Last season was a successful one for one of Germany’s most loved clubs in Borussia Dortmund as they qualified for the Champions League with relative ease, ending up a whole 18 points over their nearest challenger Bayer Leverkusen, but still finishing behind Bayern Munich.
It was also a successful season for one of Germany’s most hated clubs as RB Leipzig won promotion from the 2. Bundesliga, marking a new era for football in the nation.
Plenty of changes occurred in both squads over the summer, along with RB Leipzig changing managers, with stalwart Ralf Rangick resuming his role as Sporting Director and ex-Ingolstadt manager Ralph Hasenhüttl being entrusted to make sure RB Leipzig’s debut Bundesliga season doesn’t end in a disaster.
Both sides came away with points from their opening games, with Dortmund pinching a 2-1 win over Mainz, while Leipzig travelled to Hoffenheim where a last-minute goal won them their first ever Bundesliga point. No changes to formations were made for the game, with Hasenhüttls Leipzig again lining up in a 4-2-2-2 formation, while Dortmund lined up in their synonymous 4-2-3-1.
The big talking point beforehand was the re-introduction of Mario Götze to the Dortmund line-up in his favoured role behind the striker, which was one of a few changes from the side that beat Mainz. Ousmane Dembélé was relegated to the bench, with Gonzalo Castro moving from midfield to the right attacking role, with Weigl bought in to hold midfield. Łukasz Piszczek was the final change, replacing youngster Felix Passlack in the right-back slot.
Leipzig made just one change to their opening day draw to Hoffenheim, with youngster Lukas Klostermann returning from Olympic duty and reclaiming the right-back position.
RB Leipzig’s organisation stifled Dortmund’s creativity
As mentioned, Leipzig lined up in a 4-2-2-2 formation, with Sabitzer and Kaiser deployed as inside wingers. This meant that, combined with the energy and strength of Poulsen and Werner up top, the whole front line were in a fantastic position to press Dortmund’s defence whenever they were on the ball.
As we can see from the picture, every available passing option (apart the one to Schürrle) can easily be pressed, although Leipzig chose to not press too high, instead preferring to let the Dortmund centre-backs pass between themselves, cutting off the passing lanes into BVB’s midfield, which stopped the likes of Götze and Dortmund’s creative players getting much of the ball.
The plan excelled as Dortmund’s back five – including goalkeeper Roman Bürki – made up 63 percent of the 588 passes that Dortmund attempted (compared to RB Leipzig’s 47 percent for their back five), with the centre-back pairing of Bartra and Papastathopoulos making up 35 percent of Dortmund’s total passes between them. Dortmund also managed just one shot on target throughout the game.
As the game progressed into the second half, Thomas Tuchel could obviously see what was wrong so deployed Bürki as a sweeper keeper to try and relieve some pressure on the defence and to give them another outlet, however due to Leipzig intelligently avoiding a high press, the gain was minimal and didn’t really help Dortmund to establish much control.
Use of set-pieces could’ve changed the game
With Dortmund’s game plan nullified and RB Leipzig looking like they weren’t going to score until Keita’s dramatic 89th-minute winner, both teams were going to have to find another way to break the deadlock and the most likely way seemed via a set-piece. Both teams looked very dangerous from dead ball situations, with an early free-kick routine from Dortmund showing particular promise.
Here, Castro plays the ball in along the ground to Götze (pictured behind the wall) who makes a run back out of the six-yard box to lay the ball off to Schürrle, who is by the defender on the inside edge of the D and makes a curling run around him onto the oncoming ball that Götze has just laid off. Unfortunately for Dortmund the ball got caught under Schürrle’s feet as he received it and was unable to have a convincing attempt on goal.
It did highlight, however, the thought that is clearly going into Dortmund’s set-piece routines, even this early in the season.
Götze’s disappointing return and the bright spark that is Dembélé
Much was made before the game of Götze’s return but it couldn’t have been more anti-climatic. The defensive midfielders of RB Leipzig snuffed out any danger that he could create. He rarely looked to take on players and ended the match with a disappointing 65 percent pass accuracy.
He wasn’t helped by the players around him; Castro, in particular, looked to be absent for a large portion of the game with just 22 touches of the ball in the 71 minutes he was on the pitch. His replacement, Raphaël Guerreiro, had 23 touches by the end of the match and I struggle to see why he was picked over Ousmane Dembélé.
Dembélé was one of the standout performers in the win against Mainz and looked a threat whenever he got the ball against Leipzig. His dribbling prowess was exactly what Dortmund needed to break open Leipzig’s defensive organisation and stretch the game. Had the substitution been made 20 minutes earlier, Dortmund may well have had the guile and craft to break open the resolute, often deep RB Leipzig defence.
The match was not an overly entertaining one with Leipzig having the better chances, but still not completely looking like they deserved the win. That being said, Hasenhüttl has his team working as a well-organised unit and, with the young talent that’s in the squad, it’s easy to see that they have enough quality both on and off the pitch to comfortably finish mid-table, with the potential for a push for a European place.
As for Dortmund, they’re still missing Marco Reus, but a significant improvement is needed ahead of games against Real Madrid, Wolfsburg and Leverkusen in the next month. It’s time for Tuchel to prove his undoubted quality again.
By Stuart Reid. Follow @From_The_Wing