Borussia Dortmund have had a decent start to the new Bundesliga season so far. The German side went into the international break having come away with six points out of a potential nine in the first three games of the 2019/20 season. For much of the positive start, it’s been difficult to draw a conclusive detail on their current form from the team’s mixed performances so far.
Mixed start to the season
It’s only been three match days since the beginning of the Bundesliga season, but Borussia Dortmund have given us a plethora to talk about in this brief window of time.
Last year’s runner ups gave a good account of themselves in their first match at home against visitors Augsburg, thrashing the Bavarian based club 5-1 in what seemed to be a show of force and determination that would set the tone for the rest of their season.
Despite this, their two following performances against FC Köln and Union Berlin have breathed life into several questions and reservations about their current form.
It would seem that there are cracks in the defensive department and the team still seems to have trouble taking crucial chances against opposition that typically should be considered easy prey for a team of Dortmund’s quality.
This, of course, is not something new to Dortmund fans – the team has chronically suffered from defensive frailty; one that was seemingly supposed to be fixed with the signings that were brought in this summer.
Borussia Dortmund have long suffered from an extended bout of defensive frailty, and the most recent symptom has been their weakness at defending set-pieces.
Over the course of last season, teams found ways to upset the form of Dortmund by scoring from corners, a trend that seems to be continuing into this season.
Just this season alone, three out of the five goals (via StatsBomb) Dortmund have given up have resulted from set-piece scenarios. A worrying trend for Favre’s zonal marking system, to say the least.
Most recently, their shock loss to Union Berlin is the one that raised further eyebrows. While many have indicated that Dortmund’s loss to Union Berlin will be a blueprint for teams at the bottom of the table to take advantage of in terms of shutting Dortmund’s game down, it will also be something for teams such as Bayern Munich and RB Leipzig to take advantage of as well.
Both Bayern and Leipzig possess players that are fantastic in the air, and these clubs could utilize Dortmund’s weakness at set-pieces to great effect.
In Robert Lewandowski, Bayern have a player capable of scoring clinical headers. Leipzig were also one of the more clinical teams in the air last season, and they will surely be taking note of Dortmund’s vulnerability going forward.
Lack of tactical flexibility despite vast resources
There is no doubt that Lucien Favre and his coaching methods have improved the squad immensely since taking over the helm and it was with his experience and help that Borussia Dortmund were even able to mount a title challenge last season.
There have however been signs that the Dortmund boss is not exactly open to new techniques and that could be a factor much later in the season.
In the game against Union Berlin, Favre did what most fans expected him to do once Axel Witsel was ruled out with his injury last week, and that was to play Julian Weigl and Thomas Delaney together in midfield.
While Weigl is meant to fill the boots of Witsel, it was perhaps an opportunity for Favre to try Brandt alongside him, which would have opened up another spot for another creative player such as Mario Götze to slot in and help unlock Berlin’s deep-lying defensive playstyle.
Also the fact that Mario Götze didn’t feature at all makes the loss more questionable. Despite Dortmund’s number 10 allegedly breaking his nose in training, he was deemed fit enough to sit on the bench(wearing a carbon mask) and perhaps could’ve been afforded a minute or two on the field.
In Favre’s defence though, Thomas Delaney’s injury in the first half outlined the physical nature of the game from the off, so perhaps this too played a role in Favre’s decision not to bring Götze off the bench, risking further injury. In spite of all of this, Dortmund have shown some positives as well.
For one, the attack, when running on all cylinders, can be as fluid and devastating as Dortmund fans could’ve hoped.
The constant interchange between the likes of Thorgan Hazard, Marco Reus, Paco Alcacer and Jadon Sancho has been a nightmare for opponents already this season. Paco in particular has been quite impressive, already scoring four goals (and they didn’t come from the bench). The Spanish international is showing that he is far more than a super sub.
Jadon Sancho is also in good form has also had an overall electric start to the season. The young English international proved to be the difference-maker that brought Dortmund past Köln on match-day 2 by scoring the equaliser and then laying off an easy finish in the dying minutes of the game for Alcacer to finish.
On the defensive side of things, Matt Hummels has been a revelation(not exactly new to Dortmund fans).
The return of Mats Hummels has been quite interesting in terms of his ability to play out from the back. His ability to pick out a pass from the back has added a fantastic dimension to Dortmund’s game. His overall performances have been decent as well.
On numerous occasions in every game played so far, Hummels has opened up opposition defences with a key ball to a teammate, and more often than not these passes have led to opportunities on goal.
Despite Dortmund’s mixed start to the new Bundesliga season, it’s important to note that their performances over three games can’t be used as a perfect barometer to measure and predict Dortmund’s form for the rest of the season.
The season is still young, and many pieces are still new and trying to find ways to fit properly within the squad. Favre should, however, work on his set-piece fragility and look to make his side even more devastating on an attacking note.