Game of Numbers #13 – Guerreiro as a ’10’

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With both Julian Brandt and Marco Reus out for the all-so-crucial Revierderby against FC Schalke, many Dortmund fans wondered what Edin Terzic would concoct. The logical solution would have been to play Jude Bellingham further forward in that ’10’ slot, utilizing his powerful dribbling further forward. But Terzic opted for a more natural ‘creative’ outlet, shifting Raphaël Guerreiro into the ’10’ slot.

Guerreiro has often been a man of versatility, fulfilling roles as a left-wing-back, left-winger and central midfielder under different managers throughout his BVB career. But rarely has he been pushed so far forward into the ’10’ slot, or into centrally-focused channels.

The move worked like a stroke of genius, with the Portuguese full-back scoring a beautiful goal and assisting the other, against Dortmund’s bitter rivals. He was far and away the best player on the pitch, and did all he could to help his team achieve victory, despite BVB ultimately falling short come the final whistle.

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By the time the next match rolled around against FC Köln, Marco Reus returned from illness. But Terzic stuck to his guns and opted again for the Portuguese play-maker to stay in the ’10’ slot, with Reus out wide left instead. Guerreiro again worked his magic from that creative role, achieving a goal and two assists inside the opening first-half.

So with that, here is what Raphaël Guerreiro offers in the ’10’ position, and why he’s been able to so seamlessly transfer over his skills from full-back into a completely different role.

getting the best out of guerreiro

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The dilemma of how to get the best out of Raphaël Guerreiro has been a continuous debate for every Dortmund manager. Thomas Tuchel often deployed him on the left of a midfield three, Lucien Favre used him as a high-flying (often inverted) left-wing-back, he kept out Christian Pulisic as a creative left winger before the American’s big-money-move to Chelsea, and he’s played as the first choice left-back under every manager whenever the team set-up in a back-four.

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But the left-back slot does not always get the best out of the Portuguese playmaker. The natural inclination is to utilize Guerreiro’s brilliance on the ball as high as humanly possible. This leaves acres of space for others to cover in defensive transitions, which already happens to be Dortmund’s achilles heel. By positioning the Portuguese internal high in attack, it requires Guerreiro to constantly make up ground, despite lacking the necessary pace to do so. His positioning can even be susceptible in his own defensive third, and he’s not the most natural 1v1 defender. This has been the key separating distinction between Guerreiro and the other top-tier ‘Inverted Fullbacks’ over the years like Oleksandr Zinchenko and Joao Cancelo, who still defend excellently well in transition, 1v1 situations, and even handle their own in the air.

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Dortmund meanwhile have been searching (rather patiently) for a full-back to enter the fold from both sides since Łukasz Piszczek retired, leaving the club with just about no one who can actually play the position well from a defensive perspective. But with the recent rise of Marius Wolf at right-back, and the exceptional low-key signing of Julian Ryerson from Union Berlin, Terzic has now been given even more room to experiment with Guerreiro.

The attacking midfield slot simply gives Guerreiro the freedom to move as he pleases, and create as he pleases, without having to stress about bombing back to make up for lost time in defense. It also positions him in closer proximity to other creative players like Reus (or in theory – Julian Brandt), allowing the best out of his deft one-touch close proximal combinations that Dortmund love to create. While it’s not a position that he’s familiar with fulfilling throughout his career, his natural inclination to seek space wherever available brings out the best in the ’10’ position.

Even compared to someone as brilliant as Marco Reus, Guerreiro’s assist-making prowess stands out. Reus is incredibly efficient on the ball and always moves smoothly in the final third, but the Portuguese playmaker remains a cut-above when it comes to vision and weight of pass in the final third. I’ve often called him one of the most intelligent players on the planet, and that is precisely why having more of a free role in the ’10’ slot could be the perfect place for Guerreiro to shine as this title race comes to life.


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In the midst of the title race, Dortmund looked nervous and tense against their rivals, and missed the calming presence of Julian Brandt and Marco Reus. But that had nothing to do with how well Raphaël Guerreiro fulfilled the ’10’ slot – easily the best player on the pitch.

Guerreiro floated around masterfully, bouncing between the half-spaces and creatively linking the midfield to the attack. The first warning sign came when Guerreiro broke free into space off a brilliant long-pass from Mats Hummels. The Portuguese playmaker opted for power on his left-foot, the type of finish that Brandt or Reus might have been bagged with composure on their stronger right. But still, the warning signs were buzzing, and Guerreiro only grew in confidence from that early effort.

He became almost like a magnet to the ball, always making himself the nearest player in possession. But his precision of movement came from not only shifting toward the ball, but seeing the space to receive in between gaps of the defense. Marco Reus has made a habit of this over the years, and it was wonderful to see Guerreiro fulfilling the exact same void. His goal illustrated a perfect example of this brilliance, when he perfectly received a long-pass from Emre Can and then smashed the ball into the top corner.

