After months and months of wait, football returns to the fold as we see Borussia Dortmund take on Schalke 04 in the famous Revierderby as one of our opening games. We must say, watching the league with no fans felt really weird and we’re hoping the Signal Iduna Park is jumping and rocking again as soon as possible.
The game was played at a good pace, despite players understandably wary of getting too physical with each other. There were instances of fatigue as well so we analyzed the game keeping those things in mind.
We’ll analyze the formations, tactics, set ups and the goals that allowed Dortmund to register such a dominant win and pile more misery on David Wagner and his men who are without a win in their last 6 Bundesliga games.
Dortmund lined up in their 3-4-3 which they’ve been using for the best part of last season. With Witsel, Reus, Zagadou injured and Jadon Sancho not fit the double pivot of Delaney and Dahoud (surprisingly) started. Complementing them was a trio of Haaland, Brandt and Thorgan Hazard.
Schalke went with their conventional 3-4-3 shape which they employ against sides that build with a Three at the Back system as well with the return of the Moroccan Amin Harit a big plus. Schubert gets a rare start with Todibo (on loan from Barcelona) starting his 6th game in a row. Raman and Caliguiri join Harit in the front three.
David Wager’s side initially set up to press high up the pitch with 5-4-1 approach. The press would be initiated whenever the ball is played to either of the wide CBs to force them into mistakes. You can see the Schalke press in full flow below:
Here Burki is pressed into playing the ball out wide with Harit ready to press Pizsceck and it laid the foundation for how the game would pan out. In possession, Schalke had one of the wing-backs deeper to help progress the play while the other was high and wide to help knit play in the final third, as seen below:
Although the early signs from Schalke may have looked to cause BvB problems, Lucien Favre’s side slowly weathered the storm and found the perfect ploy to escape the press and get at the Schalke back line with ease.
Favre positioned both of his wingbacks and at least one of his central midfielders deeper for two specific reasons.
- To provide a passing option for the pressed Centerbacks
- To exploit the space behind the pressing central midfielder.
The Schalke midfielders in Serdar and McKinnie had a really tough job on their hands. If they choose to press their marked partner in midfield to stop ball progression, space behind them may be exploited by the late runs from the wing-backs out wide with Hazard/Brandt dropping into halfspaces.
If they don’t, the Dortmund players will have more time on the ball to pick their passes and exploit the lack of numbers for Schlake in the middle of the pitch, specifically Dahoud and Delaney.
The chance created above is an example. Brandt has occupied Nastasic with the wingback engaged in a press he loses Hakimi (who was phenomenal) on the right allowing the wingback to get into a dangerous position from which Dortmund almost score from.
Their first goal came from a similar situation. Brand drops into the left half space with Pizsceck angling a fantastic ball into the German’s feet which he lays off to Hazard who has acres of space around him to easily pick Haaland for the finish. Its a training ground routine If we’re honest.
Dortmund’s constant movement and rotation was a headache for Schalke the entire match. Favre had allowed both his creative midfielders freedom to roam the final third of the pitch to create dangerous situation; with the first goal being the prime example of his tactical set up and Brandt/Hazard’s brilliance.
Another example of Julian Brandt’s MOTM winning display was his intelligence to create space not only for himself but for his teammates as well. Here we can see him committing the CB into midfield to press him and then darting in behind to exploit the open space.
Dortmund’s exploitation of half spaces and constant rotation didn’t allow Schalke to settle. They couldn’t find a way to stop Brandt, Hazard, or even Raphael Guerrero from being set up 1v1 with the CB (Todibo, Nastasic, Sane) throughout the game.
The honest truth is, Dortmund could have scored more.
They were also just as impressive off the ball as they were on it, not allowing Schalke time and space while making it difficult for them to progress ball out wide regularly leading to overhit passes and missed opportunities.
Here we see Schalke trying to break, but the ball first approach from Dortmund in their press allows them to regain the ball quickly and start attacks again. The hosts looked much more sharper throughout the entire match.
Half Time Switch
At half time, Schalke switched to a Diamond formation with two up top to help stop the balls into the half spaces, stopping their CBs being isolated. Double change of Rabbi Matondo and Guido Burgstaller being introduced into the line up.
This allowed Schalke to stop the midfield rotations and constant half-space threat from Dortmund, although being 3-0 down was its own problem with Schubert not covering himself in glory. Guess he took safe distancing a little too literally (sorry, couldn’t resist)
From the screengrab, you can see the midfield change in effect with them clearly being tasked to stop Dortmund from exploiting the half-spaces.
It left the wing-backs open to receive the ball out wide. You solve one problem and another one drops into your lap. Here if Dortmund circulates the ball quickly, they could easily get around Schalke’s press and exploit the space again from out wide.
Understandably, they didn’t go after the visitors as much since they were leading 3-0 and decided to sit off them a little. This invited Schalke on and encouraged them to try and create something but It wasn’t to be.
Dortmund defended in a 4-5-1 with Schalke finding no joy with what little possession they had during the game. They limited Schalke to pot shots and, when possible, broke on them with devastating effect.
Statistically the game told us the same story with Schalke starting off brightly but ultimately fading away as the game wore on.
This game wasn’t even a contest, with Schalke’s poorly coordinated press resulting in Dortmund picking up a famous win and all 3 points. Despite the injuries, we can say that Dortmund don’t look rusty at all while Schalke has work to do to get them back to winning ways.
Expect both teams to improve on their weaknesses even further as fitness and regular matches play their part.