Edin Terzic – Borussia Dortmund – Tactical Analysis (2022-23)

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After a rocky start to the season, Edin Terzic has clawed Borussia Dortmund back into the thick of the 2022-23 Bundesliga title race. Bayern have been poor since the turn of the year, whilst Terzic’s team have only rolled on, winning all of their games in 2023 so far. Despite that, no one has been taking them seriously as title contenders. Terzic and co. will like it that way, as all the pressure continues to be elsewhere. So with that, here is our analysis of Borussia Dortmund in 2022-23, and their chances of winning the title.


Borussia Dortmund have favoured a 4-2-3-1 throughout 2022-23, although they can be flexible to ensure all of their mavericks have a place in the side at once. Since Reus’s return from injury in 2023, it’s been even more difficult to fit Brandt, Reus and Bellingham all into the same system, since all three effectively operate as ‘number 10’s’ when they play.

I’ve often spoken about how Terzic achieved magnificent balance in his first season at the club through deploying a midfield three, thus allowing Bellingham to roam wherever he pleased in a less disciplined midfield role. Since the turn of the year, Terzic has achieved the same success by installing Emre Can back into the team, and Salih Özcan as the shuttler alongside him.

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Özcan has completely hit the ground running in a number of different roles for the Black & Yellows, often playing in Dahoud’s ‘DLP’ role in front of the back-line, whilst massively improving their solidity in transition. You simply can’t leave him out of the side, even if you want the leadership and effervescence of Emre Can storming around.

That means that Jude Bellingham is then pushed forward into more of an advanced role, where Marco Reus and Julian Brandt already have freedom themselves. You then get complications galore as three of the world’s best roamers and floaters shift and shimmy around like they’re at a ballroom dance.

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Given the fluidity down the right, it then makes sense that someone more direct often plays down the left. That’s where Karim Adeyemi has completely taken off since the turn of the year – utilizing his insurmountable speed to bully defenders into oblivion. No one’s reached a higher speed than the German winger this season, and he’s completely come to life since the turn of the year with his performances – scoring in each of his last three games.

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Unfortunately he’s now gone out with a hamstring injury, and so we may see the next young gun to come through the ranks in Jamie Bynoe-Gittens enter the frame. Donyell Malen and Youssoufa Moukoko could also play that role, as Dortmund now seem to favour having the aerial presence of a ‘Target’ in Sebastien Haller up front.

While there have been marked improvements since the turn of the year, it’s at the back where they continue to struggle. Mats Hummels has lacked not only the pace but the precision of timing this season, and Dortmund look more settled when the speedier Niklas Sule plays alongside the aggressive, assertive Nico Schlotterbeck.

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Julian Ryerson has been a smart addition to the team after his January arrival from Union Berlin, but Terzic may continue to favour a full-back pairing of Marius Wolf and Raphael Guerreiro into the second half of the season, given the attacking prowess of both players. Wolf and Ryerson are more direct with their speed and skill, whilst Guerreiro likes to come inside, invert, and work his magic in possession.

At the very back, Dotmund have been lucky to have Gregor Kobel in goal, who’s boasted a near 74% save percentage, and 44% clean sheet percentage. His smart shot-stopping and solidity in possession have been key to Dortmund in both phases of the game, and often help to make up for the erratic nature of others ahead of him.

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As the final stretch of the season approaches, Dortmund will need to sure up their defense. Having Can and Özcan has massively helped in transition, and the same could be said of the pace from Marius Wolf and Julian Ryerson down the wings. They will also need to find the best balance in their team when Reus, Brandt and Bellingham all may want to roam around the same areas of the field. Reus and Brandt are such sound interpreters of space that this likely won’t bother anyone, but their combinations need to work in creating moments of magic for others like Haller and Malen, rather than just each other if the Black & Yellows are truly to make a charge at the title.


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Borussia Dortmund tend to build out from the back in a 3+1 shape, utilizing the ‘6’ to drop in between or to the left of the centre-backs. They then progress by positioning others in between the lines or floating about to create space for “up-back-and-through’s”.

Julian Brandt, Jude Bellingham and Marco Reus might come toward the ball at different moments to receive, as the full-backs maintain width. Raphael Guerreiro likes to invert higher up the pitch, which helps in having the more direct winger down his side.

