Dortmund beat a poor Tottenham side in a one-sided first encounter between the teams. Here, we examine the major tactical talking points.
1. Dortmund’s extensive use of crossfield passes
It quickly became clear that Dortmund had success with long diagonal balls after entering the opponent’s half. As Tottenham’s wingers often needed too much time to chase back, the zones around both full-backs were exposed and BVB took advantage of it. Especially left-back Ben Davies had to cover plenty of space from the beginning.
Spurs’ central midfielders tried to fix the lack of presence by staying close to the centre-backs, which, however, left the central space in front of Tottenham’s penalty box exposed on several occasions.
Consequently, Dortmund scored their first goal after winning the ball back near the 18-yard-box. The quick turnover led to a Marcel Schmelzer cross that found Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s head.
2. Tottenham’s ineffective pressing
As usual, Mauricio Pochettino’s side employed a high pressing line, but had little to no success against Dortmund. The likes of Mats Hummels and Sven Bender were able to let the ball circulate through the deep zones. Even Roman Weidenfeller was involved in the build-up play, while Julian Weigl displayed authority in the middle of the park.
Throughout the first half, the visitors repeatedly adjusted the intensity of their pressing. Before Dortmund scored the first goal, Spurs’ first line stayed deeper, although their defence still lacked the appropriate degree of compactness.
Sure, Tom Carroll and Ryan Mason had a bad night. But both were unable to cope with Dortmund’s attack partly because they badly missed the support from their team-mates.
3. Pochettino’s response
After the half-time break, Tottenham began to defend in what looked like a 4-5-1 shape. Pochettino later replaced Nacer Chadli with the more defensive-minded Mousa Dembélé. The guests clearly wanted to avoid conceding another goal.
Unfortunately for them, Marco Reus scored from close range after a short corner in the 61st minute. And the 26-year-old added another goal, as Weigl’s vertical pass cut through Tottenham’s defensive formation prior to the 3-0. Until the end, Dortmund remained attentive, using their sophisticated pressing to constantly guide the opposing build-up play to the flanks,
Without key players such as Dele Alli, Mousa Dembélé and Harry Kane in the starting XI, and without a well-conceived defensive strategy, Spurs displayed an overall poor and atypical performance, which made it even easier for a tactically superior Dortmund team.