Champions League football is starting this week. Milan first opponent is RB Salzsburg. I had the opportunity to interview Salzburg’s coach Matthias Jaissle. Thank you coach for making this interview possible.
You played under Rangnick, at Hoffenheim and you grew within their system (first with Leipzig’s under-17s, then as an assistant to former Leipzig coach Alexander Zorniger at Brondby and coaching the Salzburg’s under-18s). Can you affirm there is an existing Red Bull school in terms of tactical approach and football philosophy?
I think it’s important that every club has a philosophy about the way they want to play. But what is also important for me as a coach: Here in Salzburg are guardrails – but within these guardrails, each coach can bring his own signature.
The Red Bull system is linked to Rangnick 4-2-2-2 but you deviated from this formation in 2012/22, mainly lining up a 4-3-1-2 system. Why this choice?
The question is always how do I get the best team on the pitch? It is important to maintain a certain tactical flexibility. For me, the tactical formation plays a subordinate role. It is crucial that we get our principles on the pitch. And that doesn’t depend on whether we play 4-2-2-2 or 4-3-1-2 or 3-5-2. The principles are always the same.
Which are the pressing differences between man-to-man and zonal pressing? This last is a Red Bull trademark…
I prefer the ball-oriented pressing in a swarm. Because I believe that you can achieve more when everyone from the team is involved. The goal is to create a surplus near the ball very fast. It is often not the first player who conquers the ball, but the second or the third. We want to constantly stress the opponent. In this way, we want to achieve our goal of attacking as early as possible and conquering the ball.
How detailed are the pressing guidelines? How do you train that? And how do you train gegenpressing?
It’s important to me that all players know what to do. Players should always have a clear plan – no matter in which situation. Accordingly, we try to build up our training and try to prepare the players as well as possible for the matches. This happens through complex forms of training or provocation rules.
How important are the neurological aspects in training?
We do not do any special neurological exercises. But of course, there are many exercises in which the intellect is challenged. That’s why we sometimes have training sessions with an extreme high space-pressure, time-pressure and opponent-pressure.
Which ones are the pressing triggers? And these pressing triggers are different for each opponent?
Here, too, there are some fixed principles. There are triggers that are independent of the opponent. Nevertheless, we of course analyze in great detail the strengths and weaknesses of the opponent. But it’s not about adapting to the other team. It’s about the question of how we can bring our strengths on the pitch. Because our focus is always on our own game.
During the first phase, RB Salzburg under you utilised a variety of different ways through which to bring the ball forward and progress. Can you explain your build-up approach? Is it an RB build-up trademark?
Especially in this area, every trainer has many opportunities to realize his own ideas. It is important to me that we are very variable in the game structure. We want to occupy and play the rooms dynamically. The goal is to always attack the goal as quickly as possible. But of course it always depends to some extent on the opponent.
How do you cope with the natural lack of width of 4-3-1-2?
This works a lot by securing each other / push through and the cover shadow. In addition, it is always a question of how to position the midfield players. You can position them a little more centrally or a little wider. So there are different possibilities.
How do you attack low-blocks?
This is really a big issue for us. Especially in the domestic league, some opponents are already playing very deeply against us. That is why it is very important for us to find good solutions. Without going into too much detail: We also have our firm principles in the last third. The central question is always how do we get the deep block moving – To find the right spaces and to be able to play the vertical balls. And of course, the topic of width is also very important.
Rangnick’s school was also built around the idea that it wasn’t important to retain the ball. The key often involved hitting long balls through the middle to target a man up front and, with the ball lost, to quickly counter-pressing. Are they your principles too? Your keeper doesn’t look to have problems sending the ball long, with Salzburg preparing a good structure for winning second balls or counterpressing.
It is generally important to us to have such a positioning even in the game with the ball that the distances are right in the event of the ball being lost. This is a very important factor in our game. The same applies for the fight for the second ball. But for us, as I said, playing with the ball is also very important. We want to find good solutions and not just playing the ball long. Even if, depending on the opponent, this can sometimes be a possibility.
After Nagelsmann’s regime, Leipzig tried to come back to the basics of Rangnick’s play under Jesse Marsch. This approach didn’t work and the team came back to a more possession-based approach (currently RB does have over 60% of ball possession). By the way, in the Champions League the approach looked more high- tempo and high – speed oriented. Which are your thoughts about this and about this approach too?
It is crucial that the mixture is right. Football by now is so complex that there is more than one phase in every game. That’s why I think it’s important to have solutions for all phases. In Germany it is said that many roads lead to Rome. But no matter how you play, it is crucial that you always develop a certain determination towards the goal.
Which features did you introduce into 2022/23 Salzburg, from a tactical point of view?
The basic orientation of our philosophy always remains the same. But of course, as a trainer, I have the opportunity to contribute my own ideas within these guardrails. I think this is very important, because only in this way can there be further development.
How will you cope with a very fluid side as Milan?
We’ll see. Milan is a world-class team. Of course, we prepare for the opponent as well as possible. But first and foremost, we want to look at ourselves and try to get our game on the pitch. We want to be brave. Even though we know that there is a huge challenge waiting for us.
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