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Tactical Analysis

Dortmund 0-3 Bayern: Tactical Analysis

The two big guns of German football met at the Signal Iduna Park. Dortmund were looking to close the gap on the league leaders following a shock defeat to Wolfsburg in the previous game. Bayern on the other hand were looking for revenge over their rivals for the defeat in the German Super Cup. Dortmund haven’t been having a good season, Bayern have been increasing the gap between the two while Leverkusen haven’t made life easy either. Added to that, Dortmund’s Champions League hopes seem to be halting at the group stage after an impressive run last season. To make matters worse, the entire Dortmund back four was injured for this game with most of the contingent out for a prolonged period of time.

Dortmund 0-3 Bayern

Dortmund: 1. Weidenfeller, 19. Grosskreutz, 2. Friedrich, 25. Papastathopolous, 37. Durm, 6. Bender, 18. Sahin, 11. Reus, 10. Mkhitaryan, 16. Blasczykowski, 9. Lewandowski

Bayern: 1. Neuer, 4. Dante, 17. Boateng, 13. Rafinha, 27. Alaba, 21. Lahm, 39. Kroos, 25. Müller, 8. Martinez, 10. Robben, 9. Mandzukic

Lineups created using Tactical Pad. Click here to know more.

Lineups created using Tactical Pad. Click here to know more.

Dortmund’s make-shift defence lacked tactical discipline

With Schmelzer, Pisczek, Hummels & Subotic all out injured, Jurgen Klopp was forced to make some changes to his back four. The result was a completely new look defence as opposed to the reliable four. Erik Drum, who has been impressive, slotted into the left back position. Summer signing Sokratis was looking to take his chance while new free signing Manuel Friedrich partnered him (his first competitive game in 7 months). Kevin Grosskreutz, who is more commonly deployed on the left of midfield, was being played on the right side of the defence.

It was a disaster waiting to happen. While the back-four managed to put in a decent hard-working effort, it was always going to be difficult against Bayern’s quick attack as seen with the third goal.

The defence was more desperate than solid, and on most occasions rode their luck. The main problem with this was that the defence was physically competent but tactically failed constantly. Players were left unmarked, and interceptions were hard to make as Bayern’s quick passing was difficult to contend with. It was easy to see that it was make-shift defence. The thing about the defensive third is that the players in it, are need to be disciplined and intelligent in their play, it is just about having more men back, it’s about having defensively smart men back. It’s rarely successful to play a desperate defensive game for 90 minutes, more so against a side like Bayern.

The defence contained Bayern for the first half but as the game went on they became more and more weary, allowing Bayern’s attackers time and space.

Bayern’s counter attack

The defending Bundesliga and Champions League winners have been known for their quick counter attack, and it was no different against Borussia Dortmund at the Signal Iduna Park. Ribery was missing but Robben and Muller did a good job on the counter, alongwith Mandzukic up front. Bayern, as expected, had a solid defence and were able to move the ball from defence to attack in a matter of minutes.

More Reading: Tactical Analysis of the Champions League final between the two

Dortmund didn’t help themselves either. The two wide men in defence are more potent wingers than defensive individuals. Both Drum and Grosskreutz were tempted to join the attack as the home side moved forward leaving gaps at the back. They lacked tactical discipline as explained above. Thus, the moment Bayern stole possession in their own half, the three front men bombed forward expecting a pass from their midfield. Lahm was the connecting factor between defence and midfield, collecting the ball from the back four and quickly moving it forward to Kroos or Martinez. This little transition allowed the Bayern attackers enough time to make meaningful runs into space. Toni Kroos proved to be a crucial factor in the counter-attacks.


He completed 70 of his 75 attempted passes, the most for any player on the pitch, at a 93% pass completion rate. Phillip Lahm was close behind, attempting 72 passes at a 94% pass completion rate, but as mentioned, these were mainly linkage passes.

Thiago Alcantara came on later and had a decent game as well on the counter. While Bayern mainly played short quick passes on the counter, Thiago found Robben in acres of space with a long ball after Dortmund went forward in search of a late equalizer, and the Dutchman completed a neat finish for the away side’s second.

Dortmund’s flat back four offering space in midfied

Without taking too much away from Bayern Munich, a lot of last night’s result stems out from the make-shift defence employed by Borussia Dortmund. Dortmund’s usual defence is more dynamic, often taking risks and moving forward to stop attacks. But either Klopp realised the space that would open up, or the sheer lack of tactical knowledge of the defence, that he went for an out-right flat back four.

This essentially allowed Bayern Munich tons of space between the defence and midfield, as this ground was usually covered by one of the two central defenders. The defensive midfielders were mainly tasked with containing the attacking wide-men (mainly Rafinha & Alaba) which opened up a lot of space in the centre of the park for the wide midfielders, Robben & Muller to move into.

2 edit

As seen above in one instance of the game, the ball was shifted wide to Rafinha and the midfield were immediately attracted to the ball, the back four remained flat and were kept busy by the men in the centre leaving Arjen Robben completely free in midfield.

4 edit

An instance like the one depicted above wouldn’t have occurred if Dortmund’s regular defence existed. That sort of space is what Dortmund do well in preventing from creeping up, but it happened all too often in the game on Saturday.

The attacking full-backs

Bayern’s full-backs had a field day against Dortmund, both Rafinha and Alaba benefited from the weak Dortmund side and took every chance to attack the home side. Constant runs were made into attacking areas, in tandem with Bayern’s counter-attacking approach.

[via Squawka]

Rafinha spent 41.67% of his time in Dortmund’s half but managed to balance that out with a solid contribution to defence as well. He essentially didnt float any crosses towards the attack but played a vital role in pulling midfielders towards him creating space in the centre of the field for Robben, Muller and Kroos (eventually Gotze as well). He also acted as the extra man in a counter-attack by just offering himself up front. A quality contribution from the Brazilian.

Where from here?

  • Dortmund now find themselves 7 points behind leaders Bayern and 3 behind 2nd place Leverkusen. The loss of the spine of the side may prove to be a recurring problem for Dortmund as the season goes on. The Bundesliga title looks unlikely, while progress in the Champions League seems to be a difficult task as they have a must win game against Napoli in mid-week.
  • Bayern Munich are still looking like the best side in Europe. Many wondered if Pep could better what Juup did last season, while that may not be possible, equaling last season’s performance shouldn’t be a problem. The side look good for the Bundesliga crown.

Over to you!

Did you notice a tactical aspect of the game that we missed? If so, do leave a comment below. Make sure you follow us on Twitter @OOTB_football and like us on Facebook. We’re on Google+ and Tumblr as well for those interested.


Sami Faizullah

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