How Freiburg beat Dortmund…again – Tactical Analysis

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SC Freiburg beat a bruised and battered Borussia Dortmund team on Saturday as part of Matchday 2 in the Bundesliga, with the Black & Yellows looking completely out of sorts in only their second league match under Marco Rose. Here is our analysis of the match!


What Marco Rose has failed to do so far in his time at Signal Iduna Park, is nail down a succinct formation. The positional rotation was on full display in Dortmund’s first match against Frankfurt, but on this particular day they just looked disorganized. The Black & Yellows pressed and defended in what was clearly a Marco Rose styled 4-3-1-2, which has been popular at both of his two former clubs – Salzburg and Gladbach. In attack, they floated into principles that looked similar enough to a 4-1-4-1, with Dahoud always clearly detached from the rest. Freiburg on the other hand set up to be compact and resilient in their 4-4-2 formation, which at times became 4-2-2-2 in attack.

While the midfield three of Dahoud, Reyna and Bellingham all showed bright moments (Bellingham in particular), Rose’s formation and shape failed miserably to get the best out of Malen, Haaland and Reus – Dortmund’s greatest threats. The shape also pushed Haaland too wide and more easily able to be covered by Nico Schlotterbeck, rather than setting him up to operate in between the centre-backs and give them more of a collective headache. To be fair to Schlotterbeck and Lienhart, they played their part, excellently marking Haaland out of the game. But this was a complete tactical oversight from Rose to move his star player wider than normal, thus making him easier to track. With a very narrow attack and width only coming from Passlack, BVB then played right into Freiburg’s hands, who were also focused on remaining compact and narrow. It was just a complete and utter failure from Rose, as Dortmund never got into the game.


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We all know that Borussia Dortmund are in the Barcelona, City and Bayern mould when it comes to teams who love to keep the ball. The only problem is, minus the current Barcelona set up, they are nowhere near as good as those teams at creating something out of their possession. They are always more dangerous on the break, when they can use their verticality more effectively. When they try and do all of these vertical one-touch passing moves against a well organized team, forcing them to have upwards of 60-70% of the ball, they usually fail. In fact, one of the reasons why Edin Terzic clawed them back into third last season was because he started to let other teams have the ball.

In terms of their possession, Dortmund built out from the back in a mix of 2-2-4-1 and 2-3-5 shapes, with Dahoud almost always detached from both the centre-backs and central midfielders above him. The German international could then form a diamond with the goalkeeper Gregor Kobel, which at times was effective in playing out from the back against Freiburg’s aggressive press. Other times Reyna or Reus would drift wide to the left to make that sort of 2-2-4-1 shape instead. The problem? It was all too slow and all too patient. Teams like Man City that use a 2-3-5, move the ball rapidly…so quickly and with so much variety that you simply don’t know where they are going to hurt you. Dortmund simply don’t do that. This game they practically abandoned the increased use of dribbling and ball carrying we spoke about last week, with Bellingham the only one really trying to drive the team on.

once again, poor in defensive transitions

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Instead of keeping the ball for nearly 80% of the match, Dortmund need to focus more on how they defend in transitions. Their open shape left them cruelly exposed upon mistakes, and the likes of Reus and Reyna could never get back quick enough despite the need for them to do so. This is where a player like Thomas Delaney has been so wrongly left out of the team for the past few seasons. Delaney showed everyone at this summer’s Euros just how capable he is at defending central areas, and it’s not even as though he’s that much worse in possession than someone like Dahoud and Reyna. Dortmund need that double pivot in midfield, or at least greater solidity with someone like Emre Can or Thomas Delaney coming back into the mix in the near future. Reyna would be best served further forward or on the wing, and Jude Bellingham’s box to box nature is best when that additional cover can easily come in behind.

In this match, Freiburg completely exposed Dortmund’s inadequacy in transition. They hit them on the break with pace and power, playing down BVB’s weaker right side (Passlack’s FIFA rating ahead of FIFA 22 should likely be a low 70 at best). It then became easy for Freiburg players to hit a hopeful cross into the box for a player like Lucas Holer to tower over the much smaller Raphael Guerreiro. This is exactly how Freiburg scored their second goal. But they could have had more, simply through Vincenzo Grifo being that much better than Passlack, and Christian Streich’s team actively playing to his strengths down Freiburg’s left. Manuel Akanji was in absolute beast mode throughout the game, but could only do so much. The Swiss improved immensely under Terzic last season, taking his confidence, aggression and proactiveness to new heights. But his frustrations at being the one to do all the work were cruelly exposed as he continued to rush into tackles, and he could easily have seen himself sent off.

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Marco Rose made steps to change the match in his favour, but his substitutions were all players who should have, in truth, started the match instead. Donyell Malen will need more time to adjust, as he continues to play like an individual in a team-based side, without any understanding of how to gel with his new teammates. Julian Brandt or Gio Reyna should start next match on the wing, hopefully with a new system, and the German coach should also deploy a hard man like Delaney or Can back in midfield to give Dahoud that support, and Bellingham that cover. For now, Rose has a lot to figure out, and Bayern will likely take that opportunity to pull ahead.

So there it is! How Freiburg beat Dortmund for the second season running. Be sure to check out more of our tactical analyses and follow on social media using the links below! Thanks for reading and see you soon!

You might also enjoy…
-> Christian Streich – SC Freiburg – Tactical Analysis
-> Borussia Dortmund 5-2 Eintracht Frankfurt – Tactical Analysis

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