With 11 matches left to play in the Bundesliga, relegation battlers Augsburg hosted the ‘powerhouse’ of the division, Borussia Dortmund. With six points gained in six matches but with home advantage, Augsburg couldn’t possibly challenge the division leaders, could they? Similarly, Dortmund have only taken 12 points from a possible 18 since January. This would present a perfect chance for Augsburg to beat the Bundesliga leaders. And boy did they take it.
In this tactical analysis, we will look at how Augsburg defied the odds to beat the mighty Black and Yellow of Borussia Dortmund.
Augsburg moved into a 4-1-4-1 this week after previously losing to Freiburg last playing 4-4-1-1. With Englishman, Reece Oxford sent off last week he was replaced with Kevin Danso at centre back. Sergi Cordova was switched with Andre Hahn and moved to midfield whilst dong-Won Ji moved up front as a lone striker.
The fluidity of Augsburg’s formation: 6-3-1
From the offset, Augsburg proved extremely hard to break down. Despite playing a 4-1-4-1 formation the shape more often than not took many forms. This included one we will look at, 6-3-1, which was used extensively in this game.
With 6-3-1, Augsburg achieved greater numbers at the back as well as securing the wings. Borussia Dortmund, well known for creating chances down the wings would begin to get frustrated.
Hahn would move in and out of the defensive line depending on which transition (defence or attack). The zones marked in red would be the wing back’s territory and if the opposition entered those areas with the ball, they would be pressed. The wingbacks would step out of the defensive line and show that there was no route through the flank. Additionally, the right and left centre backs (Khedira and Schmid) would push out to the wings covering any gaps left by the wing backs. The rest of the team would also shift laterally providing mutual support.
Below we can see this in action in the still. The wingbacks, Stafylidis and Hahn, stepping out of their lines into their respective flank zones. Koo also steps forward from midfield to apply counter pressure on Dortmund’s easy pass forward.
Dortmund attempt to break down Augsburg
With Augsburg creating superior numbers in defence and midfield, Dortmund would have to attempt to work the opposition hard laterally. Dortmund would attempt to focus an attack down one flank and then quickly pass the ball through players to the other side of the pitch. Only well-drilled defences combat this method as it is physically and mentally demanding to keep a correct individual position as well as an overall formation.
The picture below shows Augsburg staying disciplined in the formation and shifting in relation to the ball. This stopped Dortmund from exploiting the vulnerable flanks.
Dortmund did break through at times via this method and particularly with great success down the right flank. However, Dortmund would waste their chances and missed three big chances in the first half.
Augsburg transition to attack
When Augsburg eventually re-gained possession they would break the Dortmund lines with purpose and speed. This would catch “Die Schwarzgelben” off guard and created superiority in attacking numbers going forward.
To illustrate, the still below shows this example as Augsburg create a five vs three situation catching Dortmund by surprise. This opening led to Augsburg’s first goal with the ball crossed into forward, dong-Won Ji’s path to score.
Keeping Reus ‘in check’
Augsburg’s middle three Gregoritsch, Max and Koo formed a triangle around Marco Reus for the majority of the game. This covered passing lanes to the left and right of Reus. As a result of this, Reus struggled to make a massive impact on the game as he regularly does, providing key passes to the target men. When in fact, Reus only made 28 passes and had 39 touches of the ball. This helped alleviate pressure on Augsburg defending.
Transition with possession
Mid-way through the second half and the ‘Fuggerstädter’ showed no signs of tiring. The formation was holding up and the transitions were effective from deep inside their own half. Breaking out fast, long and wide but maintaining comfortable links is what remained key.
As well as moving long and wide Augsburg would form a square to initiate play from the back. This gave more options for the player in possession with Dortmund pressing viscously. Note within five seconds how well spread Augsburg are whilst maintaining links. Dortmund struggled to compete with this level of organisation and physical endurance. It would ultimately win the game for the home side.
It’s clear that Borussia Dortmund came into this game clear favourites, facing a team battling relegation. The momentum and statistics show this also. Dortmund, clearly dominant in all areas and constantly had Augsburg under pressure. Dortmund’s substitutions made an impact on the game as in the 68th as Alcacer grabbed a goal. But, it would not be enough.
Momentum in the last 20 minutes shows Dortmund fighting for a result but still struggled to take their chances. Eight shots on target with five big chances, the score could’ve easily been 4-2 to Dortmund and would’ve been had it not been for Ausburg goalkeeper, Gregor Kobel. Kobel was outstanding making seven great saves and rated 8.4/10 for the game (according to SofaScore).
What was remarkable about Augsburg like mentioned above, is their fitness. They didn’t seem to tire and it shows below. With over 10km more distance covered. It played a massive part with Augsburg’s defence and attack. When they did attack they broke hard and fast, spreading long and wide. Although possession wasn’t kept they would make enough progress up the field to have to make Dortmund completely re-set an attack and play from the back. This shows as the most passes for Dortmund came from the back four.
This result has put a massive dent into Borussia Dortmund’s title hopes as Bayern Munich have now clawed themselves back into the title fight. However, a mixture of bad luck, not taking chances, superb goalkeeping and Augsburg’s ‘never say die’ attitude would stop the bombardment of yellow and black.
Dortmund now face Tottenham in the Champions League second leg and a deficit of three goals awaits them. Their next Bundesliga game is at home against Stuttgart.
Augsburg will take massive confidence from this game knowing that they can beat the best. Sitting just above the relegation zone, the team will look take on another top three team, RB Leipzig, and will be encouraged by this game to get a result they desperately need.
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