In this scout report, we had an eye on Borussia Dortmund’s Mo Dahoud. The 24-year-old central midfielder goes in his fourth season with Dortmund this year. The right-footed German U21 national player made already 110 Bundesliga and 20 Champions League top flights. But he took a back seat in Dortmund’s team last year. He started only six times and played just 600 minutes last season. We show you in this analysis, why Mo Dahoud isn’t playing a big role in coach Lucien Favre’s tactics nowadays.

But appearances are deceitful. Mo Dahoud is still one of Germany’s most talented pivots. The German-Syrian is a box-to-box midfielder, who is at best when he connects two parts of the team. This tactical analysis addresses Dahoud’s technical skills in passing and counter-pressing. We also show, why the technically adept is pressing resistant.

Analysis of Dahoud‘s passing skills

Coach Favre’s plays most likely in a 3-4-2-1 formation. His tactics make a living from the run-heavy wing-backs, who should get isolated on the wings. He wants to shift the field to one side to gain space on the other then. To draw as fast as possible attention to the wings, Favre is familiar with wide balls. In Mats Hummels, he has the perfect quarterback for these balls. Lesser-known are the long balls from Mo Dahoud. But the pivot is extremely accurate in long balls, too. The tactical analysis shows a situation, where Dortmund played against Atlético Madrid.

Mo Dahoud 2019/20 - scout report - tactical analysis - tactics

As always, Atlético is well organised. Dahoud kept his deep position and Dortmund built-up again. The central midfielder got an overview before he got the ball. He recognised, that Dortmund had a numerical advantage on the right-wing. After his first contact to control the ball, he already took a swing to play a long pass. Dahoud gave his teammates an edge as his body language did not indicate a pass to the right-wing. Due to his technique, he curved the ball with his outside of the boot. This rotation made it difficult to defend for Atlético.

Dahoud completed 1.39 deep balls per 90 minutes, which were the 12. most in Bundesliga. His 100% accuracy last season for 30+ metre balls is astonishing.

But Dortmund is more likely to play short pass combinations, as the opponents are mostly underdogs against them. So, the opponents are defending deep and the long ball disappears as a device. As a consequence, Dortmund plays a high intensity of short passes. 89% of Dortmund’s passes are classified as short passes. Coach Favre demanded in his tactics, that his pivots can build-up with vertical and diagonal balls. Also, when the opponent presses Dortmund’s central midfielders.

Properties, which accommodate Mo Dahoud’s skills. He plays 73.48 passes per match. This is the fifth-highest value in Bundesliga. Dahoud demonstrated here also a high accuracy with 91.18%. The tactical analysis below shows such a situation.

Mo Dahoud 2019/20 - scout report - tactical analysis - tactics

Dortmund build-up with short passes and Dahoud acted as the forthcoming pivot. You can see, that the opponent pressed him with three players. But Dahoud kept calm as he got a pass. Afterwards, he dribbled for a few steps to feint the opponents. As he won some space, he turned his body to have the pitch in front of him. Now he built-up over Jadon Sancho. So, this situation shows us, that Dahoud is comfortable to manage the build-up. He has confidence in his overview and technique to solve numerical disadvantage situations in the build-up.

Mo Dahoud 2019/20 - scout report - tactical analysis - tactics

The analysis above shows the typical behaviour of Mo Dahoud. It is a scene from the Champions League match against Atlético. You can see, how Dortmund shifted the game to the right side. As a consequence, some space gained on the left-wing. Dahoud moved now into his favourite spot on the pitch – the half-space.

Here, he acts like a typical number eight. After he got the ball back from the right-wing, he shifted it with a flat cross-field pass. Seven players from Atlético were on the right-wing. It bears mentioning that Dahoud overplayed his teammate in the middle to accelerate the game. So, Dortmund’s left wingback had a bit more time to play a cross or move into the penalty box. Mo Dahoud prefers it to move high and to fill the half-spaces around zone 14.

Deciding role in counter-pressing situations

As Jürgen Klopp coached Dortmund, he always said that “Gegenpressing” is the most creative player on the pitch. A tactical adjustment, which is still practised in Dortmund. If they are losing the ball in the last third, they will press aggressively. It is deciding that the pivots can close passing alleys and cover opponents near the ball as quick as possible. And they should do it on both sides. This style of tactics requires run-heavy and aggressive midfielders. It requires players like Axel Witsel or Emre Can.

