Dortmund’s chaotic season has taken us all by surprise and Jurgen Klopp’s men are in a situation where they are having to balance their Champions League aspirations along with a bid to move away from the lower half of the Bundesliga. Schalke on the other hand are in the middle of a push for a spot of next season’s Champions League and would have backed themselves to get a result despite the home side’s recent resurgence.
Borussia Dortmund 3-0 Schalke
Dortmund: Weidenfeller (1), Kirch (21), Hummels (15), Subotic (4), Schmelzer (29), Gundogan (8), Sahin (18), Mkhitaryan (10), Kagawa (7), Reus (11), Aubameyang (17)
Schalke: Wellenreuther (40), Uchida (22), Howedes (4), Neustadter (33) , Nastasic (31), Fuchs (23), Hoger (12), Aogo (15), Boateng (9), Choupo Moting (13), Huntelaar (25)
Schalke shaped up in a 5-2-2-1 (Fuchs is pushing up in this photo) where Boateng pushed up to the left of Huntelaar to form a front 3 with him and Choupo-Moting. The central two of Schalke were easily powered through by the Dortmund 3 (Gundogan-Sahin-Kagawa) and the front 3 (Miki-Reus-Aubameyang) consistently shaped up in a narrow 3 to battle the three centre backs of Die Konigsblaugen.
Dortmund take control of proceedings
This was a classic game of attack vs. defence which saw not 5, not 10, but THIRTEEN shots being wasted by Der BVB in the first half. Their pressing was good, they were creating chances with ease but the wastefulness of Aubameyang, Mkhitaryan and Reus was a big problem for them and they could have easily been 3-0 up by the break. A goalkeeper-less goal was not taken advantage of and even when Wellenreuther slipped while coming out of goal, Aubameyang failed to capitalize.
The amount of misses that BVB produced in the first half was simply comical, with shots taken that could have been finished off by half-decent players. Aubameyang started the trend with a one-on-one against Timon Wellenreuther (who had a brilliant 75 minutes – notice I didn’t say brilliant game…) which was superbly saved and frankly, poorly shot by the Gabonese.
Dortmund also tested Wellenreuther from range but he was positioned well and saved shots with ease without spilling the ball. The young keeper was good in goal but he needs to improve at anticipating incoming crosses and staying composed on the ball. A couple of times the Dortmund attackers pressed him and he would immediately clear the ball to take caution (more on this later).
Reus was heavily involved in pressing the goalkeeper and this was a catalyst to booted clearances from Wellenreuther, showing his discomfort on the ball. The third goal of the game further enhanced our case, with the keeper crumbling under the pressure and conceding the ball near the goal for Reus to score as enumerated in the below graphic.
Schalke were compact but it was not a great defensive performance
You would think that in the first 75 minutes Schalke frustrated Dortmund and did not allow them space to breathe in. Well that is incorrect because Dortmund were extremely dominant and the game warranted much more than a 3-0 scoreline. This was definitely one of Dortmund’s best games of the season and they made Schalke look like amateurs with their 5-man defensive line.
Schalke looked to shape up in their usual 5-2-2-1 which saw the wing backs concede space behind them while pressing during the first quarter of an hour of the game. Schalke actually sat in a very narrow 5-4-1 which led to Uchida and Fuchs producing poor defensive displays off the ball with Dortmund’s attacking midfield strata constantly tormenting them.
Not only that, but the Dortmund players could find space centrally and the way Di Matteo set his team up for today was a poor excuse for his defensive style of play. Choupo-Moting was the only player involved in pressing the opposition, and even that was lackadaisical at best. Schalke’s best moments (and only real shot) came when they launched the ball to their 6ft 1 and 6ft 2 strikers who produced one or two nifty flick-ons before meeting the wasteful Kevin-Prince Boateng.
The only praise I could give to Schalke’s defensive display is that they paid attention to their weakness on the flank and tried to address this by creating a triangle between Fuchs (LWB), Boateng (LCM) and Huntelaar (ST) to prevent wall passes and Dortmund players breaking into the space behind the marauding wing backs.
Neustadter playing a sort of Sweeper role
Roman Neustadter played in an unconventional role today that saw him play behind the actual back 3 of Nastasic-Aogo-Howedes at times. This role saw him allow Dortmund chances without being called offside and he was actually the cause of the first goal of the game, which saw him keep Blaszczykowski and Aubameyang onside.
This role was not of an actual Libero, rather it was a bit of support from behind once Dortmund attacked with speed but it was clear that it was not a success. The chance where Nastasic blocked an open goal from Aubameyang was caused by Neustadter who had problems tracking runners, easily exploited by his lack of pace. The goal as shown above was caused by Neustadter’s positioning and although he is known as one of the more versatile and tactically intelligent players at Schalke, he ultimately failed to live up to the expectations in this huge game.
The missed header from Neustadter resulted in a clear chance for Kagawa, only for his chip to drift centimetres off the open goal. Dortmund at this stage could have been deemed unlucky but Kagawa and Aubameyang’s reluctance to shoot earlier cost Dortmund chances to score and whenever they did shoot it was more often than not a weak attempt at scoring.
Schalke getting caught out in behind down the channels
Schalke were vulnerable to balls over the top especially with Neustadter’s lack of ability in winning the ball in the air. He is very tall at 6ft 2 and statistically won 3 out of 4 aerial duels but that is where statistics don’t come in handy. He won the ball while it was in the air but failed to take control against players who are much shorter than him; players like Reus, Kagawa and Mkhitaryan. He did win 75% of his aerial duels but looking at it on the field he was vulnerable after it. Instead of heading it away, he would head it upwards and it would fall back down to allow Dortmund chances – as shown in the picture below.
Schalke were also caught in the channel for the second goal of the game, one which saw Henrik Mkhitaryan finally score for Dortmund after a long run of diabolical form. The goal was a result of Dortmund showing more fight, drive and energy to win the second ball of the Schalke midfielders, something they did consistently throughout the game.
Subotic and Hummels’ creativity important, Dortmund pivot supporting
Subotic and Hummels were key factors in creating play for Dortmund with the most significant one coming in the form of Hummels’ outside of the boot pass in the 25th minute to Reus, who squared it to Aubameyang (who, predictably, lost the chance to score). The vertical passing quality that these defenders offer are great but their defensive quality has deteriorated in the last 18 months although they were not tested in this game. Hummels could make a great defensive midfielder one day, as his lack of pace in a high defensive line can exploit his weaknesses.
Sahin was excellent in circulating the ball and bringing it out of the defence, dropping into holes vacated by the full backs when they pushed up. The solidity and reliability that he offers was one of the main reasons clubs like Real Madrid, Arsenal and Liverpool were all in for him. Gundogan on the other hand seems to be finding his feet after a turbulent 14 months which saw him not play in all that time as he bossed the centre of the pitch on the day, supporting the wingers as best as he possibly could. His movements were of a classic box to box midfielder, shuttling from the Dortmund 18-yard box to the Schalke 18-yard box. Protection is vital from the double pivot and they did exactly that in this game, nullifying any sort of counter attack with a 2-1 cover at the back while Gundogan stays outside of the opposition box.
Where does this leave them?
The derby was purported to be an intriguing affair but on the day, Dortmund completely outclassed Schalke. The away side’s tactics simply did not work as illustrated above. Schalke lost ground on their quest for Champions League football but will fancy their chances of finishing in the top 4. Dortmund on the other hand are up to 10th place and perhaps for the first time in a few months can concentrate on looking up the table rather than over their shoulders.
Written by Hamoudi Fayad
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