Dortmund win again to keep the pressure on league leaders Bayern

Having scored 17 goals in their last 3 games, BVB Dortmund were looking to continue the momentum as they looked to exert pressure on table toppers Bayern who have maintained a 100% record this season. Dortmund’s performance was far from clinical but goals from Aubameyang, Piszczek and Guerreiro ensured all 3 points for the hosts. 



Keeping in mind their Champions League fixture on Tuesday vs Real Madrid, Tuchel decided to rest some players for the game. Guerreiro who has shown to be an important part of Tuchel’s plans this season was kept on the bench. Rode and Marc Bartra were also rested. 

Freiburg’s high press disrupt Dortmund’s build up play

Freiburg started the match with a very aggressive manner by looking to press Dortmund’s build up from the back. With Bartra unavailable for the match, they looked to exploit Ginter’s lack of ball playing skills. Due to the high press, Freiburg forced Dortmund into errors and had some good scoring chances in the first 20 minutes. With an asymmetrical 4-3-3/4-4-2 shape with clear man orientations while pressing, they made ball progression for Dortmund difficult in the first 20 minutes. 

Other than the high pressing, Dortmund’s failure to move the ball into advanced areas was also due to poor access between Weigl and the CMs in Götze and Castro. Götze and Castro were well covered by efficient use of cover shadows by the Freiburg midfielders. 

Weigl could also have positioned himself better in the build up phases. He would position himself in front of the first line of Freiburg pressure. This meant he could not turn and face forward. Ideally he should have positioned himself behind the first wave of Freiburg pressure. This would have been more favourable for Dortmund’s build up. However, his positioning could also have been a ploy by Tuchel to ensure that the opposition cannot exploit Ginter’s poor distribution. By deploying Weigl in front of the first line of opponent pressure, Tuchel ensured that there was more space and time for Ginter to carefully progress play forward. 

Weigl dropping deep into the defensive line during build up attracted Freiburg’s strikers towards him. This enabled Ginter to find more space to calculate his next pass. However, this also meant that Weigl could not be used in progressing the ball from midfield to attack which would have been better for Dortmund.

Ideally this was a better scenario for Dortmund. Weigl just behind the first line of opponent defense enables Dortmund to attack better through the central areas. Also, building through the centre offers greater passing angles compared to wider areas.

Dortmund dominate the late stages of the first half

As SC Freiburg’s pressing decreased after the initial 20 minute burst, Dortmund started making inroads into Freiburg’s half. As always, Dortmund looked to create a 3 chain during the build up with Sokratis, Ginter and Piszczek. With this chain of 3, they looked to get the ball to their dynamic wingers in Emre Mor and Ousmane Dembele. Both wingers however had different functions. Emre Mor functioned like an inverted winger who looked to cut inside from the touchline when he received the ball. To help him do so, Castro would make an advanced run into the channel between the near-side fullback and centre back of SC Freiburg. Castro’s advanced runs meant that he also dragged Freiburg’s CM with him to open up the halfspace for Mor. This helped Mor use the space to get shots in or free other players with diagonal passes. 

Castro making a run between the opposition fullback and centreback. This drags the CM marking him into the backline.

By dragging the CM along with him, this makes space in the centre for Emre Mor to run into.

Dembele on the other hand was given more freedom to vary his runs. The balancing movements were mostly provided by the likes of Götze and Schmelzer. Götze, unlike Castro, did not make advanced runs but looked to keep the ball circulation going by spraying passes around from deeper areas and switching play to underloaded areas in the final third when the situation arose. He even drifted wide when Dembele moved into the half space. Schmelzer also used his intelligence to stabilise Dortmund’s build up and complement Dembele’s runs once the build up was successful. Dembele was lively throughout the game as he attacked the touchline and got crosses in, made inside runs to get shots in on goal and even set up the opener for Aubameyang. 
Götze and Castro occupied wider positions than expected from central midfielders. This worked well for Dortmund as they managed to create overloads in wide areas in an attempt to find the runs of Aubameyang from those areas. This was similar to the triple width system (explained by Istvan Beregi) which Guardiola used at Bayern against teams which used the high press against their stable build up from the back. The passmap below by elftegenelf highlights this:

Gonzalo Castro and Götze occupied wider positions to ensure that Dortmund can bypass Freiburg’s press. They tried to combine in wide areas with their respective near-side wingers in Mor and Dembele.

Good counterpress from Dortmund

As always, Dortmund had a good counterpressing structure for most part of the game. This meant that after one successful build up from the back, they could keep the opponent under pressure inside their own half for long periods. The superior counterpressing structure also enabled them to launch wave after wave of attacks. Due to good staggering while in possession, BVB Dortmund could establish good coverage across the pitch which facilitated their counterpressing as soon as they lost possession. 

However, after scoring the second goal, the pressing levels of BVB dropped which enabled Freiburg to get into the game. It was a late strike from substitute Raphael Guerreiro which sealed all 3 points for the hosts.


Tuchel finally seems to have found the much needed balance in his squad to get the desired results. Having struggled in the first two games, the addition of Guerreiro in central midfield seems to be the most refreshing change in his squad. Guerreiro has been very intelligent in his movements providing stability to Dortmund’s structure. Götze is also gradually settling in. With good depth and mixture of youth and experience in his squad, Tuchel can hope for some silverware if BVB maintain consistency in their performances.


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