Borussia Dortmund came into this game on the back of a 3-0 victory at Mainz. Dortmund sat in the third position, trailing the Leipzig by 5 points. RB Leipzig sat on top of the Bundesliga log with two points above second and a resounding 3-0 victory in their last outing at Fortuna Dusseldorf. Both teams have only lost one match in the previous seven outings. Leipzig had a six-match winning streak while Borussia Dortmund had a three-match winning streak before this encounter.
Leipzig’s Werner and Dortmund’s Sancho came into this encounter in sizzling form. Sancho had scored five goals in his last four games. Werner came into this game on the back of ten goals in his last 6 games.
With another Dortmund and Leipzig match filled with goals, the match ended in yet another stalemate. This tactical analysis features the analysis of both teams’ tactics and how it affected the scoreline.
Dortmund lined up in their 3-4-3 with a back three of Akanji, Hummels, and Zagadou. Hakimi and Guerrero as wingbacks. Weigl and Brandt made the midfield two while Sancho, Reus, and Hazard made up the front three. Leipzig lined up in a 4-3-1-2/4-3-3 with Haltensberg Upamaecano Klostermann and Mukiele as the back four. Laimer, Demme, and Sabitzer were the midfield three. Forsberg played in the false-9 role while Poulsen and Werner made up the front two.
This lineup had changed from each team’s last outing. Lucien Favre changed Schulz and brought in Guerrero. Julien Nagelsmann made three changes: Forsberg came in for Nkunku and Mukiele came in for Ilkanser.
Lucien Favre seemed to hit Leipzig on the transition. This was facilitated by the defensive stability the 3-4-3 as opposed to his four at the back formation earlier in the season. Sancho and Hakimi are incredible transitional players that helped this.
Julien Nagelsman seemed to keep possession and break down Dortmund’s defence. 4-3-3/4-3-1-2 offered some positional play with Werner as an outlet who provided penetration. Also, he seemed to use his high press as a source of chance creation knowing the defensive errors Dortmund had committed throughout the season
Dortmund’s compactness and defensive stability
In Dortmund’s high press, vertical compactness is exhibited by the narrow press by Dortmund’s front three. Leipzig’s Demme is alienated as Dortmund high pressed in a 2-3 shape. Marco Reus blocked the passing lane to Diego Demme. Jadon Sancho and Thorgan Hazard focus on Dayot Upamecano and Lukas Klostermann. Reus always alternated between pressing Gulasci and blocking the passing lane to Demme. Reus trigged his press on Gulasci anytime Gulasci’s field of view was facing the left interior channel. Julian Brandt and Julian Weigl pushed up to stop any pass to Konrad Laimer and Marcel Sabitzer.
In Dortmund’s mid-block, vertical and horizontal compactness was a constant feature. Dortmund sat mostly in an asymmetrical 5-3-2 mid-block. Thorgan Hazard dropped into midfield. It helped balance a numerical disadvantage Dortmund had in midfield. Leipzig tried to use Halstenberg as a route to progression.
The 5-3-2 compact midblock from Dortmund can be seen above. Hazard goes to midfield to make it a midfield three. Sancho and Reus as forwards. Both are narrow and therefore preventing central passing lanes. Hakimi and Guerreiro fall deep to make it a back five. Also, Leipzig’s 2-5-3 possession shape can be seen. Haltsenberg and Mukiele providing width. Klosterman and Upamecano as centre-backs. Demme, Sabitzer, and Laimer occupying central areas.
The front three are narrow with Werner occupying the left interior channel and Yussuf Poulsen occupying the right interior channel while Forsberg occupies the false-nine role. Konrad Laimer, Marcel Sabitzer, and Diego Demme occupy the midfield region. Sometimes, Diego Demme usually joined the centre-backs to create a 3v2 against Jadon Sancho and Marco Reus. This changed the shape to a 3-4-3 shape. As the game progressed, Emil Forsberg dropped into midfield to make it a 3-5-2 in possession
Leipzig tried to use the wings as a route to progress play by overloading the wings. Dortmund countered it by remaining compact and shuttering their block from left to right in order to tighten the spaces around the wings. This was achieved through Dortmund’s horizontal compactness which improved their access to the ball and defensive connection.