As Dortmund work the ball closer to goal, their quick one-touch combinations then take center-stage. It’s something we’ve noted about Dortmund throughout the years under every manager, and much to do with the incisiveness of players like Julian Brandt and Marco Reus under pressure.

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As they work in tight spaces and draw defenders toward the ball, it’s not long before they find the gap to break forward and play that final incisive pass into the box. If nothing remains on, they can play the ball wider instead, and work crosses or wide combinations between winger and full-back before delivering.

On the counter attack, their approach remains similar. They utilize pace and power, but through a prioritization of those quick, one-touch combinations from Reus, Brandt and co.

Bellingham is a fantastic dribbler on the break, whilst a ‘Target Man’ can often be used to bounce passes back and allow others to surge in behind.

Brandt and Reus meanwhile will often look for the optimal positions to receive the ball even whilst in the defensive phase, and this always allows the German side to break quickly and exploit the necessary gaps immediately.

For a team that often get criticized for doing too much in the final third and taking too long to work their magic, Dortmund have been incredibly effective at playing through the thirds and making their moments count. The progression from players like Guerreiro and Schlotterbeck has been brilliant in breaking lines, while Jude Bellingham strikes fear into the opposition anytime he touches the ball. Since Dortmund have so many different players that can hurt the opposition from so many different directions, balance will need to continue to be the priority.


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Borussia Dortmund defend from the front in a 4-2-3-1 shape, with the double pivot working to screen passes in behind whilst stepping on those ahead. The shape could also become a 4-1-4-1 without that true ’10’ in Reus in the side, as Bellingham and Özcan step up together.

All the way at the back it can turn into more of a 4-4-1-1, aiding in their ability to defend the wide areas and form 2v1’s up against tricky wingers. The shape also aids their ability to explode on the break, and stops the opposition’s ‘6’ from getting on the ball.

Historically, Dortmund have struggled to defend set-pieces and counter-attacks. They often throw so many numbers forward (particularly at left-back where Guerreiro gets so high up the pitch and focuses on the attack) that they struggle to contend situations going the other way. The lack of pace from Mats Hummels hasn’t helped, but it’s been markedly improved this season under the solidity of Salih Özcan, who is excellent at coming across to win the ball. Emre Can also has an underrated bit of speed to him when covering the width of the field, and takes no prisoners in his approach.

Speaking of taking no prisoners, Nico Schlotterbeck has been immense for the Black & Yellows. He’s often erratic, and to his own peril, wants to be at the forefront of absolutely everything. But in making his presence felt everywhere he goes, he often comes up with some of the most heroic defensive displays.

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This is where Niklas Sule has been a great partner for the former Freiburg man when deployed, often as that calming presence who also possesses pedigree when it comes to pace and power in sweeping up messes. Combine them with the counter-attacking intent of players like Bellingham, Brandt and Reus, and you get a fervid team capable of winning the ball back quickly after losing it.

But the best part about Dortmund at the back this season has been their aerial prowess. They’ve won 53% of their aerial duels this season (third in the league), with the likes of Schlotterbeck, Hummels and Wolf helping to lead the way in clearing the ball out of danger. Sides will often get frustrated against the Black & Yellows with their lack of possession, and so it has been imperative that they make their presence felt against those direct attacks. Add in the fourth highest tackle percentage in the league, and you suddenly get a side who are not all that bad in defense after all.

Edin Terzic may need to be brave in selecting Ryerson ahead of Wolf/Guerreiro and Sule ahead of Hummels at the right moments. The same could be said of the employment of that midfield double pivot, ensuring he has even more solidity in defensive transitions. For now, Dortmund have been on one of their best runs in years, and are starting to show signs of improvements across all defensive phases.


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Borussia Dortmund have been in formidable form in 2023, winning each of their games, and charging up the table toward an intriguing end of season contest. Achieving balance between Reus, Brandt and Bellingham will continue to be a key endeavour for Terzic in the second half of the season. Suring up those defensive structures around the improved aggressiveness they’ve added in Özcan and Schlotterbeck will also be paramount. Dortmund have come close to winning the title the last few years without pulling it off, and they will need to stay cool under pressure and continue to play well despite key injuries as the season unfolds.

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So there it is! A tactical analysis of Edin Terzic’s Borussia Dortmund in 2022-23, and their chances of winning the title. Be sure to check out more of our Team Analyses, and follow on social media @mastermindsite to never miss an update. Thanks for reading and see you soon!

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