In a typical DFB Pokal first round match Borussia Dortmund managed to eliminate Chemnitzer FC from the Pokal. Goals from Aubameyang and Mkhitaryan saw BVB go through with a 2-0 victory, on a sweltering afternoon in Chemnitz. But not without a little help from the newly signed goalkeeper Roman Bürki and the linesmen.
Thomas Tuchel made three changes from the 5-0 win against WAC. Roman Bürki, Sven Bender and Gonzalo Castro played instead of Roman Weidenfeller, Julian Weigl and Shinji Kagawa. Tuchel also tweaked the system a bit, changing it from a pretty straightforward 4-2-3-1 to an asymmetrical 4-1-4-1/4-4-1-1 hybrid. Chemnitz sat relatively deep in a system similar to 4-2-3-1, which BVB often struggled to break down during last season.
BVB started off shaky, having to play from the back through Bender instead of Weigl. Bender added defensive stability and counter-pressing competence to the team, but struggled to orchestrate the team’s attacks like Weigl managed in recent games. It remains to be seen if Bender can grow into that role of a lone holding midfielder in a possession based team, which the new manager is likely to favor. Otherwise he may well become more of a role player for when Tuchel doesn’t expect his team to have the majority of the ball. It was also obvious that the right side of the back four, with Sokratis and Piszczek, would have some trouble in possession. Both of them can struggle to play accurate and meaningful passes from the back when put under pressure. Not having Weigl in the team made this problem all the more obvious; Bender can’t take as much responsibility in building play as the 19-year-old. In one instance a misplaced Piszczek pass from the back almost became an assist for the opponent. As with Bender it remains to be seen if Sokratis and especially Piszczek can adjust to the new system, otherwise Tuchel might have to find an alternative at right-back.
It was interesting to see that the BVB team looked rather unbalanced on the wings. Tuchel fielded most of his more creative players who feel comfortable in narrow spaces on the left side with Hummels, Castro, Mkhitaryan, and partly Schmelzer while the right was the more athletic side with Sokratis, Piszczek, and Reus. Only Gündogan, who played more to the right side, didn’t fit that pattern. As a result most promising attacks resulted from overloading the left wing and half-space (the space between the wing and the middle of the pitch) where Schmelzer, Castro, Mkhitaryan, and Reus or Gündogan created triangles and displayed some nice combination play. The first goal came from a combination on the left. Schmelzer and Castro, who floated between central midfield and offensive midfield, got the ball to Mkhitaryan, who had all the time in the world to find Aubameyang in the box.
BVB enjoyed their best period of the game from the first goal until half-time, and were able to create a few quality chances, but unfortunately Reus wasn’t at his best in front of goal. Going into half-time with only a 1-0 lead, it seemed inevitable that things would get tense in the second half. And so it came to pass: Chemnitz were able to create a few chances and set-pieces, and Dortmund didn’t play to their best in the second half. It was only thanks to Roman Bürki’s saves and some wrong offside calls against Chemnitz that the clean sheet remained intact. The game almost seemed like it was going to tilt into Chemnitz’s direction, but luckily, in the 82nd minute, Aubameyang was able to return the favor and set Mkhitaryan up to make it 2-0, which put an end to all the hopes of an upset for Chemnitz. Mkhitaryan has now had a hand in seven of the eight goals Borussia Dortmund have scored in the first three competitive games of the season, a very promising start for the Armenian.
Even in a game like this, which wasn’t particularly brilliant, it looks like the team has become more comfortable and organized in possession. It can’t be expected that everything works out immediately after such a short preparation, but it doesn’t look too bad for the start of the Bundesliga. It remains to be seen how serious Bender’s ankle injury is, here’s hoping that he will be fit for the first huge Bundesliga game on Saturday against Gladbach.