Borussia Dortmund claimed their ninth home victory of the season by beating last-placed Hannover 96 1-0. It was a mediocre performance overall, but BVB have already tallied up more league points (48) after Matchday 21 than in the entire previous campaign (46). Though, with that sort of display, it will be tough to prevail against FC Porto on Thursday.
No trust in Adrian Ramos?
The path seemed cleared for Adrian Ramos to be in the starting XI, while Big Bird’s little brother had to watch the match from the stands after picking up a knock in the cup win against VfB Stuttgart. Yet Thomas Tuchel, who said that Adrian Ramos is unfortunate that the prolific Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is playing in his position, opted for Marco Reus to lead the line instead.
Reus had already done so in the 3-1 cup win over VfB Stuttgart. It might very well be a direct result of Ramos’ unimpressive performance against FC Ingolstadt, where he failed to deliver as a starting player on the wing.
Mixed zone – find the post match quotes here
It’s bad news for the Colombian striker just as much as it is for Borussia Dortmund, not because Marco Reus isn’t capable of playing upfront, but because BVB currently have only one reliable striker in their squad. Considering the high ambitions of the club, it’s almost ludicrous to have that little depth on such a pivotal position.
Worrying showings by Shinji Kagawa
“Form is temporary, class is permanent,” they say. That’s hopefully the case with Shinji Kagawa, too. After Tuchel dropped him for two matches (getting subbed on in the 89th minute vs. Stuttgart hardly counts), it was once again an abject performance by the Japanese, who doesn’t seem to have a clear mind on the field whatsoever.
He played predominantly in left midfield, failing to have much of a positive impact throughout the entire 90 minutes.
Manchester United fans might say: “Shinji Kagawa playing not up to his standards in left midfield, where have I seen this before?” But it’s different, since Kagawa has delivered excellent performances already this season from that position. It’s the lack of sharpness, really.
Kagawa’s passes fail to thread through opposing players, hence zero key passes stand to his name. One can only hope the Japanese manages to pull himself out of the little dip in form, otherwise BVB fans have to start worrying soon.
Another clean sheet
As much as Borussia Dortmund’s offensive play is stuttering, the defence is working at the moment. Against a hapless Hannover 96, BVB allowed only four shots. The Black and Yellows kept their opposition off the scoreboard for the third time in five matches across competitions, conceding only two goals in 2016.
The 4-3-3 with fullbacks staying further back worked like a charm against VfB Stuttgart and, while Schmelzer and Piszczek pushed higher up the field against Hannover, there wasn’t too much threat coming towards Roman Bürki’s goal.
Obviously, there is a correlation between the clean sheet and Hannover’s poor attacking trait in this particular match, but considering VfB’s great form (indicated by their 2-0 victory over Hertha Berlin on Matchday 21) there is a trend.
Partly, that is down to Mats Hummels being on top of his game, which wasn’t always the case in the first half of the season. Credit is also due to Sokratis Papastathopoulos and Neven Subotic, who have been similarly sound in recent matches.
Subotic’s performance against Hannover has to be pointed out, considering his little playing time under Tuchel thus far. It was only his third Bundesliga start of the season and, with that in mind, he did admirably well.
The Serbian didn’t look off the pace at all, interceptions were well-timed and tackles convincingly executed. Unlike Ramos, Subotic has shown that he can be a reliable option – though with Sven Bender being back in team training, Subotic could shortly fall down the pecking order once more.
Matthias Ginter an option in defensive midfield
Lukasz Piszczek has reclaimed his spot at the right-back position, leaving Matthias Ginter out in the cold – but not for long. Ginter has featured in two consecutive matches in holding midfield, playing instead of Julian Weigl.
Against Hannover, the World Cup winner completed 93 per cent of his passes, well in the Weigl range, and did well to give BVB’s play some structure. It’s enough to be a valuable alternative in midfield, but he’s probably still not as effective as Weigl himself, whose lateral transitions are simply quicker.
Lack of precision a worry ahead of Porto?
The story of the match was that Borussia Dortmund looked slick in the first quarter of an hour, but dropped off severely after that. A lot of tiny lapses and imprecise passes accumulated to a lousy match of football.
In the end, the Black and Yellows did enough to overcome Hannover thanks to a nice shot from range of one Henrikh Mkhitaryan. The lack of precision doesn’t seem to be a small hiccup, rather beingevident against FC Ingolstadt and Hertha BSC already. If Tuchel’s men don’t pick up the pace again in attack, it’ll be a tough week with Porto and Bayer Leverkusen on the horizon.