Bayern and Dortmund met for the first time this season in the league as the top sides in Germany met once again in a highly anticipated encounter. With Bayern having won the German Super Cup earlier in the season, this was the proper competitive test for both the teams that would reflect in the league table on a long term basis.

Bayern travelled to the Westfalenstadion having re-found some of their mojo under Jupp Heynckes. Dortmund meanwhile have not been able to replicate their form from early season as Peter Bosz’ side have been found wanting in recent weeks. The biggest match in the Bundesliga has not lived up to the expectations in the last two seasons or so as the teams have not been able to demonstrate quality they once were capable of. This match followed a similar pattern which ensued in an one-sided affair with Bayern able to pull clear of Dortmund

Line ups:

Borussia Dortmund 1-3 Bayern Munich | 1

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Borussia Dortmund (4-2-3-1) | Manager: Peter Bosz

38.Burki – 5.Batra, 25.Sokratis, 36.Toprak, 29.Schmelzer – 33.Weigl, 27.Castro – 9.Yarmolenko, 23.Kagawa, 22.Pulisic – 17.Aubameyang

Bayern Munich (4-3-3) | Manager: Josef Heynckes

26.Ulreich – 32.Kimmich, 4.Sule, 5.Hummels, 27.Alaba – 11.Rodriguez, 8.Martinez, 6.Thiago – 10.Robben, 9.Lewandowski, 29.Coman

Dortmund’s tweak in structure:

Bosz changed his side from their usual variant 4-1-4-1 to a 4-2-3-1 with Gonzalo Castro fielded along with Julian Weigl in an attempt to negate Bayern’s presence in the ten space and also find their own stability in build-up. Dortmund have not been able to play through the wings in the way they would prefer to in the last few matches as teams have figured out how they operate. In this match however, their 4-2-3-1 would shift to a 4-4-2 off the ball as Shinji Kagawa who played the number 10 joined Aubameyang up front.

They pressed very high in the first few minutes and dropped off to cut the ball through the middle as the game progressed. Their general structure was to pair Kagawa and Aubameyang against Niklas Sule and Mats Hummels when Bayern had the ball. Pulisic and Yarmolenko would ensure that the Bayern full backs were covered. Weigl and Thiago would battle it out throughout the match while Castro initially pressed Martinez when Dortmund pushed up.

 

We see here that Kagawa ensures that the play is directed back to either Ulreich by using his cover shadow to close down the passing lane to Kimmich. Aubameyang immediately closes down Hummels, with the intention of forcing Bayern long or making a misplaced pass that could lead to a quick turnover.

Bayern’s response to Dortmund’s approach:

Bayern were easily able to dominate the game much due to the flaws in Dortmund’s setup. Dortmund did not have a consistent pressing pattern as their tempo in pushing Bayern high up the pitch dropped off after sometime. Due to Castro being heavily oriented towards Martinez when BVB pressed high, James Rodriguez could find himself free in a number of situations. A clear pattern in how Bayern operated to progress was to use Thiago and James in their respective half spaces and break free of the 4-4-2 shape from Dortmund.

 

Another method by which Bayern could break free of the Dortmund’s shackles was using Hummels’ ball playing ability. This when combined with Thiago’s excellent on the ball abilities ensured that Bayern could have a number of promising entries into the final third. Once the pressing intensity dropped from Dortmund, Hummels had time on the ball and could use this to Bayern’s advantage with well-timed pings over the top or play it into Thiago in between the lines. Thiago also was able to make a telling effect from deep in the left half space with some excellent switches to the right flank to the highly positioned Kimmich.

It is to be noted that once Dortmund fell back into the final third, they further lost control on closing down the likes of Thiago and Martinez. Thiago’s pass to James was laid off to Robben, who opened the scoring with a goal he has probably scored countless times in his career.

Another common pattern that was especially seen in the first half was the use of Alaba on the left side. Kingsley Coman would drop down deep into the left half space and drag his marker Marc Bartra along with him. This was seen during the first goal as Alaba could pull free with a well-timed third man run down the left side when Coman dropped deep. Simple yet effective wall passes or combinations resulted in either Thiago or Hummels being able to put Alaba free down the flank.

 

Dortmund’s possession play is found wanting:

Bayern could easily manage to keep a stranglehold on Dortmund when the home side had the ball. Thiago mirrored Weigl’s role when Dortmund had the ball and effectively shut the young German down with his marking. Castro was not always able to drop and keep the play moving with James sticking to him. Robben did well in his task to shut down Schmelzer when he advanced down the left, something which Heynckes has been able to make Robben do back from their famous 7-0 aggregate win over Barcelona back in 2013.

Dortmund did have their fair share of chances, especially in the second half. Their main outlet was through Christian Pulisic who was able to put in an excellent performance. He often got the better of Kimmich down the left flank and laid the ball to Aubameyang and Yarmolenko multiple times. Profligacy in finishing meant that Dortmund did not score until the game was well of reach. The lone goal scored by Dortmund by Marc Bartra was also an assist from Pulisic as he was able to beat three men down the line and lay it off to the Spaniard.

The game had little improvisation from the teams with the two shapes slugging it off against each other. The game was decided on the individual quality of the players with Arjen Robben still able to make a telling difference for the Bavarians.

Conclusion:

The win put Bayern six points ahead of Dortmund in the Bundesliga table. Dortmund dropped to third with Leipzig jumping ahead of them to the second in the table, four points behind Bayern. Dortmund need to up their game in the coming weeks to make a challenge for the title, with their Champions League hopes taking a massive hit after the loss to Tottenham and also at home to Real Madrid. Bayern on the other hand seem to be back on track after Heynckes’ appointment and might well go on to clinch the Bundesliga yet again with the quality in their ranks.

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Raghunandhanan Narasimhan

Co-founder and Chief Editor here at FBH. Manchester United fan with an obsession for tactics. Cannot resist admiring quality playmakers and holding midfielders.
Raghunandhanan Narasimhan