Borussia Dortmund 2-0 Hertha Berlin – Tactical Analysis

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After a rough couple of months, Edin Terzic finally has Borussia Dortmund back on track, with the Black & Yellows now keeping three clean sheets in their last four Bundesliga matches. It was another routine performance for Dortmund on Saturday, with the club in cruise control for the entire match. Here is TheMastermindSite‘s tactical analysis of Borussia Dortmund’s 2-0 win over Hertha Berlin on March 13, 2021.


Hertha BSC set up in a mid-to-low block, attempting to thwart Borussia Dortmund’s staunch attack. In doing so, Die Alte Dame utilized a 5-3-2 defensive shape, that swiftly transitioned into a 3-1-4-2 after winning the ball. Unfortunately, Pál Dárdai’s side didn’t have the ball very much (29% possession) and were stuck in their 5-3-2 shape throughout the match. This was unfortunate to see, given the potential space available to be exploited in the wide areas that Dortmund left exposed.

Dortmund’s shape was far more fluid, starting as a 4-1-4-1 but adapting into a 2-3-5 shape in possession of the ball and attack, where they spent most of the game. Notably, Marco Reus started as the right winger, but shifted onto the left in the second half to get on the ball in more central areas, due to BVB’s right-sided dominance throughout the game. This right-sided dominance was amplified with Guerreiro and Sancho out injured, as normally the Black & Yellows have a far more balanced approach. Within the 4-1-4-1 / 2-3-5 attacking shape, the Black & Yellows had a clearly detached role for Julian Brandt and Jude Bellingham away from Mahmoud Dahoud, as the former two tried to operate in between the lines of Hertha’s mid-block.


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As customary of Borussia Dortmund’s play these past three seasons, the Black & Yellows favoured a slow build-up, as opposed to quick attacking transitions or direct play. Dortmund were perfectly happy to circulate the ball around through sideways and backwards passes, waiting for the right moment to thrust it forward. Mahmoud Dahoud sat in front of the two centre-backs and had a very basic role in switching play side to side to the two fullbacks. Most of the time he looked for Mateu Morey, as BVB favoured their right side above all else. Nico Schulz then inverted slightly on the other side as the injured Raphael Guerreiro would normally do, but this meant Dortmund really lacked any natural width.

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Julian Brandt and Jude Bellingham operated in between the lines, but most of Dortmund’s forward passing came into the wide areas instead, with Morey, Reus and Hazard linking up in close proximity. If Brandt or Bellingham wanted to get on the ball they would also come to the far right, helping to create overloads. But before getting into a larger discussion surrounding those overloads, the key note here is that Dortmund remained very patient in possession. Mahmoud Dahoud only really made vertical or diagonal passes in the second half, which was partially down to Reus’ positional change and the team’s desire to get their starlet on the ball.

With this slow approach and so many players operating so high up the pitch, Hertha Berlin could have used that to their advantage and attacked Dortmund at speed. However, Pál Dárdai’s side couldn’t muster up anything significant in the final third and Dortmund never looked in any real danger.


Dortmund’s attempts to break down Hertha BSC in the first half came almost exclusively down the right side. All five of the front-five would come to the right side to help create these overloads and play through Dardai’s team, before flooding the box in numbers and looking to get on the end of crosses or cut-backs into the box. Although they created a few half-decent chances through this approach, it ultimately wasn’t enough to break the deadlock.

In the second half, Terzic switched Reus to the left and Hazard to the right, which meant Reus could now operate in more central areas and get on the ball in all kinds of positions, rather than being restricted to the touchline. This helped Dortmund have a more balanced attack, and it was Reus combining with Brandt toward the left for the side’s first goal of the game. Marco Reus was exceptional in the match, causing Hertha Berlin all kinds of problems with his movement, incisive passing and freedom to roam around the pitch as he pleased. He was the most pressed player in the match, with Hertha players putting him under pressure 72% of the time that he had the ball at his feet. Vladimir Darida’s unfortunate horror tackle left the Dortmund man injured toward the end, and Dortmund will be hoping he won’t be out for long given his form in recent weeks, and the players already out of the side. His replacement, the young Youssoufa Moukoko, made his mark in the match toward the very end, also from the left side. Yet still, the right-sided dominance and attempts to create overloads on that side meant that Dortmund’s final numbers came up with 55% of their attacks from the right third of the pitch, an absolutely outrageous statistic. But ultimately, even though this approach was effective in creating a few chances, Dortmund found more success breaking down Hertha’s defense from the left side instead.


If Borussia Dortmund are known for one single style of play, it would probably be their superb combinations in the final third. Those combinations were on full-display against the Berlin-based club, with the Black & Yellows often over-playing with their one-touch, intricate combinations and failing to turn the pretty passes into goals. They often failed to make the perfect final pass, but these combinations were lovely to watch and looked like vintage Dortmund again. Although Erling Haaland wasn’t at his very best and didn’t see much of the ball, the Black & Yellows never really needed to rely on his goal-scoring touch. Thorgan Hazard, Marco Reus and Julian Brandt were always looking to combine in the final third through one-touch passing, alongside 17-year old Jude Bellingham who also made attempts to flood the box on crosses. When Moukoko came on toward the end, he looked lively and energetic, putting the game to bed so that Haaland didn’t have to. In the end it was another formidable Dortmund performance, with their intricate one-touch combinations troubling Hertha Berlin all game long.

concluding thoughts

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Hertha Berlin put up a valiant defensive performance against Borussia Dortmund and stopped the Black & Yellows from creating too many clear-cut chances. But ultimately, the quality of the likes of Reus, Brandt and the team’s collective possession approach stopped Hertha from gaining any rhythm in the match and proved too difficult to handle in their quest to keep the game at 0-0. Marco Reus was excellent in the match, but Edin Terzic also deserves credit for his intriguing tactical change to play 4-1-4-1 and have the German operate in a free role for the second half. This was the second time in two weeks that Terzic used the formation, and it may be a great option for the Germans to regain positive form as we head into the final quarter of the season. Dortmund now look back on track in the race to finish in the top four, with Eintracht Frankfurt slipping up for the second time in successive weeks.

So there it is! A tactical analysis of Borussia Dortmund’s formidable 2-0 victory over Hertha Berlin on March 13th, 2021. Be sure to check out more of our Match AnalysesTactical Analyses, and articles pertaining to this Bundesliga season. Also be sure to follow @mastermindsite on social media and follow via email below to never miss an update. Thanks for reading and see you soon.

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