Germany’s 2018 World Cup was really bad. They hadn’t been knocked out of the competition at the first stage since 1938, but after masterclass performances from Mexico and Sweden, the Champions were booted out of the competition. A lot of the blame was passed on Joachim Low and not selecting Leroy Sane despite being involved in over 30 goals in all competitions last season. He wasn’t the only key component missing from Germany’s squad, 29-year-old Lars Stindl who suffered a syndesmotic ligament tear in April. He may not have the highest of goal scoring records, just 6 times in the last Bundesliga campaign and 47 top-flight goals in his career, but Stindl’s defensive work makes him one of the most unusually gifted forwards to work with.
What makes Stindl so unique?
The Gladbach captain has always had terrific tackling statistics, a lot of this due to playing in midfield at his time at Hannover 96. Lucien Favre brought him to The Foals for a fee of around €3 million at the start of the 2015-2016, scoring 7 goals and 11 assists in his first campaign; helping Gladbach reach 4th in the Bundesliga table as a centre-forward. Three years on and Lars Stindl still continues to make a high number of tackles and interceptions.Making an average of 2.6 successful tackles and interceptions would be an impressive amount for any high-press midfielder, however, for a striker this special and very unique. Winning possession back so many times cancels the work out for the Gladbach players behind him and often winning the ball in very advanced areas.
(I have sped up this video a little as the normal footage lagged a lot)
Here are just a few examples of Stindl’s tackling and winning possession back in quite high areas in order to set up a counter-attack very quickly. On average, playing as a centre-forward, Lars Stindl has made an average of 5.03 recoveries in the Bundesliga per game, as well as winning 0.9 defensive duels per game (this is data spanning back to the start of the 2015/16 Bundesliga season).
Having a player of his qualities has made Dieter Hecking’s team a strong threat counter-attacking threat, especially when you have the pace of Thorgan Hazard and Patrick Herrmann around you. Gladbach produced 28 shots on goal from counter-attacks, scoring 3 of them.
Being the link-up
Unlike a lot of strikers, Stindl is a very important spoke on the wheel and is relied upon to retain possession of the ball. Take a look at Möchengladbach’s pass and position’s map vs Wolfsburg during their 3-0 win as an example. When a 442 is deployed, you often see strikers much more advanced than your wingers, but both Stindl and Raffael are deeper than Hofmann and Hazard. Stindl completed 94% of his passes during this game (51 out of 54), with strong passing links to Christopher Kramer (14 pass combinations), Raffael (17 passes) and Oscar Wendt (11 passes).
Lars Stindl also completed the most attacking third passes than any other Borussia player in this match; as well as making 9 ball recoveries in the middle of the park to win back possession.
His work in build-up play is also supported by his xG statistics. Not only does he perform above average stats, but he has numbers that would be fit for any top team.
Outside of players from Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund, only three players have a higher xGBuildUp per 90 than Lars Stindl and no striker has a higher score in any team of the Bundesliga; the closest being Thomas Muller (0.4). He’s not a “creator” as such, but without him in the team, Die Fohlen certainly lack his presence up front when they need to win possession back or keeping hold of the ball; which is something he is so gifted at doing.
What next for Stindl?
Having signed a new contract last year – keeping him at Gladbach until 2021 – the captain won’t be leaving Borussia Park anytime soon. With him turning 30 at the end of this month and recovering from his first lengthy injury since 2014, it’ll be very interesting to see if Lars Stindl can keep this sort of numbers up at Borussia. He hasn’t played any pre-season matches, only starting to train with the team recently. With Joachim Löw clinging onto his job as Germany’s head coach, there is still a very good chance Lars Stindl can retain his place in the national team.
Borussia Monchengladbach have improved their front line with the signing of Alassane Plea from OGC Nice. The young Frenchman scored 16 times in Ligue 1 last campaign, with a fully-fit Lars Stindl coming back into the squad; Dieter Hecking’s Gladbach should be looking to improve on their 9th place finish and return to the heights reached when coached by Lucien Favre.
Stats and data via @thefutebolist, understat.com and wyscout.
This article was wrote by Joel Parker, owner of Toffee Analysis. His website can be found here, make sure you check his fantastic work out – https://toffeeanalysis.wordpress.com/. Joel has been a regular guest writer for the website and his writing and analyses has development expansively.
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