This Bundesliga season has no shortage of excitement. The top spot changes constantly, big names are fighting for the European spots, and almost every game is a close one. The game between Hoffenheim and Borussia Dortmund also proved to be a close one.

Dortmund started the game well, but could not keep the level of intensity in the second half. This, in combination with some tactical changes from Hoffenheim, led to the 2:1 win for Hoffenheim. This tactical analysis will examine how Hoffenheim overcame their struggles in the second half.

Lineups

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

Alfred Schreuder made some changes in comparison to the game against Union Berlin. Dennis Geigner, Christoph Baumgartner and Håvard Hortveit started instead of Stefan Posch, Pavel Kaderabek and Sargis Adamyan.

Dortmund had to change their line-up, due to the injury of their captain Marco Reus. Mario Götze started in his place. Lucien Favre also changed the left-mid position. Schulz started the game against Hoffenheim, while Guerreiro started against Leipzig.

Dortmund played through Hoffenheim’s pressure

Dortmund started the game well. First of all, the team was able to play through Hoffenheim’s pressure, which allowed them to attack the opposition’s half. One of the methods to do this was finding the free midfielder on the flanks.

Dortmund was able to find the wide midfielders, due to Hoffenheim’s way of pressing. Schreuder’s side used their three forwards to pressure the back three of Dortmund. The striker put pressure on the middle centre back, while the wingers had to put pressure on the other two centre backs. The wingers not only pressured the centre back, but also had to cut the passing lane towards Dortmund’s wide midfielder.

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

Despite Hoffenheim their best attempts, Dortmund played through this pressing frequently. Dortmund achieved this, through using their midfielders to get the ball to the wide midfielder.

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

In the situation above, Manuel Akanji had the ball. He was pressured by Hoffenheim’s winger Baumgartner. This opened up the space by Dortmund’s right midfielder Achraf Hakimi. Julian Weigl spotted the space, and made himself available for Akanji, after which the central midfielder played the ball towards Hakimi. Hoffenheim, thus, struggled to pressure Dortmund’s midfielders. Because of that, Dortmund frequently came in likewise situation, in which they used a central midfielder to find the wide midfielder.

Dortmund also used Götze to play through Hoffenheim’s press. The central striker supported the two central midfielders, which confused Hoffenheim. This confusion resulted in two outcomes for Dortmund. The first one was passing the ball to Götze, who enjoyed a lot of space in the opening minutes of the game. After a while, Götze attracted a lot of attention from Hoffenheim, which enabled Dortmund to find a free centre mid.

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

In the situation above, Dan-Axel Zagadou got passed Hoffenheim’s winger Ihlas Bebou. During that action, Weigl came towards the centre back to offer support. As a result, Hoffenheim’s central midfielder Sammaékou followed Weigl towards the ball. This opened up space in midfield, which was recognized by Götze. The striker left the striker position to make himself available for Zagadou. Because Hoffenheim’s centre backs did not follow Götze, Zagadou played the ball towards him, which allowed Dortmund to play through the pressure.

Hoffenheim’s main defensive problem, thus, was on their midfield when they pressured Dortmund’s back-line. Despite Hoffenheim’s numerical superiority in the centre of midfield, they struggled to stop Dortmund from using their midfielders to play through their pressing.

Dortmund also used a combination of the above. As the situation beneath shows, Akanji got possession and was pressured by Hoffenheim’s winger Baumgartner. In this situation, Dortmund was not able to use their central midfielders to play the ball towards Hakimi. However, Götze recognized the space again and offered support to find Hakimi. Again, this example shows that Hoffenheim struggled on their midfield while pressing. They failed to cut passing lanes, as well as picking up a dropped back striker.

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

Hoffenheim struggled in possession

Hoffenheim was struggling in the first half. In attack, they struggled to get out of their half. Hoffenheim had this struggle, due to Dortmund’s pressing, as well as the lack of passing options. The pass map proves that Hoffenheim mainly had possession at their own half during the first 45 minutes.

