Borussia Dortmund is a German football club based in Dortmund, Rhineland. They play in the Bundesliga, the top tier of the German football league system. They have won 8 German Championships (all time 4th best), 4 DFB-Pokals, 5 DFL-Supercups, 1 Champions League, 1 UEFA Cup Winners Cup and 1 Intercontinental Cup. They play at the Signa Induna Park, which is one of the most famous football grounds in Europe and is renowned for its atmosphere. With a capacity of 81,365, it is the largest stadium in the country. The Südtribüne (South Bank) is the largest terrace for standing spectators in European football. Renowed for its die hard fanbase and atmosphere, it is nicknamed the "Yellow Wall". In addition, the club holds a storied rival with Ruhr neigbours Schalke 04 in the Revierderby.
In 2008, one of their most successful managers, Jurgen Klopp, joined the club. He led them to back-to-back Bundesliga wins in 2011 and 2012, as well as the DFB-Pokal in 2012, the DFL-Supercup in 2013 and 2014, and their second appearance in a UEFA Champions League final in 2013. During his 7 years at the club, talents like Mats Hummels, Shinji Kagawa, Marco Reus and Robert Lewandowski blossomed. They were one of the best teams in the world during that period with their counterpressing and high-intensity style. However, the tale ended bitterly when Klopp decided to leave in 2015 after a disappointing 2014/2015 campaign. Currently, he is working wonders with Liverpool in the English Premier League.
3 managers in a year!
It could be argued that the 2017/2018 campaign was a season of transition. Thomas Tuchel, Peter Bosz and Peter Stöger. The trio tried to bring back the glory days of success back to BVB, Die Schwarzgelben, but all were unsuccessful in winning the support of their passionate fan base. They would also count themselves lucky to finish 4th, just securing Champions League qualification.
The new manager, Lucien Favre, is no stranger to the Bundesliga, where he managed Borussia Mönchengladbach, developing players like Arsenal’s Granit Xhaka and current Dortmund captain Marco Reus. Moreover, he has enjoyed success with previous club Nice, taking them to 3rd in Ligue 1 during the 2016/2017 (the club’s best ever finish). The dawn of the new era began in the summer of 2018, with new signings been made. Intriguing signings were made, including the likes of Abdou Diallo, Thomas Delaney and Axel Witsell. Moreover, Eintracht Frankfurt winger Marius Wolf, Barcelona reject Paco Alcácer and Real Madrid youth Achraf Hakimi (the latter two via loan) were brought into the fold. These new signings indicate the Swiss' mark on the club and hope they fit the tactical identity he hopes to instill.
The statistics obviously indicate how well Dortmund have been playing this season. After 10 games, they have topped the league and are yet to suffer a loss (7 wins and 3 draws). They have scored the most goals (30) and the second best defense in the league after RB Leipzig (10 conceded).
One would be hasty to conclude that Favre and Klopp share similar tactical styles. This is FALSE. The days of gegenpressing are of yesteryear. Though it were effective under Klopp, Favre has chosen to use a more structured defensive approach. They opt to have a medium high-ish block and only look to press the opposition situationally, especially when they make an error during transitions.
For example, Favre usually tends to start with a 4-2-3-1 which transitions to a 4-1-4-1 when they are not in possession. Witsel tends to sit deeper and shield the centre backs. The key feature in Dortmund's "Yellow Wall" is that it is well-organised with excellent spacing across the field.
For simplicity's sake, these are the key features of Favre's Dortmund:
horizontal and vertically compact block
wingers dropping back to cover wide areas
medium high-ish block
focus on covering passing lanes instead of charging to tackle opponents
short passes during build up
vertical passes during counters
being patient when finding breakthroughs
cautious not to turnover possession
The 4-2-3-1 Wide will be the base formation I will be utilising (ignore team fluidity).
"wary of your opponent's counter-attacking threat"
"patiently probe the final third"
"find space as it opens up"
"... overlap ... break ahead ... [only] during relatively risk-free situations"
"sit back and help the midfield maintain possession"
Pretty self-explanatory, isn't it?
Out of Possession
GK (Burki): A very solid shot-stopper and his feet are good with the ball.
CDs (Zagadou & Akanji): Two ball players who have a demanding task which is to start play out from the back, which they are capable of doing so. (PI: Take fewer risk)
FBs (Guerreiro/Schmelzer & Hakimi): Hakimi is a good crosser and dribbler of the ball on the right flank. However, Favre wants good defensive cohesion, thus (PI: Take fewer risk, stay wider). Guerreiro/Schmelzer plays a bit more conservatively and this not support attacks much on the left flank like Hakimi (PI: Take fewer risk, stay wider).
CMs (Witsel & Delaney): Witsel acts as a deep midfield, recycling possession and shielding the back 4. His partner, Delaney, is a hardworking BBM who earnestly wins back the ball, proceeding to hack it to the final third or dribble all the way to the opposition's penalty box (PI: More direct passes)
AM (Reus): Playing off the striker, Reus is a creative, mobile no.10 who often plays one-twos with the wingers or striker, leading to many goalscoring opportunities (PI: Roam from position)
Wingers (Brunn Larsen & Pulisic): With the attack duty, both are free to cut in, dribble, pass or shoot! Don't worry that much about width as the fullbacks will provide them.
ST (Philipp/Alcácer): While Phillip starts most games and drops off deep, Alcácer is often used as a "supersub" who will lurk around the box to await goalscoring chances (Advanced Forward/Poacher).
To sum up, Favre's teams play a dynamic, quick and attacking-minded football where ball possession and change of tempo alternate. This attractive style of play has brought results in every club he has managed. Furthermore, Favre is very skillful tactically, leaving his opponents struggling to penetrate his well-organized sides. He clearly has his game plan set out, and with the board supporting him, in terms of recruitment, is likely to achieve his goals. As the season progresses I would expect to see the more creative players given a greater sense of freedom in attacking transitions. Dortmund have been floundering in the Bundesliga for the past few seasons, but this year they have been instilled the hope and drive to win the league, stopping rivals Bayern Munich from making it 7 league wins in a row. That can be bolstered this Saturday if they beat their Der Klassiker rivals.
~ @goqs06 ~