Bundesliga 2019/20: Borussia Dortmund vs Paderborn – tactical analysis

Bundesliga 2019/20: Borussia Dortmund vs Paderborn - tactical analysis tactics

The traumas of the last Bundesliga game didn’t seem to leave the black and yellow as goals from Strelli Mamba (2) and Gerrit Holtmann gave Paderborn a shock three-goal lead in the first half with Borussia Dortmund being completely outplayed. This tactical analysis will show how a spirited second-half along with smart substitutions from Lucien Favre helped Dortmund salvage a draw and keep their unbeaten run at the Signal Iduna Park intact with goals from Jadon Sancho, Alex Witsel and Marco Reus.  


With the last week’s performance, Lucien Favre was bound to change the line up as Lukasz Piszczek, Mahmoud Dahoud, Raphael Guerreiro, Marco Reus and Paco Alcacer all came into the side, with Manuel Akanji, Achraf Hakimi, Julian Brandt, Thorgan Hazard and Mario Gotze dropping out.

Bundesliga 2019/20: Borussia Dortmund vs Paderborn - tactical analysis

Paderborn sitting deep and hitting on the break

As expected from Paderborn, they were set up to sit deep and hit Dortmund on the break whenever the opportunity provided. With Nico Schulz being further ahead on the pitch to provide the much-needed width to Dortmund, time and again Pröger used his pace to get behind him. Consequently, Pröger set up Mamba who convincingly took his opportunity early on to give Paderborn a well-deserved lead. As seen in the image below the midfield and defence lines are deep and close to each other and in the structure of four each with Mamba and Zolinski playing up top waiting for an opportunity to run behind. While Zolinski time and again dropped slightly deep to receive the ball but Mamba kept on being the furthest player forward and rightly so.

Bundesliga 2019/20: Borussia Dortmund vs Paderborn - tactical analysis

With Dortmund as usual set up to play a high line, Paderborn smartly deployed Mamba to play on the shoulder of Julian Weigl. As and when Paderborn were in possession of the ball, Mamba shifted himself to the shoulder of Borussia Dortmund’s defence specifically Weigl, who was outran by Mamba’s pace to score second for himself and Paderborn on the 37th minute of the game. As seen in the picture below, Mamba stayed on the shoulder of Dortmund’s defensive line and pounced on a ball played in behind to net Paderborn’s second and double the misery of home side. Paderborn time and again exploited both right and left channels behind Borussia Dortmund’s defence as all three goals were created from the flanks.

Bundesliga 2019/20: Borussia Dortmund vs Paderborn - tactical analysis

With the first two goals, it was clear that Steffen Baumgart set up his team to hit Borussia Dortmund on counter especially exploiting their high line of defence whenever they were presented with a ball and Dortmund’s midfield and defence were caught out of their shape. The third goal was a near-perfect copy of the second, as Collins set up Holtman with an easy ball that split open Dortmund from the right channel which is evident from the below picture wherein Holtmann is circled in blue.

Bundesliga 2019/20: Borussia Dortmund vs Paderborn - tactical analysis

It was lucid that Borussia Dortmund failed to deal with Paderborn’s tactics and the pace of Mamba, Pröger who were threatening all throughout the first half. With already being 3 nil up Paderborn went into the half time with the belief of relying on the same tactics and preserve what they have, however, the three points at Signal Iduna Park never come easy.

Dortmund hit back

Lucien Favre was forced to take off Paco Alcácer and bring Julian Brandt on just before at the brink of half time. He also used his other two substitutions at the start of the second half with Hazard coming on for Mahmoud Dahoud and Achraf Hakimi coming on for Nico Schulz. With these substitutions, Favre switched his formation to 4-1-4-1 as Raphaël Guerreiro slotted in at left-back to combat Pröger’s pace and runs with Mats Hummels, Julian Weigl and Lukasz Piszczek remaining at their positions. Further, Achraf Hakimi slotted at RM with Julian Brandt and Marco Reus just ahead of Alex Witsel in the centre and Jadon Sancho at left midfield. This switch in midfield left Reus, Hazard, and Brandt as front three when Dortmund had the ball. The change of formation and personnel instantly changed the intensity of Dortmund’s pressing as Paderborn were not provided enough time on the ball to pick a pass behind Dortmund’s defence. Further, with Guerreiro shifting to LB he calmly dealt with Pröger’s pace as there were no goal-threatening attacks from the left channel during the second half. The change of formation is evident from the image below where Witsel has slotted in between midfield and defensive line with Reus and Brandt just ahead of him and Hazard alone upfront.

Bundesliga 2019/20: Borussia Dortmund vs Paderborn - tactical analysis
Dortmund’s second-half formation. 4-1-4-1

Press! Press! Press!

With the intensity of pressing being high and Borussia Dortmund outnumbering Paderborn in their own half, the home side was able to reduce the deficit early on in the second half as Sancho slotted the ball in the bottom of the net on Hakimi’s properly weighted pass. The intensity of Dortmund’s pressing was clear from the start of the second half as evident from the picture below wherein every Paderborn’s player near to the ball has been closely marked thereby forcing them to high-risk route, which could lead to an opportunity for Dortmund to reduce the deficit.

Bundesliga 2019/20: Borussia Dortmund vs Paderborn - tactical analysis
Man-orientated pressing from Dortmund.

Bundesliga 2019/20: Borussia Dortmund vs Paderborn - tactical analysis

As the intensity of pressing increased for Dortmund, not only, were they able to create more chances, they even reduced Paderborn’s control over the ball especially in counter-attacking scenarios as Mamba and Pröger were neither fed enough nor were they provided time and space on the ball. As seen from the above picture the pressing intensity of Dortmund from 46th till 90th minute was high as compared to what they did in the first half.

Bundesliga 2019/20: Borussia Dortmund vs Paderborn - tactical analysis

Bundesliga 2019/20: Borussia Dortmund vs Paderborn - tactical analysis

As the second half progressed, Favre moved Marco Reus as no. 9 with Thorgan Hazard just behind him which led to better hold up play in the final third with the same intensity of pressing. As wave after wave of Dortmund’s attack hit Paderborn, a set-piece finally resulted in a goal that reduced the deficit to one. With the slight change of formation, Dortmund enjoyed high spells of possession along with structural pressing. The pressure finally paid off in the 92nd minute when Marco Reus headed home Borussia Dortmund’s equaliser after being beautifully set up by Jadon Sancho’s pinpoint cross. With high-intensity pressing, changes in personnel and formation, Dortmund created more, which can be perceived from the above image where xG of Dortmund’s players has substantially increased as compared to the first half.


In hindsight, as this analysis has shown, Favre should have predicted Paderborn’s tactics as they were most likely to sit deep and hit Dortmund’s high line of defence on the counter-attack. With a bit cautious approach towards the pace offered by Mamba and Pröger, Borussia Dortmund could have easily started the game on the front foot and would have kept the pacy attackers at bay. Nonetheless, it is two points dropped for Dortmund which could and should have been easy three at home against the struggling opposition.

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