Borussia Dortmund hosted Borussia Monchengladbach in the rather appropriately named Borussenderby in their eagerly anticipated opening Bundesliga fixture. In a dire season for Die Schwarzgelben they finished 20 points and four positions behind their Borussia rivals and BVB fans were hoping the change of manager could re-ignite the squad that performed well below expectations in the previous year. By contrast Die Fohlen were entering their 5th full season under Favre and were coming off the back of a stellar campaign where they finished in 3rd position securing Champions league football in the process.
What happened over the next 50 minutes would shock even the most optimistic (or pessimistic) fans as Dortmund breezed to a 4-0 win against a side famed for their defensive solidity and work rate.
Goal 1- Marco Reus (15′)
In the above scene Dortmund are confronted by a good compact shape from Monchengladbach, they therefore decide to shuffle the ball across quickly to test the speed of their opponents’ horizontal shift and attempt to probe an opening.
As the ball comes out to Hummels their opponents maintain a fairly compact shape but the positioning of Schmelzer attracts the attention of Traore who expects Hummels to pass out wide and Stindl moves to close the inside pass to Reus however these movements created a disconnect between the two halves of their midfield line and Hummels takes advantage finding Kagawa with an excellent penetrating pass. As the pass reaches Kagawa, Reus makes an excellent run and Kagawa lays the ball off to him first time, Reus then finished expertly after setting himself up nicely with his first touch. The move was executed at quite a phenomenal speed which was the factor that made the attack effective as it gave Monchengladbach little time to react.
Goal 2- Aubameyang (21′)
Aubameyang makes a diagonal run in behind the Foals’ defence but this is matched by Christensen which made Gundogan decide against playing the pass. This created a gap in the 10 space which was, for once, not filled by a Dortmund player so Piszczek on the touchline was Gundogan’s only viable forward passing option. This was an undesirable pass due to the lack of immediate support that would be available to him, for this reason Johnson and Wendt would have found it relatively easy to isolate Piszczek against the touchline and regain possession. Therefore Gundogan decided to turn back and spray the ball to Hummels in the opposite half space.
As the ball comes out to Hummels he has a lot space to step out forward with the ball. Perhaps wary of how they were cut open for the opening goal, Monchengladbach prioritised closing the central options before moving to put pressure on Schmelzer and Kagawa on the flank.
This slight variation in Monchengladbach’s ball-oriented shift gave Schmelzer the extra yard of space he needed to deliver his cross into the box. Aubameyang then makes a very intelligent late run towards the near post on Christensen’s blind side. Wendt, who can see the run, fails to inform Christensen and Aubameyang subsequently gets across him easily to head home Schmelzer’s fabulous cross.
Goal 3- Mkhitaryan (33′)
Monchengladbach lose possession in the final third after a poor backwards pass from Traore and a poor touch from Stindl who then hacked down Weigl in an attempt to prevent Dortmund initiating a counter attack. Fortunately for Dortmund the referee played advantage and Gundogan moved forward with the ball waiting for movement in front of him.
As Gundogan progresses he is not confronted by any of the players around him, Xhaka and Wendt (circled) are fruitlessly trying to scurry back into position instead of engaging Gundogan to make any attempted pass more difficult. Meanwhile Aubameyang (currently out of the picture) pulls away from Christensen to provide an option for Gundogan.
By this time Monchengladbach are in serious trouble, Aubameyang has managed to stay onside and brought Christensen towards the ball with a double movement to wrong foot his opposite number and give him a half-a-yard advantage in the race (as if he needed it!). Aubameyang’s blistering pace meant that the race to receive Gundogan’s pass was already won. Notice the run of Mkhitaryan, the eventual goal scorer, at the top of the screen in what is practically a 1v1 sprint against Jantschke.
Mostly due to a lack of defensive awareness Jantschke finds himself on the wrong side of Mkhitaryan, and against a player of his speed this was always going to be fatal. To give this some context it is important to note that there are only two seconds between this scene and the previous one, yet in this time Jantschke manages to completely compromise his favourable defensive position in relation to Mkhitaryan as he was unaware of the run being made on his outside.
From here Aubameyang had a choice of two options, go for goal or square it for Mkhitaryan, he unselfishly chose the latter and Dortmund seemed to have wrapped up the points in the first half. It was a trademark Dortmund lightning quick counter attack and the ball was in the net around 10 seconds after they gained possession deep in their own half.
Goal 4- Mkhitaryan (50′)
In this scene the positioning of Monchengladbach’s individual defenders would have had Favre tearing his hair out. Christensen pushes up to prevent Kagawa from turning but fails to reach him quickly enough and gets caught between marking and standing off. Wendt, at left back, fails to drop off even after Kagawa had turned Christensen despite already being on the wrong side of Reus. Schulz and Jantschke fail to react to the positions their defensive partners take up and therefore play Reus onside. In summary there is no co-ordination or communication at all in their defensive line.
Kagawa turns quickly after receiving the ball and creates half a yard which enables him to get his head up to assess the options and there was a tempting amount of space for Reus to run into. In this situation Jantschke is the defender who can see most of the danger and at this point he needs to inform Schulz of Aubameyang, so that he can focus on Mkhitaryan as he failed to do for the previous goal.
Instead Jantschke tries to mark Aubameyang himself, in the process leaving Mkhitaryan free to ghost in at the back post.
When defenders are on the wrong side of their opponents their first thought is usually to rush back towards their goal line often believing this will avert the danger. That’s why Mkhitaryan makes a subtly intelligent move in hanging back and signalling, with his hand, for a pull-back around the edge of the box. He received the pass and duly dispatched the chance to finish the scoring on an incredible day for Dortmund, Tuchel and their loyal supporters.
Read about Thomas Tuchel’s general tactical philosophy
See if any Dortmund players made it onto the Talent Radar Team of The Week after this destructive performance.
Written by Judah Davies.
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