I have always been of the opinion that the games between Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich are one of the top ‘derby’ games in world football and always seem to produce an entertaining game full of goals and excitement and this one was no different. Of course these are not officially classed as derbies but just as is the case of Manchester United and Liverpool games the rivalries are sometimes more intense than the games against there respective city neighbors.
Despite having only beaten Bayern once in the last 6 meetings Dortmund had started the season in tremendous form winning 8 games and drawing 2 out of the 11 games played. Bayern had also started the season in reasonable form but their form had trailed off a touch and losses away to Hertha Berlin and Gladbach at home and a draw again at home this time to Freiburg meant Dortmund fancied their chances.
If you watched the game i think you would agree that Niko Kovac’s Bayern side dominated possession even though the possesion stat say it was marginal (57%-43% in Bayern’s favour). Both teams set up in variations of a 4-4-2 with the Lucien Favre had set Dortmund up in a 4-4-2/4-4-1-1 shape with a flat back four and four across midfield with Marco Reus just behind a solitary Mario Gotze up front.
Bayern also shaped up in a variation of a 4-4-2 when defending similar to the home side with a flat back four and four across midfield with Müller just behind Robert Lewandowski. The difference in shape between the two sides seemed to be Martinez and Goretzka playing almost side by side in the centre of the Bayern midfield whereas Weighl, who struggled and was hooked at half time, and the excellent Witsel looked to play in more of a double pivot with the former playing at least 10 yards deeper than the Belgian international.
The influence of Ribery
Franck Ribery had his best game in a Bayern shirt for a while and gave Dortmund right back Łukasz Piszczek a pretty hard evening down the Bayern left hand side and if it wasnt for Dortmund winning the game he would have received my man of the match award. His tireless defensive work as well as his constant running at Piszczek was a key feature and it was clear that Bayern were consistently looking to do this during the game.
The doubling up and the constant threat of the overload on Dortmund’s flanks was also another key feature of Bayern’s play and this is visable in my pass map below.
If your a coach and you want to see what a near on perfect 4-4-2 should look like in regards to keeping a rigid shape whilst in a defensive and attacking phase you probably wont find one better than the Bayern shape above.
Ribery and Alaba have been an excellent combination on Bayern’s left hand side for quite a while now and with the coming of age Gnabry and the experience of Joshua Kimmich the Bayern right is equally as impressive. Looking at the graphic above we can see the way Bayern like to move the ball and it isnt through Martinez and Goretzka, the ball is almost always fed out through Boateng or Hummels, who incidentally was constantly pulled out of position by Reus and co, and out toward Ribery/Alaba or Gnabry/Kimmich but usually the former pairing is preferred.
Lets compare the Bayern pass map with Dortmund’s.
This now gives us a bit more of a clearer picture of why Ribery was able to get at Piszczek so often and get him in a lot of one v one situations. These graphics show an average position of a player and here we can see Piszczek, for the majority, was left isolated as Sancho was used more of an attacking threat and therefore didnt seem to defend a great deal although when needed and especially in the first half did try to help his right back out but Favre clearly wanted Sancho on the front foot ready for a Dortmund counter attack. But it must be said the Dortmund right back did his best up against the Bayern winger.
Of course exceeding your xG in a game usually helps one team did one team didnt. Dortmund created some high quality chances mainly from Reus and finished the good ones off and with 11 shots on target helping the xG count scoring three in the process won them the game.
The Dortmund graphic above also shows us how the double pivot of Weighl and Witsel came into effect and also how they played in another variation of a 4-4-2. I have also added in Paco Alcacer in to the graphic, more on that later.
Just how did Dortmund win the game?
As i mentioned before the possession stat doesnt really tell us the whole story merely that both sides almost equally shared the ball (duh) but in this game we saw a prime example of the old age saying of its what you do with it that matters.
For Dortmund it was more a case of work hard and see what we can get out of the game, and it worked.
Hakimi from left back was again excellent, as was Piszcezk at right back, Bruun Larsen had one of his quieter games but it was Marco Reus who dragged Dortmund to victory with two goals and one from substitute Paco Alcacer in an impressive second half comback coming from 1-2 down to win 3-2.
Dortmund were relying on the counter attack. Using Witsel’s ability to be able to recycle the ball in the centre of midfield and then pass the ball on to Sancho on the right and hoping to use the inguinuity of Reus and Gotze.
The graphic above backs this up with Bruun Larsen and Sancho averaging quite high positions out wide with Reus often dropping into the centre circle and surrounding areas.
In 14 games against Bayern that Reus has played in he has been involved in 9 goals and scoring 5 times up until this game, there isnt a doubt that Reus is indeed a big game player. Having had 3 years worth of serious injuries the newly recalled German international has been known to have said that just playing one game would have been satisfactory after all that has happened to him. If that one game would have been this one he would of left a very happy man.
Dortmund won the game through sheer grit and determination and the introduction of Paco Alcacer on for Mario Götze was a turning point in the game.
Alcacer gave Boateng and Hummels, who was reportedly playing with a head cold, and later on Süle something different to think about as he looked to get in behind the Bayern back line and forced them to make critical individual mistakes as Bayern fell apart in the second half. Even the usual unfallable Manuel Neuer conceded a penalty after being hesitant in coming off his line to foul Marco Reus who duly converted the spot kick. Alcacer casually slotting home the winner for Dortmund in the 73rd minute.
The introduction of Dahoud for Weighl at half time was just as important after Weighl simply couldnt adjust to the pace of the game from the off and mistiming tackles and passes throughout the first half. The trustworthy Thomas Delaney also added much needed steel later on.
I thought i would add this graphic in out of interest in terms of how well Dortmund did to get the result when under a fair bit of pressure in various areas on the pitch.
The graphic above shows the winners and losers of the duels between both sets of players in the game with almost an equal share between the teams and once again it is hard to back Dortmund using this graphic as a reason as to why they won the game. But it does show the influence and graft of Hakimi and Bruun Larsen down the Dormund left hand side to thwart Gnabry and Kimmich and although Ribery and Alaba had decent games when it came to duels it was even stevens according to the data. Questionable on the eye test i must say.
Sifting through tactics throughout the game and looking at substitutions from both Favre and Kovac it seems the former got it right with his changes and in my opinion this alongside Dormund’s sheer determination and hard work coupled with an inspired Marco Reus was what won the game for the team in yellow and maybe Bayern felt hard done by but they didnt take the chamcestthe came their way and paid the price come full time.