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

The problems in possession were mainly caused by the lack of passing options. This resulted in the situation as shown above: having trouble getting out of your own half. The main problem was that the supporting players were not close enough to support the Hoffenheim player in possession. In the picture beneath, left centre back Benjamin Hübner had the ball. Despite that Hoffenheim had a six versus five situation, they were not able to play through Dortmund’s press. As the analysis shows, this was due to the lack of support from Hoffenheim. If the players supported each other better during that first half, they would have had less trouble attacking the opposition’s half.

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

The 0:1 of Dortmund was also due to the struggles Hoffenheim had in possession. In the build-up of the goal, Hoffenheim finally played their way through Dortmund’s press. Diadie Samassékou received the ball around the midway line. Instead of passing the ball to the centre of the pitch, Samassékou tried to play a through ball, which failed.

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

Because Samassékou tried to play a through ball too soon, the distance between Hoffenheim’s defence and attack were big. Dortmund used this space to their advantage and produced a well-played counterattack: 0:1.

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

Difference in intensity and the use of the pivot

Hoffenheim played a better second half. Schreuder’s side played with more courage and was able to keep the ball much better than in the first half. The first reason Hoffenheim played better in possession, was due to the difference in Dortmund’s pressing. Favre’s side could not keep the same intensity in their pressing as they did in the first half. As a result, it was easier to keep possession for Hoffenheim, which forced Dortmund back more and more.

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

The picture above shows that Dortmund was forced back. In the first half, they were able to press in a 3-4-3 formation. The second half, Favre’s side was forced to defend on their own half. When defending on their own half, the wide midfielders dropped back and positioned themselves on the defensive line. Thus, in the second half, Dortmund mostly defended in a 5-2-3 formation.

A change in the tactics also resulted in a better second half for Hoffenheim. The use of the pivot also resulted in a better second half for Hoffenheim. In the second half, Hoffenheim’s pivot Florian Grillitsch played much closer to the centre-backs. Because Hoffenheim positioned the other two midfielders much higher up the pitch, it became impossible for Dortmund’s central midfielders to pressure Grillitsch. As a result, Hoffenheim played through Dortmund’s press much easier than in the first half. They either did this through Grillitsch or by using the free wing-back.

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

In the situation above, Dortmund tried to press Hoffenheim’s back four. Hoffenheim’s pivot Grillitsch positioned himself at the top of the box, to support his two centre backs. The other two midfielders positioned themselves much higher up the pitch. As a result, Weigl and Julian Brandt dropped back. This opened up a lot of space for Grillitsch, which allowed Hoffenheim to force Dortmund back to their own half.

Hoffenheim’s second goal is a combination of the above. This goal symbolized the decrease in pressure from Dortmund, as well as the better use of the pivot by Hoffenheim. The build-up started with Grillitsch who received the ball just in front of the two centre-backs. Despite the big distance, Weigl decided to put pressure on Grillitsch. Due to Weigl his decision, Jadon Sancho was forced to close the passing lane towards Andrej Kramaric. This resulted in a pass from Grillitsch towards Hoffenheim’s left-back.

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

After that pass, Hakimi decided to put pressure on Hoffenheim’s left-back. This opened up space for Hoffenheim to find Kramaric. The strike played the ball to the left-hand side, after which he sprinted towards the box. After this sprint, Kramaric received the ball and headed it in the back of the net: 2:1.

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

Conclusion

Dortmund started the game well. They were able to find the free player in attack, while they pressed successfully on Hoffenheim’s half. After the break, Dortmund was not able to keep up the same intensity as they did in the first half. Due to the decrease in intensity, but keeping the same intentions of play, Dortmund struggled and eventually lost the game.

Hoffenheim will be pleased with the second half. The team played with much more courage, used the pivot better and took advantage of the spaces that opened up because of the tiredness of Dortmund. It will be interesting to look if Hoffenheim can close the gap with the top four teams in the second half of the Bundesliga season.

 


Total Football Analysis Magazine #16: December 2019

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