Dortmund’s vertical compactness also caused problems for Leipzig especially when they sat in their low block shape of 5-4-1. Leipzig pushed their FBs high up the pitch which allowed the wide players to occupy central areas and clog those areas. This heightened their chances of penetration through the central areas. Dortmund’s vertical compactness ensured they were no spaces in between the lines. This countered the effect of Leipzig positioning Marcel Sabitzer, Emil Forsberg, and Timo Werner between the lines. As a result of this, Dayot Upamecano who was mostly Leipzig’s ball-carrier couldn’t find the players between the lines.
Against Dortmund’s low compact block, Leipzig used a 3-1-6 shape. Nordi Mukiele and Marcel Halstenberg pushing further up the pitch. Diego Demme drops deep to make a back three. As a result of this, it pinned Dortmund’s back five a bit deeper while their midfield shifted backward in order to still remain compact. Leipzig used long balls diagonal as a source of penetration. On most occasions, Dayot Upamecano usually played long diagonal balls towards Nordi Mukiele.
Leipzig’s high press
Dortmund looked to build-up in their usual 3-4-3 build-up shape. Julian Weigl being the anchorman who tries to bring the ball out of the back. While the wingbacks were in wide but deep, the front widemen of Hazard and Sancho inverted. Dortmund tried to use the wingbacks as outlets to play from the back. Dortmund tried to progress the ball using vertical passes to their between the lines players.
Leipzig countered Dortmund’s build-up shape of 3-4-3 with 4-3-3 narrow high press. The 4-3- 3 press mirrored Jurgen Klopp’s 4-3-3 press at Liverpool. Leipzig employed a 433 narrow press with the aim of getting turnovers high up the pitch. Leipzig also tried stifling progression through the middle by sitting a 433 narrow mid-block. Leipzig’s pair of Konrad Laimer and Marcel Sabitzer stayed in the cover shadow of Julian Weigl and Julian Brandt respectively. Jadon Reus and Sancho were in Laimer’s and Sabitzer’s cover shadow while Diego Demme was free.
This made Marco Reus, Julian Brandt, Jadon Sancho, and Julian Weigl ineffective. A pass to Julian Weigl and Julian Brandt was a pressing trigger for Marcel Sabitzer and Konrad Laimer to press. It also blocked the passing lane to Jadon Sancho and Marco Reus while Forsberg applied pressure on the ball-carrier. Weigl was ineffective at the beginning of the game and therefore he lost the ball on a few occasions at the beginning of the match.
However, as the game progressed, Diego Demme started picking up Reus and he started blocking the passing lane to Reus. Forsberg stopped pressing the ball carrier. He blocked the passing lane to Julian Weigl which allowed Konrad Laimer to focus more on Jadon Sancho.
Timo Werner and Yussuf Poulsen blocked the passing lane to the wingbacks. They stood in the passing lane or arched their run anytime they put pressure on the ball-carrier. Timo Werner and Yussuf Poulsen started their arching runs after the horizontal passes triggered their press. As a result of this, it leads to turnovers on some occasions for Leipzig.
Apart from keeping their eyes on Dortmund’s central midfield pair, Laimer and Sabitzer also had the Dortmund’s wingbacks in mind. Dortmund broke Leipzig’s first line of pressure through a pass to the wingbacks. Marcel Sabitzer and Konrad Laimer tracked and pressured Guerrero and Hakimi respectively due to their recovery pace. This stopped any further form of progression from them. Marcel Halstenberg and Nordi Mukiele also helped in pressing the wingbacks as Leipzig fell into an asymmetrical shape around the wings.
As the game progressed, Leipzig made a substitution which was: Christopher Nkunku in for Emil Forsberg. Leipzig’s shape changed to a 4-4-2. Leipzig sat in a mid-block through the second half. Leipzig’s midblock shape was aimed at protecting central areas. This was aimed at cutting progression through the central areas.
The game was a balanced game. Both teams stuck to their tactics. However, Dortmund was better on the transitions than Leipzig. Fine margins had the biggest effect on the game. Burki and Brandt made errors that lead to Leipzig’s first two goals. Gulacsi made an error in goal which led to Dortmund’s goal.
However, it was a tactical battle between two tactically astute teams in Germany.