Borussia Dortmund have been slowly creeping up the table, knocking at the door of league leaders Bayern Munich as they slip away and fall victim to their own fallacies in 2023. Now with a commanding performance and signal of intent against RB Leipzig, the Black & Yellows currently sit top of the table with Bayern still to play this weekend. Here is our analysis of how Dortmund beat Leipzig.
ATTACKING PRINCIPLESEmbed from Getty Images
Borussia Dortmund attacked with much of their usual principles of play, including high-flying full-backs galloping up the wing as the wide attackers invert into central areas. With Marco Reus and Julian Brandt providing the width in defensive phases, that was always likely to happen as the team then transitioned over to the attack. Jude Bellingham and Julian Brandt would float into similar spaces of the field, as Sebastien Haller also compounded matters by coming closer to the ball.
That would then allow Marco Reus and Julian Brandt to run in behind, where Dortmund capitalized on Leipzig’s high-line. They did so through an exceptional pass over the top from Bellingham onto the arm of Julian Brandt before he scored the disallowed opener; and again from Marius Wolf into the on-rushing Marco Reus before the team captain won a pivotal penalty.
While we say much of their principles were characteristic of their approach this season, the exploitation of Leipzig’s high-line in this manner was a clear desire to hurt Leipzig. Terzic’s men clearly set up to harm die Roten Bullen in the exact ways they could be susceptible to harm by breaking the gaps in between centre-backs and playing swift balls over the top. The use of Haller to pull defenders out of position made this all the more effective, taking full advantage of the fantastic spatial awareness of the likes of Reus and Brandt.Embed from Getty Images
The tactic worked particularly well in transitional moments, taking full advantage of the high positioning of Lepzig’s wing-backs in attacking phases. Marco Reus and Sebastien Haller would often be used as the instant outlets, as Bellingham and Brandt would then join the attack themselves.
By giving Reus less defensive responsibility, they could keep him in a higher position for those turnovers and allow Dortmund a swift transition. While this can be a risky approach for defensive phases, we’ve spoken at length about the advantages of having a player remain ready to explode on the break, such as France’s use of Kylian Mbappé at the World Cup.
Before they took the lead, Dortmund had a good mix of possession and control over the match and frequently used either Emre Can or Salih Özcan to drop into the back-line and form a back-three.
This approach allowed the Black & Yellows to stretch the opposition as the centre-backs shifted wide and the full-backs moved higher up the pitch. They could then open up more room for the centre for the likes of Bellingham, Reus and Brandt, which is where they often carved die Roten Bullen open and created their best chances.
In the final attacking phase, Dortmund would throw numbers forward in abundance, recognizing they had Ozcan and Can to stay back as part of their rest-defense. But you can never leave Can unmarked at the top of the box, as we all know he loves to strike from distance.
He did exactly that against Leipzig, giving his team the killer blow heading into half-time.
DEFENSIVE PRINCIPLESEmbed from Getty Images
As much as Terzic’s team love to explode into the attack and play beautiful combinations, the German coach has made significant improvements on the defensive end since the new year. The additions of Julian Ryerson, Emre Can and Niklas Sule into the team have all helped and Terzic was smart about his team selection and opting for slightly more defensively minded players across the board.Embed from Getty Images
Dortmund defended from the front in a 4-1-3-2, before floating into more of a 4-1-4-1 in their mid-block. They were fine allowing Leipzig to have possession and circulating the ball, and did not adopt a particularly over-aggressive approach.
This is where Terzic excelled in his first season in charge en route to a comeback third-place finish and DFB-Pokal victory. One of his best performances the first time around came with a 2-0 victory against Wolfsburg, where they had less of the ball, stayed organized, and then exploded on the break. Terzic is fine adopting this defensive approach, particularly after the team take the lead.Embed from Getty Images
The same could be said of their resilience on Friday night, as they shuffled and shuttled the ball into the wide areas, and won it back through careful positioning rather than meticulous pressing and tough tackling. In fact most of their tackles only came when Leipzig progressed into the real danger areas, where the likes of Sule, Schlotterbeck and Ryerson excellently handled their 1v1 battles.
CONCLUDING THOUGHTSEmbed from Getty Images
It was another commanding victory from Borussia Dortmund even despite their intentional lack of possession. The additions across their back-line have made a marked difference in helping to reach greater solidity and resilience, and the Black & Yellows are now firmly in this title race.
So there it is! Our analysis of how Dortmund beat Leipzig on March 3, 2023 in the Bundesliga. Be sure to check out more of our Bundesliga content, and follow on social media @mastermindsite and @desmondrhys to never miss an update. Thanks for reading and see you soon!
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