Christian Streich is one of a host of eccentric and highly skilled managers active in the Bundesliga in 2020. Allowed to see his tactical philosophy flourish, Streich has been managing SC Freiburg since 2011. In 2019/20 they finished in a respectable 11th place. Here are the tactics, the philosophy, and the idealism that brought Freiburg such success.
Christian Streich’s history
Christian Streich is a manager like few others in modern football. While most coaches fear losing their job over a few bad results, Streich has been the manager of SC Freiburg since the 2011/12 season.
In fact, Streich got his start with the team when he was only 18 years old. He joined Freiburg as a youth signing. The future manager spent his formative years, and the seasons prior to his retirement here. He then signed on as a youth coach. Later he was promoted to the role of assistant, before, in 2011, becoming the team’s manager.
During his tenure as manager, Christian Streich’s biggest achievement was a fifth-place finish. While the team was relegated in 2015, they immediately climbed back up after winning the 2.Bundesliga.
Streich’s preferred football style and philosophy
Christian Streich is well known in Germany because of his expansive, friendly personality. Much of this energy translates into the way Freiburg plays.
Throughout the 2019/20 season, Freiburg were known for their offensive, aggressive style of football. Streich is a manager that delights in playing attacking football.
The team favors a long, direct passing game. Strikers are instructed to keep on the move, looking for space behind the opponents’ defense. Central midfielders are supposed to fight for each ball. The direct passes are either provided on the counter-attack, most often, or, delivered to the flanks where wingers attempt to quickly create attacking chances.
SC Freiburg’s formations and tactics
Christian Streich, in terms of formation, is relatively traditionalist. He preferred the 4-4-2 for much of his career. In 2020, he tended to opt for 3-4-3 formation. This tactical choice allows Freiburg to remain a compact unit when other pressure from opponents.
Tactically, SC Freiburg is a team that likes to defend deep. When not in possession, all players are involved in the defensive process. Similar to other modern managers, Streich instructs his wingers to drop deep, creating a five-man defense. The team, essentially, changes to a 5-2-3 formation.
These tactical choices have allowed Freiburg, in 2020, to compete against the likes of Bayern Munchen, RB Leipzig, Borussia Dortmund, Schalke 04, or Bayer Leverkusen.
Freiburg in attack
SC Freiburg, as previously mentioned, is a team that likes to involve players through the use of direct passes. Streich, however, encourages his players to be precise. The team does not simply throw passes in the opposition half aimlessly. While they, usually, don’t have a lot of possession in a typical game, they try to make the best of it.
The strategy is helped by the passing ability of central defender Robin Koch and central midfielder Nicolas Höfler, a true mid-line enforcer. Both recorded nearly 90% passing accuracy last season.
Jonathan Schmid and Christian Günter are, also, essential to buildup play. The two wing-backs are always active in wide positions. This allows to fight the danger of the opposition’s full-backs. It also helps Freiburg open up play on the wings.
Finally, Christian Streich benefits from having at his disposal quick, strong forwards. Their mission is most often to latch onto long balls while seeking an opportunity to lose their marker. Nils Petersen was Freiburg’s top scorer this season. Gian-Luca Waldschmidt and Lucas Höler possess similar attributes but tend to play to come from behind the striker.
Freiburg in defense
Christian Streich worked for many years to adapt his defensive tactics. In 2020, Freiburg was an uncomfortable team to play against. Defensively they are a compact unit, that likes to sit deep. The central three defenders (usually, M. Guide, R. Koch, and D. Heintz) play in a horizontal line. The wing-backs remain wide looking to challenge opponent wingers.
However, integral to the strategy is the use of the two defensive midfielders. Amir Abrashi and Hofler are both strong players, fine tacklers, and capable of quickly recycling the ball for a counter-attack.
The first choice for goalkeeper is Alexander Schwolow. Mark Flekken deputizes for the German keeper. SC Freiburg had the 7th best defensive record in the league, largely accounting for the 7th place position at the end of the 2019/20 season.
What does the future hold for Christian Streich and SC Freiburg?
Christian Streich is something of a cult-hero in German football. No other Bundesliga manager that is currently active has had a longer run than Streich. It’s not accident. The manager is allowed time to build a team that coincides with his football philosophy.
SC Freiburg was the surprise package of last season. In 2021 they can surely do it again. Over the next few years, results may vary. Yet, under the guidance of Christian Streich, the club is bound to remain one of the more interesting ones in German football.