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Bundesliga: Where must Borussia Dortmund improve to topple Bayern Munich?

  • December 01, 2021

At risk in possession

The first area where Borussia Dortmund have been lacking this season is how they use possession of the ball.

When playing out from the back, Marco Rose’s team uses a stiff approach which is always defined by the formation they use. For example, if they use a 4-3-3 formation, they will always use one pivot player to support their center-backs when building up play.

This inflexibility is something that makes Dortmund vulnerable to man-to-man marking and an increasing number of teams are starting to use that as their main tactic against them. Opponents are easily able to track Dortmund’s passing options and put the team under pressure.

Dortmund’s solution to this is to play the ball wide but this makes it even easier to isolate their players, force long balls and win the ball in dangerous areas. A good example of this is shown below, depicting Bayer Leverkusen’s first goal in Dortmund’s 4-3 win.

More dynamic movements in order to occupy important spaces, such as rotations between players especially in the center of the pitch so they don’t get isolated on the wings, may be a more effective solution.

Vulnerable to the counter-press

If an opponent decides not to pressure Dortmund high up the pitch, the Black and Yellows’ issues become different but have the same foundation; structure and organization.

While passing the ball around, Dortmund tend to push players forward and far apart. This makes it difficult for them to effectively defend immediately after losing the ball (known as Gegenpressing or counter-pressing). In numerous matches this season, Dortmund have conceded goals against Stuttgart, Freiburg and Leverkusen in this manner.

Against Bayern, BVB would be better served by balancing their offensive structure by assigning more cautious roles.

The general rule is to have both center-backs, a pivot player and the out-of-possession full-back to create a numerical overload against your opponent’s strikers. This makes it easier to defend because it stops every player being in a one-on-one situation – see Nico Schulz vs. Sporting Lisbon for the first goal Dortmund conceded in the Champions League last week.

Dortmund’s own pressing late and ineffective

Borussia Dortmund have used a variety of formations this season including a 5-3-2 (which was criticized by the players), a 4-4-2 diamond, 4-3-3 and even a 4-2-3-1 in their latest match against Wolfsburg. Head coach Rose says he wants to defend actively and high up the pitch.

No matter the structure and formation, Dortmund always seem to suffer from their opponents passing through them on the wings. The reason for this lies in their approach to pressing and isolating the opposing team.

Rose’s side always try to force the rival team wide. This means their strikers pressure the opposing center-backs from the middle of the field, forcing them to pass the ball back out wide. Once that pass is played, it triggers Dortmund’s players to close down the full-back about to receive the ball.

This whole process of isolation is supposed to win the ball high up the pitch but if it isn’t done with a high amount of intensity, then it leaves Dortmund vulnerable, and opponents can easily play through the press.

Since it’s up to players in the center of midfield to track their opponents’ runs and movements, Dortmund often face timing issues. If this timing is off, the whole approach fails, as the goals conceded against Bayern in the Super Cup, plus against RB Leipzig and Bayer Leverkusen in the Bundesliga, demonstrate. 

After failing in the aforementioned process out wide, Dortmund were vulnerable to through balls, crosses or switches of play.

This has one final consequence: an increase in one-on-one situations in the last line of defense, not necessarily Dortmund’s defensive speciality, as seen against Sporting Lisbon.

Conclusion

The upcoming game against Bayern Munich could define the rest of Dortmund’s season.

If they really want to challenge Bayern, their use of possession must be smarter, their counter-pressing more intense and their timing better.

It’ll be down to Rose to fix these problems before the game, otherwise we might just see Dortmund crash out of the title race early yet again.

Article source: https://www.dw.com/en/bundesliga-where-must-borussia-dortmund-improve-to-topple-bayern-munich/a-59976108?maca=en-rss-en-all-1573-rdf

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