Brann travelled to Molde on Monday evening fresh from the news that former Man City player Kåre Ingebrigtsen will be new their head coach following the sacking of Lars Arne Nilsen. Ingebrigtsen was not in charge for this game, however, instead leaving it to assistant manager Rune Hauge. Hauge faced a daunting task against a Molde side who boasted a 100% record this season at Aker Stadion and were looking to close the gap on Bodø/Glimt at the top of the Eliteserien.
This tactical analysis will look at the tactics employed by both Molde and Brann in this match. The analysis will focus mainly on Molde’s pressing, Brann’s narrow defence and Brann’s effectiveness on the counter-attack.
Erling Moe sent out Molde in the 4-2-3-1 system they have used almost exclusively since he took over the reins from Man United’s Ole Gunnar Solskjær with Andreas Linde in goal. Henry Wingo started at right-back, with Sheriff Sinyan and Martin Ellingsen as centre-backs, and Kristoffer Haugen as left-back. Etzaz Hussain and Fredrik Aursnes operated as holding midfielders with Erling Knudtzon on the right side of the three attacking midfielders. Ola Brynhildsen came into the side on the left after scoring twice as a substitute in their 5-0 win against Start with Eirik Hestad moving into the central attacking midfield role. Ohikhuaeme Omoijuanfo started as the centre-forward whilst talisman Magnus Wolff Eikrem was again only fit enough to make the substitutes.
Rune Hauge set up Brann in a 4-4-2 with Håkon Opdal continuing in goal with Ali Ahamada still not fit. Jon-Helge Tveita came in at right-back, with Ole Kolskogen and Veggard Forren as centre-backs, and Ruben Kristiansen as left-back. Gilbert Koomson and Petter Strand started as right and left wingers respectively, with Daniel Pedersen and Kristoffer Barmen operating as central midfielders. Fredrik Haugen partnered Daouda Bamba in attack.
Molde started the game on the front foot, creating a couple of early chances with Brann looking nervous. As Brann started to get more possession of the ball, Erling Moe instructed his side to increase the anxiety levels of the Brann players by pressing them high up the pitch and utilising man-marking. Brann were forced into making keeping the ball in tight areas and looked entirely uncomfortable.
In the image above, Brann left-midfielder Strand has dropped back in an attempt to help his defence recycle possession but he is tracked all the way by Molde right-back Wingo. Molde’s attacker Omoijuanfo is occupying one of Brann’s centre-backs rendering him an impossible pass option and leaving Strand having to play a risky pass back into the area being occupied by Hestad.
The combination of man-marking and the marking of space by Molde’s players makes it incredibly difficult for Brann to find a receiver with time enough on the ball to progress play, instead forcing mistakes which allows Molde to keep up their early attacking pressure.
In the above example, Molde this time man-mark three players whilst three others put pressure on the ball-carrier, again the Brann player is left with no choice but to pass backwards to the sole unoccupied centre-back. The pressurised pass is wayward and results in a Molde corner.
Surprisingly, Molde didn’t press with the same aggression from Brann goal kick’s and allowed the centre-backs more time to deliver a progressive pass. In the below image, we can see how Molde have only one player cutting off pass options in the Brann defensive third as Brann form a box with the two centre-backs and two central midfielders. One of Brann’s attackers drops into the space in between Molde’s defence and midfield and is not only able to relieve pressure, but also set up a Brann attack.
Not keeping up the aggressive press from dead-ball situations was surely a mistake from Molde, particularly as they were dominating the game at this stage. Brann ultimately took the lead from the second phase of a corner they won from this passage of play.
Brann’s narrow defence
As the game settled down after two early goals, the patterns of play became clear. Brann set up to defend narrowly and allow the Molde right-back constant space to attack. Brann clearly expected to win defensive duels once crosses came into the box, especially with Molde playing with just one attacker and their midfielders lacking height/physicality.
The above image shows how Brann set up in three distinct and compact lines within the middle vertical third with right-winger Koomson kept further wide. This was presumably an attempt to force Molde into concentrating their attacks solely down the right flank and making defending balls into box easier. The compact lines ensure that the three advanced midfield players of Molde are unable to operate in between them, again looking to allow only one avenue of attack. As Brann intended, Molde generally attacked down the right but created little in the way of clear-cut chances from crosses.
Molde attempted to combat this by drawing the defensive lines of Brann horizontally across the pitch by overloading the left flank. Molde’s right-sided attacking midfielder began to position himself almost as a second attacker, positioning himself in between the left-back and left-sided centre back. As can be seen below this created an abundance of space in the central-right corridor for Wingo to run into.
Receiving the ball in this area allows for Wingo to create more danger than simply crossing from close to the touchline. A bonus of attacking in this manner is that Molde have effectively got a second attacker to get on the end of any cut-backs.
Brann’s response to these tactics of Molde was not to defend wider but to drop deeper. Whilst this still allowed Molde to attack the corridors, it left little space in behind for any danger to amount. Molde again reacted quickly to this change and pushed one of their midfield pivots further forward, essentially creating an attacking line of five with the attacker and offensive midfield players. With Brann sat so deep, Koomson was less inclined to track his runner, instead focusing more on the opportunity to counter-attack.
Molde were unable to capitalise on these opportunities enough, especially in the second half.
As the game wore on and Molde desperately searched for an equaliser, Brann were incredibly brave and continued to play with two attackers. With Molde’s attacks often containing 8 players it left a 2v2 situation when the play broke down. With Brann confident in their narrow defensive shape, they were happy to go man-for-man and use the pace of their attackers and Koomson on the right to create quality counter-attacking opportunities. The below image shows their usual defensive shape in the last 25 minutes of the game.
The two Brann attackers, whilst sat deep, showed no inclination to help their defensive line. Koomson didn’t neglect his defensive duties so much in the second half but still looked to break at every opportunity. Brann continued to force Molde into attacking down the right flank and winning the duels once the pass into the area came.
The above image shows how quickly Brann gain numerical superiority in transition. The two attackers and Koomson immediately look to run forward at pace and create a 3v2 in attack. Knowing this situation is unhealthy for Molde, one of their centre-backs attempts to stop the first pass. This proves to be a mistake as Brann’s attackers both angle their runs slightly outwards and are positioned far enough apart so that two passing avenues become available.
Bamba probably should pass the ball into the vacant space, though uses the run as a decoy to beat his defender on the outside and get a clear run on goal, his effort well saved by Linde.
Brann created these 2v2’s and 3v2’s on several more occasions in the latter stages of the game but a combination of good goalkeeping from Linde and poor finishing kept the score at 1-2.
Ingebrigtsen will be happy with what he saw from his new side, this analysis showing his players have what it takes to move up the table. Brann rode their luck at times but were ultimately unfortunate not to win by a bigger margin, Molde goalkeeper Linde denying them numerous times on the counter-attack. It will be interesting to see what tactics Ingebrigtsen employs in his first few matches in charge, having built a reputation for attacking football when in charge of Rosenborg.
Molde missed the chance to close the gap on Bodø/Glimt and must now hope that the league leaders continue to stutter as they have slightly of late. They looked a little toothless in attack and susceptible in defence, and will need to address these problems before they face Finnish champions KuPS in the UEFA Champions League first qualifying round next week.