With the end of last season came the end of a fractious relationship between Borussia Dortmund and their coach at the time Thomas Tuchel. Whilst the tactical aptitude of Tuchel was never in doubt there were concerns within the club over the coaches ability to man manage a group of players to maintain harmony within the team. For fans of Dortmund then the initial period of the off season centred around the search for a new coach who could get the most out of the young squad that had been created.
There were however mixed reactions when the new coach of Dortmund was announced as the Dutchman Peter Bosz. Some in Germany felt that Bosz was hired purely on the back of an impressive run from Bosz’s old club Ajax in the Europa League, indeed the Dutch side got to the final of the competition where they were comfortably beaten by Manchester United. Those reactions however have been overshadowed however by the strong start made to this season under Bosz. With the exception of a difficult away trip in the Champions League to face Tottenham Hotspur Dortmund came in to this match yet to concede a goal domestically.
Their opponents on the other hand Borussia Monchengladbach (Gladbach) still seem to be stuck in a state of limbo that has affected them since their influential Swiss coach Lucien Favre left following a poor run of form. Whilst Gladbach are in no way whatsoever a poor side under Dieter Hecking they have yet to put on a performance to suggest that they will be anything other than an upper midtable side this coming season.
Peter Bosz is well known for favouring the 4-3-3 system very much in the Dutch school of football. He expects his side to play with a high defensive line and to press their opponents whenever the opportunity arises. Once more in this match there were no surprises in terms of system or team selection.
Burki, Piszczek, Sokratis, Toprak, Toljan, Weigl, Gotze, Dahoud, Pulisic, Phillip, Aubameyang.
The seeming rebirth of Mario Gotze under Bosz has been one of the highlights of the early parts of the season. With the German midfielder finally seeming ready to move on from his on going fitness concerns he has adapted to a new deeper role in the centre of the Dortmund midfield where his ability to find and play in small pockets of space can be crucial.
Sippel, Elvedi, Vestergaard, Ginter, Wendt, Hazard, Kramer, Zakaria, Johnson, Raffael, Stindl
Gladbach started with a variant of the 4-4-2 system with the wide midfielder pushed in to more advanced areas creating more of a 4-2-2-2 system. With Matthias Ginter playing in the centre of defence against his old side there was an added element of interest to this match.
Dortmund vary their attacking movements
Whilst Dortmund play in such an adventurous and attacking manner they also have the capacity to change and diversify their attacking game plan should the opposition prove to be sitting in a deep block and playing in a defensive manner. There were large periods of this match in which Dortmund seemed to be in complete control, both in terms of possession of the ball and in controlling the spaces in the pitch. With that said however there were times in the match in which Dortmund would counter press and transition to their attacking phase at lightning speed, in a manner that was extremely reminiscent of the side under Jurgen Klopp.
Here you can see the attacking structure that Dortmund were able to adopt in comfortable possession of the ball. With both Sokratis and Toprak comfortable in possession of the ball we saw the home side adopt the same attacking structure that served Ajax so well last season.
With players adopting lines at different depths in the opposition half of the field Dortmund have the ability to progress the ball quickly forwards in towards the penalty area using quick passing combinations. This match also saw Dortmund continue to occupy the far wide spaces on each side of the field whether with the wide forward of wing back, whilst the other wide player on that side would cut inside to operate in the half space.
The way that Dortmund are spaced across the field offers the ability to quickly overload weak points of the opposition defence quickly and efficiently.
This is an example that shows Dortmund able to play in quick transition. When the play breaks down in the middle of the field the ball drops to Dahoud in the central area.
It is here that the pace and movement of Aubameyang is essential for Dortmund as a simple vertical pass is turned not only in to a goalscoring opportunity but in to a goal.
This ability for Dortmund to play and attack in a variety of manners will prove to be key as the season goes forward given that teams are likely to start trying to sit in deeper positions to negate their threat.
This pass network produced by @Ben8t shows the balance in the Dortmund attacking structure with little or no movement to favour one side over the other.
Central defenders progress the ball
Last season under Bosz we saw Ajax instigate the majority of their attacking movements through the two central defenders, Matthijs De Ligt and Davinson Sanchez. With Dortmund we have so far seem the same build up mechanics with Sokratis, Toprak and Marc Bartra.
As Dortmund enjoy sustained possession in the opposition half of the field the majority of time and space is afforded to the central defenders who have the capacity to decide on the angle of attack when they take possession of the ball. The first pass from the central defenders was key in this match as the correct line played in to the Gladbach half of the field would result in the ability to penetrate the opposition sides defensive structure and play towards the penalty area.
Here we see a clear example of Gladbach dropping back in to an extremely defensive shape. In the defensive phase they looked to maintain a compact 4-4-2 structure to negate the spaces that Dortmund had to play in centrally. As Toprak progresses forward with the ball though there is no effective pressure from the Gladbach front two and the defender is able to play a vertical pass through two lines of opposition pressure to the feet of Aubameyang who is the most advanced Dortmund player.
Aubameyang is then able to immediately set the ball back to Mario Gotze who is in space between opposition players. These quick passing movements are designed to pull the opposition out of their set defensive shape.
This time we see Sokratis in possession of the ball as he advances in to the Gladbach half of the field. This example was taken at the start of the attacking phase so the opposition defensive block is more spread out than in the last image analysed.
Once again though the key is in the movement of Mario Gotze who shows an innate sense of space on the field, he seemed to be free and ready to take possession of the ball for most of the match as the two man Gladbach midfield struggled to match his movement.
Sokratis is able to play a simple vertical pass through the line of midfield pressure to find Gotze who has space to turn in to and attack.
Distribution from Burki
With Dortmund dominating the territorial battle in this match there were times that goalkeeper Roman Burki was operating as an extra outfield player offering passing angles from positions well outwith his own penalty area. This added more depth to the Dortmund structure and allowed them even more options to retain possession.
Here we see Burki in possession of the ball midway in his own half. With Gladbach in a deep defensive block the goalkeeper has five passing options through which to progress the ball. Again we see the balance in the Dortmund system with the fullbacks advancing and taking up wide positions and the central defenders and Julian Weigl offering shorter options.
This time Burki has possession in his own penalty area under more significant pressure from the Gladbach forwards. He still has four options with which he can progress the ball though and eventually he plays the lofted pass in to the wide area to the man in the most space.
While this pass was the more difficult of the three Burki new that the man taking possession was not being closely marked and that he would have time to turn and play the ball. Excellent distribution from the goalkeeper.
It can be easy to look at a match that finished 6-1 to the winners and put if down to a poor standard of opposition, make no mistake though Borussia Monchengladbach are certainly not a poor team.
Instead Dortmund were dominant against a side that can be described perhaps as tactically naive. The away side were left overloaded in central areas for the whole match and their lack of will to press Dortmund when they were in possession of the ball left the home side with time and space to use in order to penetrate the Gladbach penalty area.
With his former side Ajax continuing to struggle since he left Peter Bosz continues his rise as an impressive and interesting coach. Whether Dortmund can maintain their concentration to keep up this level of performance for the rest of the season remains to be seen but they are certainly in a position to challenge for the Bundesliga title this season.