Dortmund grind out win, but remain terrible in transition – Match Analysis

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How can a team with so much verticality be so terrible in transition? Well, welcome to Signal Iduna Park – the home of Borussia Dortmund.

The Black & Yellows grinded out another hard-fought win over 1899 Hoffenheim on Friday August 27, keeping up their unbeaten run, but the team’s defensive struggles persist. While Marco Rose has been innovative in his time so far at Borussia Dortmund, he hasn’t fixed Dortmund’s major holes under previous managers, particularly the ones that Edin Terzic was doing so well to change last season. Dortmund will always score goals, but they will always make life difficult themselves by simply being poor in transition, and poor from set-pieces. That’s exactly how 1899 Hoffenheim got back into the game not once but twice, and how they could have put the game to bed themselves had Gregor Kobel not been in such fine form. Here is our analysis.

the need for another defensive midfielder

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Last week, we spoke about Dortmund’s need for a secondary defensive midfielder to enter the frame and take over for Gio Reyna. Thomas Delaney, Emre Can and Axel Witsel being restored back into midfield would all be excellent options for Rose to consider. But he continues to remain far more attack-minded, seemingly without care for how to improve Dortmund’s dreadful defense. The need is even greater at the moment with Mats Hummels still recovering, and Mateu Morey out long-term with his ACL injury. With Axel Witsel in the back-line, and the other three defenders only slightly faster than Witsel’s snail like pace, Dortmund desperately need another defensive midfielder to aid in transition.

While Dahoud is comfortable in possession and helps make the team tick out from the back, he is not the most mobile either. Being asked to cover so much ground on his own has also proven to be a difficult task, nevermind his physicality. Delaney and Can on the other hand buzz around the field and fly into tackles like their lives depend on it. But as Rose continues to opt for the greater attacking threat of Gio Reyna and Donyell Malen, Dortmund continue to concede goals.

Even after Jude Bellingham grabbed the go-ahead goal, Rose persisted with attacking changes and goal-scorers, rather than grinders. If Dortmund simply add more steel to their midfield through Delaney or Can, they will stop conceding so many goals in transition. But for now, their open shape and desire to throw so many men forward, continues to leave them exposed.

abysmal defending set-pieces

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Dortmund’s defending from free kicks and corners has been abysmal for quite some time now, and was the major crux in the team during Edin Terzic’s shaky first couple of months in charge himself. While this is more difficult to solve, there is zero justification for why Dortmund continue to be so bad at marking and covering inside the eighteen. With their inability to defend in transitions, you can at least say that Rose wants to play exciting attacking football. There’s simply no excuse to being this bad from corners and free kicks, conceding a goal from a set-piece in every single Bundesliga game so far. Their marking is often too tight, and they don’t have enough players who are able to win headers. Dortmund also often get caught ball watching, which means flick on’s to players in behind often get finished off.

This problem is further exacerbated by their weakness in transition, causing them to give away unnecessary fouls. These fouls often end up in the most dangerous areas of the pitch, where talented deliverers can either find the back of the net or whip one into the box.

In the many training sessions that Dortmund have during the week, they need to focus more on set-pieces. That much is clear.

the positives

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While Dortmund continue to be out of sorts and out of shape, they did have one outstanding defensive performance from their goalkeeper – Gregor Kobel. Kobel’s ability to get down for low shots and the power behind his strong arms were essential to BVB’s victory over Hoffenheim. Jude Bellingham also had another impressive game, scoring and assisting the first and second goal before needing to be taken off due to injury. Reus buzzed around the pitch and performed well in his role, while Donyell Malen finally started to show some quality in the final third, keeping all three of his shots on target.

Raphael Guerreiro being back in action from the start is also a great sign, and it gave Dortmund a more balanced attack rather than the insane right-sidedness they had against Frankfurt. Their verticality and possession forced Hoffenheim to play very narrow and limited their chances to coming only on the break…and from set-pieces (Dortmund’s two weak areas). But this helped BVB achieve some level of width throughout where Guerreiro and Malen were able to show some bright moments. It’s certainly no Guerreiro-Sancho partnership, and also continues to force Haaland out wide right himself, but it’s good to see the Black & Yellows with a bit of attacking variety on a match to match basis.

In the end, Dortmund grabbed the win, and for the time being go top of the table as part of their unbeaten run.

So there it is! A tactical analysis of Dortmund’s third match in the Bundesliga season. 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!

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-> How Freiburg beat Dortmund…again – Tactical Analysis
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-> Bundesliga 2021-22 Matchday 2 – Tactical Review

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