He just had fun with the position all game. He tried new skills, danced around the defense, broke lines more progressively than he would have been afforded to from full-back, and frequently found himself in scoring positions.

On the defensive side of the spectrum, he worked tirelessly to win back the ball in a similar vein to what Julian Brandt has done all season. He simply relished the role, and made the most of it at every turn.

So although Dortmund couldn’t claim victory against their bitter rivals, Dortmund fans could leave the match feeling positive, knowing that Guerreiro’s performance had the makings of a masterclass to spur the rest of the team on for the next match and rise to his level.


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Then came the return of Marco Reus, yet Raphaël Guerreiro maintained his position. Guerreiro’s movement against FC Köln was absolutely immaculate. The Portuguese full-back showcased his precision at every stage, floating around the pitch to pick up the ball wherever he pleased.

That could even be all the way toward the centre-backs, where Guerreiro often picked up the ball as that middle man in between Schlotterbeck and Sule. This then opened up more room for Dortmund to stretch the width of the field, and for Schlotterbeck to carry the ball forward, or Sule to progressively break lines with his superb vision. We saw this come to life wonderfully well for Dortmund’s fourth of the night, when Sule shifted into the half-spaces to break the gap and send Donyell Malen on his way.

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The opposition simply could not get a grip of him. Not only did his movement toward the defense naturally create an overload to help beat Köln’s intense pressure, but also allowed him to ghost in later unmarked.

It also positioned Guerreiro in familiar areas of the pitch to enact his prowess in the build-up from full-back. He would often pick up possession in the left-half-spaces to break lines himself, circulate the ball, or play one over the top toward the team’s ‘Target’ – Sebastien Haller.

But more commonly, Guerreiro would float in central channels to enact those exceptional close proximal combinations. Dortmund love these one-touch maneuvers, and Marco Reus is usually at the centre of all of them. But with Guerreiro now even closer to Reus, we saw the best come out of the Portuguese playmaker’s deft weight of touch in the final third. Take this example where Reus flicks the ball onto Guerreiro, who unselfishly plays in Sebastien Haller.

Or the below image, where Guerreiro unselfishly plays the ball across to Reus for the finish. From this sort of position, many players would shoot the ball, or opt for a deep cross toward the back-post. But Guerreiro opens his body up on his stronger left-foot, and has the awareness of space to pick out Reus with the perfect pass.

As we know from his history of popping up with all-important goals, Raphaël Guerreiro also has a habit of smashing the ball into the back of the net. But his cool finish against Köln perfectly showcased just how clinical he could be from that ’10’ slot if given the chance to shine.

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He smartly poked the ball with the outside of his boot from close range, completely taking advantage of the keeper’s positioning. He did so by getting the ball to spin away from the keeper through the use of his left, rather than toward the keeper like a right-foot finish would have accomplished.

Perhaps most impressively, he smartly adjusted his position for others all match. There were times where Marius Wolf would find himself in new territory, so Guerreiro took up the right-wing slot instead. In other moments, Wolf shifted high and wide, and Guerreiro slotted back to help with the team’s rest defense and provide a deeper option. When Ryerson shifted up, you could often see Guerreiro remaining back, and vice versa. The same rule applied for Jude Bellingham, allowing the Englishman to get forward himself. Guerreiro’s awareness and understanding of where to be on the pitch was crucial to unlocking Köln so easily, and a massive reason why they ran away with the match so comfortably.

We also saw some more superior counter-pressing from him in the ’10’ slot, from that familiarity of having to quickly shift back in defense when the ball changes hands. Knowing that he’s been ‘doing a job’ for the team in an unfamiliar role, his defensive work-ethic the past two matches has simply been hungrier. The left-side of a midfield-three is not an entirely unfamiliar defensive slot for him to fulfill, having done so under Tuchel in the past. His immaculate vision does not always translate over to those defensive phases in the same vein, but that higher defensive positioning allows him to then be further forward when the attack breaks the other way.

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He’s now moved up to second in the Bundesliga table for assists, on nine for the season (0.3 per 90). Whether or not Guerreiro will continue in the position when Julian Brandt returns remains to be seen. But for now, it’s been a stroke of genius from Edin Terzic, and one that’s clearly highlighted Raphaël Guerreiro’s vast skillset, versatility, and artistic potential in the ‘Creative Ten’ role.

So there it is! How Raphaël Guerreiro has made the ’10’ slot his own in the past two matches for Borussia Dortmund. Be sure to check out more of our Bundesliga articles, and more from this series below. Thanks for reading and see you soon! 👊⚽

-> Game of Numbers #12 – Erik Ten Hag’s Positional Play Masterclass
-> Game of Numbers #11 – How to dribble like Jude Bellingham

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