After a 3-1 loss to Barcelona midweek, Lucien Favre’s Borussia Dortmund looked to rebound against Hertha BSC in the Bundesliga. Dortmund spent a majority of the first half enjoying the possession, scoring two goals in the process. There was a shift in tactics for both teams in the 45th minute when Mats Hummels picked up his second yellow card of the game.

Hertha BSC recently appointed Jurgen Klinsmann as their new manager after sacking Ante Čović. Despite scoring a goal when evenly matched, Hertha BSC struggled after Dortmund went down a man. This tactical analysis looks to better understand what steps both teams took to best understand how Dortmund won the match 2-1.


Lucien Favre’s men came out in a 3-4-3. Burki started in goal with Akanji, Hummels, and Zagadou in front of him as the three man defence. The midfield was made up of Hakimi, Brandt, Witsel, and Raphael Guerrero, with Hakimi and Guerrero on the wings. The front line consisted of Marco Reus, Thorgan Hazard, and Jadon Sancho.

Jurgen Klinsmann opted for a 5-3-2 with Kraft in goal and Mittelstadt, Rekik, Boyata, Stark, and Wolf directly in front of him. The three midfielders were Darida, Skjelbred, and Grujic. Hertha’s two forwards were Lukebakio and Selke.

Bundesliga 2019/20: Hertha BSC vs Borussia Dortmund - Tactical Analysis tactics
Lineups [via Wyscout].

Hertha Defensive Miscues

As the match began, Hertha seemed capable and up for the challenge. They committed men forward as Dortmund attempted to play from the back. Their analysis likely showed that Dortmund would play the ball long if pressed, and Hertha pressed well enough for the first fourteen minutes so that Dortmund didn’t have too much of an opportunity to get their defensive line into the opponent’s half. As the ball switched from side to side, they would make sure their wingers provided some pressure.

Bundesliga 2019/20: Hertha BSC vs Borussia Dortmund - Tactical Analysis tacticsHere, Hertha commits men forward and forces the ball to move left to right, making it very difficult for Dortmund to progress forward. However, the defenders who were pressed up dropped back out of the midfield, and seconds later, Dortmund were through on a pass from Hummels to Witsel, who had excellent positioning to seal off his defender. 

The organisation of the backline caused Berlin problems multiple times. Right before the goal, there seems to be a disconnect between what defensive responsibilities the team should have.

Bundesliga 2019/20: Hertha BSC vs Borussia Dortmund - Tactical Analysis tacticsThe back five are essentially in a “V” shape, which makes it very difficult to defend through passes – particularly anything passed out wide. Those passes are difficult to defend because they have one person sitting back, keeping the opponents all onside, while other defenders press up. Here, their shape and the right-back Wolf’s overcommitment cause a lot of trouble. His over-pursuit gets him out of position, and Borussia Dortmund took advantage of it.

Dortmund’s Scoring Chances

In a span of two minutes, Dortmund put two goals past Kraft with some well-developed play. As Wolf overcommits in the previous image, the ball is played across to pitch to Hakimi, who found Marco Reus checking in. 

Bundesliga 2019/20: Hertha BSC vs Borussia Dortmund - Tactical Analysis tactics

As the ball is played, Reus doesn’t even appear to be in a position to make a play. He gets a foot in and masterfully lays it off to Julian Brandt, who finds himself in a lot of space. 

Bundesliga 2019/20: Hertha BSC vs Borussia Dortmund - Tactical Analysis tacticsAs Brandt carries the ball forward, attracting defenders to him, Jadon Sancho sees how much space he has and calls for the ball. Brandt continues to dribble and then slots a beautiful pass between the two central defenders towards the left side of the pitch, where Sancho finishes cooly on the left-hand side. Wolf, Hertha’s defender, was tasked with marking Sancho on this play, but because he over-committed forward and didn’t sprint back, he was too far out of position, and Dortmund punished him.

On their second goal, Hertha turned the ball over to Zagadou, who quickly switches the ball from left to right by playing Akanji.

Bundesliga 2019/20: Hertha BSC vs Borussia Dortmund - Tactical Analysis tacticsAkanji finds himself in a lot of space because there is no pressure from Hertha Berlin. Their backline’s disorganisation is also evident, as they have the left side of the backline much higher than the right. As Hertha organises, Akanji plays the ball into Hakimi’s feet. As he receives the ball, Thorgan Hazard makes a great move that guarantees his goal.

Bundesliga 2019/20: Hertha BSC vs Borussia Dortmund - Tactical Analysis tacticsAs Hakimi takes his first touch, Hazard jockeys with Rekik for position. Hazard is able to get in front of the centre-back, essentially sealing him off from the play, as Rekik’s only option now is to trip Hazard and most likely get sent off. The result:

Bundesliga 2019/20: Hertha BSC vs Borussia Dortmund - Tactical Analysis tacticsHazard was able to create so much space for himself that even though Hakimi’s pass was behind him, he was still able to open up his hips and finish with his first touch. In a matter of two minutes, Dortmund had put two past Hertha BSC.

Hertha’s attacking struggles

Hertha struggled to put together any cohesive play, with a majority of their attacking options coming from long balls from their defenders. While Jurgen Klinsmann didn’t have a lot of time to do his own tactical analysis of BVB, a bit of imagination from the attack would have been helpful.

Bundesliga 2019/20: Hertha BSC vs Borussia Dortmund - Tactical Analysis tacticsHere, Lukebakio just received the ball from his backline. He single-handedly dribbles across the defence and squeaks off a shot. As his shot heads towards goal, Darida gets a foot on it for the ice-hockey-style misdirection, leaving Burki with no chance at a save.

Hertha Berlin continued to look for long balls into their winger’s feet, particularly down the right flank, even after Mats Hummels earned a red card for his second yellow of the match just before half time. They didn’t pose much of a threat with these long balls, and they didn’t see too many chances from them, bar from the end when they finally got some into the box and forced Dortmund to take a defensive stand.

While it didn’t count, Hertha’s most successful moment of the match was a goal that was inevitably ruled offside by VAR.

Bundesliga 2019/20: Hertha BSC vs Borussia Dortmund - Tactical Analysis tacticsAfter halftime, Dortmund defended in a 4-4-1, and they successfully guided Hertha to the flanks, where they didn’t pose a real threat. Hertha did find success attacking the middle of the field, but they were clearly instructed to try to play around the centre of the park, rather than through it.

Bundesliga 2019/20: Hertha BSC vs Borussia Dortmund - Tactical Analysis tactics

Here, Hertha’s centre-back forces Brandt to press him, creating space directly behind him and between Dortmund’s lines. As Brandt presses, the ball slips past him and into the midfield where, despite a slow turn and collapsing defence, Grujic slips the ball to Selke, who slots the ball home to the far post. While the goal was correctly ruled offside, Hertha didn’t continue to look to play through the middle too frequently, and they were unable to come away with any points.


Lucien Favre continues to hold onto his job after seeing his team fight for a win despite being down a man for an entire half. It’s clear throughout the tactical analysis that BVB were the better side on the day, and if they continue this success, the manager should be able to hold onto his position. While their performance in the Champions League midweek means they need some help from Barcelona to qualify, they’re only five points off of the leaders in the Bundesliga.

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Carl Elsik