wolfsburg’s goal. Two players, Waßmuth and Hendrich, were left unmarked.
However, Jens Scheuer’s team has arguably the best full backs in the league. Giulia Gwinn has played higher up the pitch this season, which allows her to be more involved in the attack. The young German international has delivered some excellent crosses so far and she likes to overlap with the left winger. Her connection with Klara Bühl, with whom she had played at Freiburg before, is working very well. Her counterpart on the right, Hanna Glas, has a dynamic playing style and is a very solid defender. This combination of attacking and defending skills probably makes her one of the best full backs in Europe.
Wolfsburg disorganised in defence
Embed from Getty Images
Like Bayern, Wolfsburg are struggling with injuries too. The young left back Lynn Wilms, who only joined Wolfsburg this summer, is not ready to return yet and Pia Wolter tore her ACL in October. As a result, Stroot has experimented with different back fours, which hasn’t exactly contributed to the team becoming more solid. Coach Tommy Stroot first played Lena Oberdorf as a centre-back, but then moved her to the defensive midfield, again. This move gives Wolfsburg more presence in the midfield and significantly improves their build-up play, but they lose stability in defence.
The centre-back position is now occupied by Joelle Wedemeyer, who isn’t a natural centre-back, but a full-back. Her centre-back partner, Dominique Janssen, is often on her own and while the Dutch international has scored several crucial goals for Wolfsburg this season, she also made a few defensive mistakes. All in all, Tommy Stroot’s side look quite disjointed at the back and are prone to counter attacks. They conceded six goals in their last four Frauen Bundesliga matches and dropped four points. Bayern had several chances and found space, but were punished for not being clinical enough.
Zadrazil and Dallmann outstanding in Bayern’s midfield
Bayern’s most remarkable midfielder this season has been Sarah Zadrazil. The 28-year-old plays a pivotal role in connecting midfield and attack, because she’s calm on the ball, and has a good eye for her teammates. However, Zadrazil seems to be a bit on her own sometimes. When the opposition play with a high press, Bayern often look a bit disjointed and struggle. A look at the stats shows how their passing was very inaccurate against Lyon:
Especially when the players are pressured and have few options, a technically skilled ball carrier is essential for the team. Linda Dallmann fits this role perfectly, and despite her height (1,58 m), she can assert herself and is strong in 1v1s. Bayern missed her presence against Lyon, as the team lacked creativity and drive, but the performance against Wolfsburg was better. However, in the second half, Bayern’s problems were palpable again. Against a defence that could have been better organized, Jens Scheuer’s team was not straightforward and efficient enough.
Wolfsburg’s double Lena pivot
Wolfsburg play with a double pivot, consisting of Lena Lattwein and Lena Oberdorf. Their game has been more fluid with Oberdorf in midfield. Looking at her composed performances, it is hard to believe that she is only 19 years old. Perhaps Germany’s biggest talent, Oberdorf organizes Wolfsburg’s attacks, wins important defensive duels and has an incredible technique. She made several crucial interceptions and blocks for Wolfsburg against Bayern as well. Against Bayern, she once again delivered a stellar performance and was one of the reasons their opponent were unable to play through the centre.
Her partnership with Lattwein is becoming very good, but it still needs to develop. The former Hoffenheim player is not a defensive-minded midfielder, but rather excels in the attacking part of the role, where she can score goals like this:
However, this means that Wolfsburg leave lots of space between the full-backs and the double pivot, and they are not as compact.
Another issue is that their pressing as a collective often isn’t very effective and the team becomes passive at times. The first 20 minutes of their UWCL game against Chelsea were a perfect example of that. It’s also worth noting that Stroot’s side often need some time to grow into the game. Besides the Chelsea game, they were also 0-2 down after 20 minutes in their thrilling 3-2 win against Frankfurt in the Frauen Bundesliga.
Embarrassment of riches for Jens ScheuerEmbed from Getty Images
Bayern are stacked in attack, especially on the wings. Jens Scheuer can choose from Klara Bühl, Lea Schüller, Lineth Beerensteyn, Viviane Asseyi, Jovena Damnjanovic, Sofia Jakobsson and Maximiliane Rall for his offensive line.
Out of all these quality players, Bühl has impressed the most recently. The winger plays like she had never been injured and is a threat to every defence with her dribbles. She links up well with Schüller, Bayern’s top goal scorer last season. The 24-year-old has great intuition and is extremely clever with her movement. The striker excels as a “Raumdeuter” and likes to drop into half-spaces, but also has a superb technique.
Wolfsburg have to find solutions without Pajor
Wolfsburg were hit by a knee injury of their top scorer Ewa Pajor a couple of weeks ago. The Polish international was an key player for the “Wolves” and had been in great form. Wolfsburg don’t have one clear replacement for her right now, and different players have played as a central striker. Tabea Waßmuth scored five goals in three UWCL games so far, but isn’t as successful in the league yet, and Jill Roord scored some vital goals too. But the standout player in Wolfsburg’s attack is current captain Svenja Huth. The attacking midfielder is involved in almost every attack and is hard to defend against, as she is active and agile.Embed from Getty Images
Overall, it can be an advantage that the team doesn’t rely on one top scorer now, but the North German side still struggle to create from open play. They have improved their set pieces and often score goals from corners and free kicks, but when their opponent defend them well, the attack often lacks ideas. Wolfsburg’s build-up play has improved since the start of the season, but they struggle to create chances.
A lack of development under Scheuer?
Jens Scheuer joined Bayern in 2019, having just reached the DFB-Pokal final with Freiburg. Since then, the team has won their first league title in six years and reached a Champions League semi-final. The club realized clever transfers this summer, but the start of the season could have gone better.
Due to these performances against Frankfurt and Lyon, some have criticised Bayern’s coach and his decisions. Hanna Glas and Linda Dallmann weren’t in the starting XI against Lyon, but Sofia Jakobsson, who had few minutes in the Frauen Bundesliga so far, was. Bayern have, under Scheuer, displayed a very defensive style of play in matches against European top teams. This strategy has worked in some cases, like in the first leg against Chelsea.
However, they have also been passive in these games, and the question has arisen if a more attacking style wouldn’t suit them better. One of the main qualities a defensive-minded team needs to have is the ability to play out from the back under pressure. Against Wolfsburg, Bayern were the more active team and were not pressured a lot by Wolfsburg. This is the case in most of their Bundesliga games too, and Bayern’s match against Lyon showed that they’re not used to playing against teams that press high; Jens Scheuer’s side had a very low passing accuracy and struggled to combine without long balls to the wingers. Bayern also had 8 shots, while they allowed Lyon to have 17. It will be interesting to see whether Scheuer will opt for a more offensive approach in Bayern’s next game against Lyon on Wednesday.
Stroot has not been able to stabilise the defence so far
Wolfsburg’s coach Tommy Stroot has also made some astonishing choices. In the 93rd minute of his side’s match against Juventus, he subbed Sandra Starke in for Pauline Bremer, even though the latter had only been on the pitch after half-time – an unconventional decision, to say the least.
Wolfsburg haven’t looked very composed so far, which is, to a certain point, normal for a team in the middle of a rebuild. The number of goals they have conceded is still concerning for Stroot, though, and so is the way they conceded: in most cases, the defence was shockingly passive, like in the match against Juventus, or his team lost the ball too easily in the midfield.
As the match showed, both sides have lots of potential but also need to work on creating and becoming more solid at the back. It will be interesting to see how Scheuer and Stroot try to fix those issues as the season goes on.