Borussia Dortmund were sent home with a humiliating 5-1 loss by league leaders Bayern on match day 8 of the Bundesliga.
Without question, losing 5-1 in Munich hurts. It’s always painful to see your own team lose with such a high scoreline, especially against a team that is as historically unlikable as FC Bayern. Let’s just say it wasn’t Borussia Dortmund’s day.
Obviously BVB need a good day and their best lineup in shape to have a chance at beating an in-form Bayern side. Unfortunately Marcel Schmelzer had to sit this one due to thigh strain, while Neven Subotic didn’t even make the trip after going the full distance against PAOK FC on Thursday.
Instead of Park Joo-ho it was Lukasz Piszczek who, for the first time, filled in for Marcel Schmelzer as left-back. It was even more intriguing to see Sokratis Papastathopoulos starting out on the right side instead of Matthias Ginter.
It was refreshing to see that Tuchel wasn’t afraid to experiment, trying to solve obvious problems. While Ginter has done a terrific job on the overlap, providing goals and assists, he hasn’t convinced in his defensive routine. Tuchel didn’t blindly ignore that fact, but fielded Sokratis as right-back against the frighteningly quick and just as talented Douglas Costa. Yet, the Dortmund coach didn’t just switch Ginter to the center, it was Sven Bender who found himself next to Mats Hummels in an entirely newly formed back line – another sign that Tuchel really doesn’t trust Ginter’s defensive capabilities.
OUT OF NOTHING
“We’ve conceded that goal completely out of nothing” – a line already used by Thomas Tuchel on numerous occasions this season. FC Bayern mercilessly unveiled an issue that has been present all too well for a very long time, but neatly covered up by Tuchel’s initial tweaks.
For a very long period Borussia Dortmund’s back line has been too often a weak point, especially when it comes to defending routine plays – such as Bayern’s first or third goal. And Tuchel couldn’t improve the malaise since arriving at the club. He merely covered up the problem by playing a more dominant, controlling style.
Due to the higher accuracy in BVB’s build play combined with patience, BVB simply concede less chances as they lowered their rate of errors and the exposure of the backline in question – which is brilliant in terms of a quick fix.
“We have allowed the least amount of shots” Tuchel highlighted ahead of the match – but not the least amount of goals. Yes, the Black and Yellows play a risky style and they have a lot of one-on-one situations to defend, but on top of that calculated risk, poor errors are being made.
For example. the incapability of defending balls that have a lot of airtime seem to be a problems for Mats Hummels and company. All the hours of sophisticated planning and careful positioning of players to close down passing lanes, to stifle midfielders and to starve the opposition’s build up play is too often undone by a simple ball lumped down the field for strikers to chase after.
It was a long ball Dortmund’s backline couldn’t handle late in the Champions League final and two years down the road the problems seem to be similar. On Sunday BVB were well in the game against Bayern until they conceded from a simple long ball. Minutes later they got caught on the counter, as they pushed forward and Henrikh Mkhitaryan ended up giving away a soft penalty. Admirably, the Black and Yellows managed to get back into the game with a superbly composed goal. Kudos to Gonzalo Castro for that pass – and everyone else involved in that particular play. It all had been undone by rudimentary errors 25 seconds into the second half – Robert Lewandowski’s quick response after halftime proved to be too much to handle for BVB.
Initially, Tuchel’s plan seemed to work out for Dortmund and it would have been extremely interesting to see the match develop under different circumstances (i.e. BVB not being fooled by Jerome Boateng’s admittedly precise long balls).
To add insult to injury, Mats Hummels had to once again bemoan the overall performance while painting a picture to help his cause.
Did Bayern surprise you with the long balls they played leading up to the first and third goals?
No, that’s the worst thing. Our tactics were completely clear: not to let Boateng and Alaba have time on the ball; to stop these long balls. I don’t know why that didn’t work in both cases, and why Jerome Boateng was under no pressure. Our defensive line was quite high. But in theory, our objective was to combine a high line with pressing our opponents early. If your opponent is under no pressure, that can be fatal. And in both cases, Bayern were clinical after those two sensational passes.
He might feel obligated to criticize his team after the match due to his captaincy, but these weeks Hummels hasn’t exactly helped his cause. He pointed the finger to his teammates, when in reality he could blame himself just as much for his abject defending. Thomas Tuchel, unsurprisingly, was very disgruntled when asked about Bayern’s first and third goal and had a slightly different view than his team captain.
It wasn’t always possible to close down Boateng. But we still must be able to defend the long balls. The pass that made it 3-1 was one of the most abject balls that you’ll see. Over ten of our own players away from a 40 meter volley. We are not closing down the opposition quickly enough. Even when a good ball has been played through, this can’t happen.
We have to be alert when Boateng is free with the ball and looks towards our goal, because there will be a run from a Bayern player and the long ball is the logical consequence. We have to see the situation and retract earlier. But we don’t only have raise our awareness, but also defend more resolutely and with more tenacity.
This is doubly painful because these are goals that can be prevented and are not down to Bayern’s quality.
Source: (partly BVB.de)
After Tuchel finished his rant, he promptly stated how to solve the issue.
We need to get back to our ferocity in the tackle and back to the nitty gritty of our defensive organisation, such as when to release the ball and when to hold onto it. We must improve our concentration in defence and discipline in our positioning. We need to sustain this throughout the entire game. We have to dust ourselves off and bounce back, which is urgently needed.
In comparison to Bayern, BVB lack that little bit of resoluteness in defending. The Bavarians simply defend with more physicality, either forcing the ball off the opponent or killing off the play with a foul. Physique is an important aspect of Bayern’s game along their incredible technique on every position and, especially against Dortmund, they play with a high tenacity. The sixth goal of the match perfectly showed BVB’s lack of tenacity when going into tackles.
Tuchel has to work on the defensive behaviour and solve the problem at its root. The hosts could impose their full dominance in the second half. They made bluntly visible just how big the gap in quality is to the second best team in the league. Though, by the manner BVB gave up the goals, it felt like they rather had beaten themselves before Bayern started to turn the screw.
Pep Guardiola’s team is arguably the best team in the world currently and ruthlessly exploited BVB’s mishaps this time. There were a lot of games before when Dortmund were even more badly outplayed, yet FCB simply weren’t as efficient as they were on Sunday.
WATER UNDER THE BRIDGE
Water under the bridge. It has been only match day 8 in the Bundesliga. Thomas Tuchel has said it ahead of the season. “We are challengers for the top teams, but we’ll have a lot of backlog to make up for”. If you think a coach could have fully eliminated every aspect of BVB’s very flawed game last season in that short amount of time with a crammed pre-season, you’re very mistaken.
Looking on the bright side, it seems as if Tuchel has identified the problems and is willing to work on them – unfortunately almost the whole team will now be scattered across the globe during the international break. It will probably take time until Dortmund’s defense becomes more reliable, there are many tiny processes that only just begun – Matthias Ginter is now playing as right-back, Sven Bender is morphing into a centre-back.
Tuchel and his staff are still getting to know this team and nobody can predict whether his changes are ultimately for better or for worse, but so far it hasn’t been terribly unsuccessful. Losing 5-1 to Bayern can happen at this point, but it didn’t look as if Dortmund couldn’t beat them on a better day. In the meantime there are fish to fry until the next Der Klassiker (sorry, I couldn’t resist).
And the best part about the expected loss to Bayern is that Schalke failed to leapfrog Dortmund, while Wolfsburg and Leverkusen dropped points as well.