Borussia Dortmund V Freiburg: Bundesliga Tactical Analysis

Borussia Dortmund hosted Augsburg last Saturday (06/10) on Bundesliga matchday 6, in what turned out to be a highly entertaining fixture. Lucien Favre’s side beat Monaco 3-0 in their previous UEFA Champions League fixture, while Manuel Baum’s side had collected 4 points against Bayern Munich and Freiburg in their last two games. The 4-3 end result saw Borussia Dortmund maintain their lead at the top of the Bundesliga and the visitors drop down to 10th place. Augsburg put up a good fight and created a good amount of chances considering the fact that Dortmund had a large percentage of possession. Strangely, Dortmund got another big win by playing without complete organization or dominance either. It’s been an ongoing trend so far this season and I wonder how long they can keep bagging wins playing this way. But at the moment I’m simply enjoying the fact that they’re back in business, winning games and scoring goals. Let’s take a look at how they managed to score yet another 4 goals in a single game this season.

Lineups:

Borussia Dortmund (4-2-3-1): Burki; Hakimi, Akanji, Zagadou, Diallo; Witsel, Weigl; Sancho, Reus, Bruun Larsen; Phillip

Augsburg (4-2-2-2): Luthe; Framberger, Gouweleeuw, Hinteregger, Max; Khedira, Baier; Hahn, Caiuby; Gregoritsch, Finbogasson

1st Half Approaches:

Augsburg put full pressure on Borussia Dortmund from the get-go and used a space-oriented man-marking system to do so. Players were assigned to defend their respective zones but aggressively pressed any opponents in and around their zone. This approach troubled Dortmund quite often throughout the match due to the inconsistent execution of their build-up. Augsburg usually won the ball after the first phase of the press, when Dortmund would try and play the ball into midfield or if they went long.

Borussia Dortmund vs Augsburg Bundesliga Tactical Analysis Statistics

In possession, they were very direct from the back to front, as the backline looked to¬† play long passes into Gregoritsch and Finbogasson. The players around the two strikers would remain close in order to contest for 2nd balls and continue their attack. Once the ball was won high up the field, Augsburg would look to their wide players(mostly their fullbacks), who would usually be isolated 1v1 against Dortmund’s fullbacks. Augsburg’s left-back Max was a particularly threatening player for Dortmund early in the 1st half, by creating goalscoring chances from crosses in wide areas. He won a free-kick after being fouled, and crossed the resulting set piece, which Finbogasson converted to take a 1-0 lead.

Dortmund also chose to press high and early as they looked to force Augsburg into rushed clearances before regaining possession. They used a space-oriented zonal marking system, congesting areas around the ball and limiting the options of of their opponents. Once they lost access to the ball, they would retreat into a mid-block structure as they usually do, before waiting for an opportunity to press again.

Borussia Dortmund vs Augsburg Bundesliga Tactical Analysis Statistics

The majority of Dortmund’s chances came when they broke forward, exploiting Augsburg’s poor defensive balance. They mostly won the ball after pressing from midfield, and breaking past, Baier and whoever else was covering Khedira in midfield. The high positioning of Augsburg’s full-backs meant that the visitors were constantly making recovery runs in these situations which is unfavourable considering the pace and skill of Dortmund’s forwards. Dortmund had 3 high quality chances to score in the 1st half but missed them all.

2nd Half: 1st Half Patterns Continue Until Mario Gotze’s Introduction

The 2nd half continued in pretty much the same fashion as the 1st, with Augsburg still pressing Dortmund with the same conviction and Dortmund getting lucky breaks from midfield time and again. Substitute Paco Alcacer got the equalizer 4 minutes after his introduction after Dortmund finally converted a chance, that came from a midfield break.

Borussia Dortmund vs Augsburg Bundesliga Tactical Analysis Statistics
Witsel wins ball in midfield and breaks past Caiuby. The three white blocks highlight three open channels Witsel can play passes into.
Borussia Dortmund vs Augsburg Bundesliga Tactical Analysis Statistics
Witsel plays a brilliant through ball for Jadon Sancho to run onto. Notice the space he has ahead of him, while Max, the left-back makes a hopeless recovery run.
Borussia Dortmund vs Augsburg Bundesliga Tactical Analysis Statistics
Sancho squares the ball for Paco, who effortlessly taps in the ball for an equalizer.

Dortmund however couldn’t control Augsburg’s attacks and nearly conceded a goal when Finbogasson hit the post in the 62nd minute. 8 Minutes later Augsburg got back into the lead when Max converted a cross from the right. Dortmund’s lack of control in possession prevented them from controlling Augsburg’s attacks, which was a variation of long passes from deep and dangerous crosses from out wide.

Mario Gotze came on to replace Julian Weigl in the 76th minute, and the change meant that Dortmund adjusted their shape to a 4-1-4-1 formation. This allowed Reus and Gotze to more freedom in advanced areas as one player would act as a distributor, supporting Witsel in possession, while one player would position himself near the final 3rd. With Weigl on the pitch, Dortmund had 2 holding midfielders who both played in deep positions(on opposite sides), making it easy for Augsburg to push forward and put pressure on them. With Gotze, Dortmund now had a player who could make runs from deep and drag his opponent with him, exploiting Augsburg’s use of a man-marking system. This allowed Dortmund to retain possession for longer periods as they found space more easily through good movement and rotations and manged to progress higher up the field more consistently. They also won a few fouls in this area, one of which was converted by Paco after a clever cross, to grab the equalizer yet again. A few minutes later, Gotze put Dortmund into the lead after running in-behind Augsburg’s defense(completely unmarked) and latching onto a Hakimi through pass to make the score 3-2. This sequence showed the fragility of Augsburg’s marking as they were unable to organize themselves properly when they were set in a deep defensive block. The shift from man-marking to zonal-marking was uncoordinated and very disorganized. They were fortunate to score a 3rd goal in the 86th minute through Gregoritsch after the forward brilliantly converted a poorly marked set-piece. However another foul near Augsburg’s final 3rd allowed Paco Alcacer to step up and score a brilliant winner from a direct free-kick.

Conclusion:

Another week, another messy performance and another win for the boys in black and yellow. Favre seems to have a knack for finding solutions and helping Dortmund win games in the 2nd half, no matter what the score is. The switch to a 4-1-4-1 was a brilliant and logical move by the Swiss coach but had he started the game with a system that brought more control and dynamism in possession, Dortmund could’ve wrapped up the game much earlier. It’s going to be interesting to see if Dortmund continue to rack up results in this manner in the coming week. If they do manage to get results, it’ll be interesting to see if they continue to do so, when they get to the business end of the season. Sustainability will be key, and at the moment as pleasing as the games are to watch right now, there’s a glaring element of unsustainability in Dortmund’s game right now.