Edin Terzic has enjoyed a positive start to the season, even despite some of the kinks in the system clearly still being worked out. Dortmund have lost just one game since the start of the campaign, achieving six wins and one draw in the process. No clearer have their principles of play come to life under Terzic this season than against FC Copenhagen, where the Black & Yellows picked up three points in their first UEFA Champions League match of the season. Here is our analysis of Dortmund’s big win.
SYSTEM OF PLAY: 4-2-3-1
Borussia Dortmund set up in their favoured 4-2-3-1 formation, utilizing Julian Brandt and Marco Reus almost like double ‘ten’s‘. Seven of the starters featured from the off in Dortmund’s 1-0 win over Hoffenheim at the weekend, with their bench continuing to look a bit lightweight in the absence of Mahmoud Dahoud, Karim Adeyemi and Donyell Malen.
Instead of Malen or Adeyemi, Thorgan Hazard was given the chance to start the match, but couldn’t make his presence felt in the opening 23 minutes before being replaced by Gio Reyna due to an injury of his own.
IN POSSESSIONEmbed from Getty Images
Dortmund dominated the ball from start to finish, with 63% of the possession. Their in-possession shape manifested into something of a 2-1-7-esque structure, in which only the centre-backs (Schlotterbeck & Süle) and Salih Özcan remained uninvolved in the creation stage. Instead of rummaging forward themselves, their role entailed playing progressive passes through the centre of the pitch, and occasionally switching play to cover the width of the field. One fullback would occasionally drop deeper to support short passes wide, where they would then look to carry forward.Embed from Getty Images
Their initial build-ups could also achieve a similar 2-3-5 shape, albeit with Meunier and Guerreiro operating higher and less involved in the initial moves. Dortmund then had two main routes forward. Most notably, they would play progressive passes through the centre as the likes of Bellingham, Reus and Brandt floated around and sought space for vertical connections. But they would also find avenues to play into their fullbacks, where Meunier and Guerreiro would take space ahead of them on the carry, and then work in wide combinations with Reus and the winger.
Meunier and Brandt have formed a particularly promising relationship so far this season, always working in close quarters to bring out the best in the other’s creativity. The Belgian frequently overlapped on the outside of Brandt’s inverted position, and this combination repeatedly worked in hurting Copenhagen. Meunier and Brandt created 2 chances each on the day, consistently troubling the Danish side down their left.
Guerreiro on the other side became more likely to underlap, particularly in quick attacking transitions that allowed him to quickly gallop through the centre and arrive late into the box. This is exactly how Dortmund scored their third goal of the game.
But Guerreiro’s ability to hold the width as one of the attacking seven also meant that Giovanni Reyna could thrive in the half-spaces. The American loves to drift inside and receive in central channels, and played a formidable role in the win after his early introduction. Without competing for spaces with Reus and Brandt, Reyna perfectly maneuvered around the pitch to seek space where available, posting up two assists in the process of his three chances created.
The frustrations with Dortmund’s fervid front four even meant that Copenhagen couldn’t contain themselves, and resorted to tactical fouling on Jude Bellingham, bringing him down every time he touched the ball. Bellingham remained unnerved, continuing to showcase his skill in abundance.Embed from Getty Images
Anthony Modeste on the other hand struggled to find his footing in the game. He accumulated just 18 touches within Dortmund’s heavy possession, but was still supported well by Brandt and Meunier down the right, as they repeatedly whipped passes into the box for the Frenchman to finish off. His poor finishing on the day provides an early warning sign that he remains some distance away from being the man to lead Dortmund’s line to title glory.
But he made active decisions to come to the ball, involve himself and get a few touches where necessary, ensuring that he never felt like a distant character in the grand scheme of their possession. Nevertheless, Youssoufa Moukoko clearly offers a different level of threat in behind, and allows Dortmund more ability to play in behind the opposition’s defense.Embed from Getty Images
Upon his introduction, the Black & Yellows started to play more passes in behind for the young striker to chase, but had more success playing through the thirds progressively, and using Reus to work his magic in between the lines.
OUT OF POSSESSIONEmbed from Getty Images
Borussia Dortmund defended in their typical 4-2-3-1 shape, which sometimes floated into a 4-4-2 as Reus pressured opposition centre-backs. Out of all their wondrous accomplishments on Tuesday, their best work came via their intense pressure and counter-pressure throughout the match.
As soon as they lost the ball in the opposition’s half, Copenhagen would find themselves under immense pressure from the likes of Reus, Brandt and Bellingham. The fullbacks would begin to fall back in response rather than engaging in the counter-press themselves, as Salih Özcan prepared himself to step up.
The former Köln man’s mobility in transition and timing of the tackle have both been exceptional, and a major bonus to Dortmund’s ability to cope with the immediate moments following losses of possession. The addition of Nico Schlotterbeck has also presented a positive set of outcomes for Dortmund’s coping mechanisms within defensive transitions, as someone who is visibly unafraid to step up and make challenges. Both operators performed a formidable role in the win on Tuesday, as Copenhagen couldn’t cope with their aggressiveness.Embed from Getty Images
Their fantastic pressure manifested all three goals for Terzic’s team, with each being scored within 10 seconds of winning the ball. Guerreiro’s goal in particular demonstrated fantastic sequential pressing of one at a time, closest to the ball pressures the player, and tight compact shapes that eventually forced the error.
If Dortmund can continue this fantastic pressure into the Bundesliga, they may start to become more of a defensive force in the league, and put their bad defensive reputation to rest once and for all.
So there it is! A match analysis of Dortmund’s ability to cope with Copenhagen, and the mechanisms they used to achieve a massive 3-0 win. Be sure to check out more Match Analyses, and follow on social media @mastermindsite to never miss an update. Thanks for reading and see you soon!
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