Borussia Dortmund moved up to third place in the German Bundesliga on Saturday when they came out on top of Bayer Leverkusen with a thrilling 4-3 victory.
Erling Braut Haaland scored twice and made another goal, while Raphael Guerreiro scored a sublime free-kick as die Schwarzgelben kept pace with the early pace-setters.
The top four in the table all won away games this weekend as Bayern battered Leipzig, Wolfsburg made it four wins from four away to Greuther Hurth and Mainz 05 continued their impressive start to the campaign with a victory in Hoffenheim.
BVB repeatedly came from behind to win this battle of the title challengers as Bayer Leverkusen are left to dream of what might have been. A victory for die Werkself would have lifted them to third place, but they will have to settle for sixth for the time being.
It was a game where caution was thrown to the wind somewhat with the visitors coming from behind on three occasions before getting the winner to seal an important win early on in the race for the Meisterschale.
This tactical analysis takes an in depth look to the teams formation and how the switch of every formation led to one thing and other tactic’s used in this Bundesliga fixture;
Line-ups and formations
Leverkusen lined up in a 4-2-3-1 with Kerem Demirbay used in the double pivot as opposed to in the 10 role. He was joined by Robert Andrich with Florian Wirtz deployed in front of them, meaning Exequiel Palacios was left on the bench with Charles Aranguiz left out entirely due to them returning late from international duty.
Otherwise, Leverkusen named an unchanged side from their previous 4-1 victory over Augsburg.
Dortmund continued with their midfield diamond with late transfer window signing Marin Pongracic coming straight into the starting line-up alongside Manuel Akanji.
This allowed Axel Witsel to be deployed as a pivot with Mahmoud Dahoud going into the left midfield position at the expense of Gio Reyna. Julian Brandt also came into the starting line-up, pushing Marco Reus up from the 10 position into a Centre-forward spot, with Donyell Malen falling to the bench.
Dortmund’s attacking preferences
With a midfield diamond, Dortmund naturally maintained a high level of central compactness in attacks.
Both Thomas Meunier and Raphael Guerreiro pushed high and wide, with Witsel sitting deep to give protection against the defensive transition, allowing both full-backs to provide height and width.
with Bellingham playing wider (22). Reus would drop deeper than Erling Haaland 9, sitting just ahead of that cluster of midfielders.
The closer look into Dortmund’s positional attacks over the course of the game showed that they actually had a large amount focused down the right flank.
With the width coming from the full-backs, Dortmund’s midfield four and attacking duo were able to overrun the central channel.
As Haaland stayed high. With the Norwegian forward’s considerable threat in behind, his positioning on the last line of the defense prevented the defense from being able to step forward and engage Dortmund’s midfield, leaving a 5v3 overload in favor of Dortmund in the midfield.
The Leverkusen wingers could tuck inside, but then either of Raphael Guerreiro and Meunier on either wing would have plenty of space to operate.
Quick interchanges between the midfield and attack
Dortmund’s central compactness allowed for rapid-fire passing exchanges between their attackers, with Brandt working close to both Reus and Haaland.
Any forward receiving a forward pass was instantly surrounded by the second attacker and at least one more midfielder.
With such a high number of attackers playing within the space of each half-space the Leverkusen defence were naturally drawn tighter.
However, the slightest movement out wide from an attacker could have the impact of drawing a Leverkusen defender out with them.
Leverkusen’s quick breaks
The home side were happy to leave Dortmund to have the bulk of possession, with Leverkusen having 42.67% of the ball on the day. Dortmund had more chances, with 14 shots, but Leverkusen’s 11 shots on goal was certainly respectable given a significantly lower share of possession.
Still, they were consistently dangerous and may feel hard done by not to have come away from the game with a point.
They were able to provide legitimate goal threat against Dortmund through their terrific work on attacking transition, combined with some clever pressing in moments.
They were aggressive with their press, pushing players high and wide, whilst still maintaining a compactness throughout.
Leverkusen worked hard as an entire defensive unit over the course of the game, doing a stellar job of not only ensuring there were players around the ball to provide pressure, but also to ensure the counter-attack already had a structure in place to allow them to break quickly and retain possession too.
In general though, Leverkusen’s attacking group around Schick were excellent at pushing forward quickly in support of the forward as soon as the ball was won back and they frequently looked to get it forward as soon as possible, with 12.6% of their passes over the course of the game being long passes.
This weekend’s game between these two sides was most definitely a game for a neutral to watch and enjoy but is unlikely to have too many of their rivals in the top half of the table worried about either side’s defensive work. Dortmund in particular will be disappointed to continue with a leaky defense despite the introduction of new signing Pongracic.
Nevertheless, the attacking prowess of each side will have sides a little more concerned. Over their next four league games, Leverkusen will face Stuttgart, Mainz, and Bayern Munich, and so will have a greater idea of their potential for this season, whilst in the same time period, Dortmund will play Mainz too, but also Monchengladbach, Augsburg and Union Berlin, and will no doubt feel confident they can continue scoring goals at the rate at which they have thus far.