Despite his height of 178 cm and weight of 68 kg, Mo Dahoud is a solid tackler. He often wins the ball for his team. Dahoud took 8.8 defensive duels per 90 minutes and won 59.65% of them. Furthermore, he recovered 5.87 balls per match. So, he demonstrated his defensive abilities last year.

Mo Dahoud 2019/20 - scout report - tactical analysis - tactics

The tactical analysis above shows a practice match between Dortmund and Spartak Rotterdam from this week. It figures that Dortmund presses in set-piece situations as this throw-in. As you see, Dortmund covered every opponent. Even the injector was covered. Only Dahoud did not cover his opponent closely. This was Dortmund’s trap. As soon as the injector threw to the open man, Dahoud pressed him intensively. The opponent did not have any chance to pass the ball, as all of his teammates were marked. Dahoud won the one-on-one and introduced Dortmund’s next attack.

Mo Dahoud 2019/20 - scout report - tactical analysis - tactics

The next analysis is a similar situation. Dortmund pressed Atlético high in the last third. They pressed the passer, Thomas, aggressively at his penalty box. As a consequence, he played a poor pass in the run of his teammate. This was the signal for Dahoud to move actively to the ball. He created a duel, which he won due to an insufficient ball control from the opponent. In average, he had 2.93 counter-pressings per 90 minutes. To exploit Atlético’s unorganised formation, Dahoud passed the ball directly. He demonstrated in this scene his football IQ, as he read the situation correctly.

Mo Dahoud 2019/20 - scout report - tactical analysis - tactics

Mo Dahoud showed in the tactical analysis above his football IQ again. Near the ball, Dortmund had a numerical disadvantage of one man. But they stood in good positions. So, they forced three one-on-one duels, as the fourth opponent was shadowed. Again, Dahoud did not mark the opposing player closely. He wanted that his opponent got a pass. As you can see, Dahoud’s teammates pressed the other two opponents. As a result, they did not play good passes. Now, Dahoud pounced. He shifted himself in front of the opponent and won the ball. Afterwards, he ran forward and shot.

Tactical analysis of Dahoud’s pressing resistance

Mo Dahoud is solid in defending. But on the other side of the pitch, in his half, he can escape pressing traps. Due to his body, he is shifty and quick. Combined with his technique and overview, he seems to be resistance against pressing situations. Regularly, the opponent is not pressing Dortmund, but at a high level as in Champions League, some teams do. If Dortmund wants to play on their passing strength, they need a player who can overcome pressing situations.

Mo Dahoud 2019/20 - scout report - tactical analysis - tactics

In the tactical analysis above Dortmund played against RB Leipzig. Leipzig is a top team, which presses high. So, Dortmund build-up over Mo Dahoud. He moved into the half-space, where is more space to turn yourself. But Leipzig prepared well for the game, so they packed these spaces. Dahoud is in a bad initial situation. He did not have his view of the open field. Moreover, Leipzig pressed him with three players.

Due to his technique, the U21 national player feinted with one-touch all three opponents. He overplayed the pressing trap with his dribbling. Dahoud had a success rate for dribbles at 56.25%, which is more than acceptable.

Mo Dahoud 2019/20 - scout report - tactical analysis - tactics

In the tactical analysis above, Dortmund played against Liverpool. Liverpool pressed with their three strikers high against Dortmund’s three defenders. They also man-marked every Dortmund player. Mo Dahoud got the ball in the centre. He should build-up. Before he got the pass, Dahoud positioned his body between the opponent and the ball. With this move, he screened the ball. He winded himself around his opposing player. Afterwards, the German-Syrian dribbled into the space.
Mo Dahoud 2019/20 - scout report - tactical analysis - tacticsNow you can see that Dahoud still kept possession. None of his teammates was free in front of him. Another Liverpool attacker cut off Dahoud’s route to the right-wing. Instead of building up over the right fullback, Dahoud feinted his direct competitor again. He is comfortable with the ball at his feed. This is one of his strongest abilities. Then he passed the ball forward.

Mo Dahoud 2019/20 - scout report - tactical analysis - tactics

In the same game, Liverpool pressed the bubbly pivot with two attackers. First of all, Dahoud positioned his body well again between the ball and one attacker. So, he had also a better overview. The 24-year-old realised the second attacker, who was coming closer to him from the right-wing. This time, Dahoud solved the pressing situation with a direct pass to the right-wing. This pass was just feasible, because of the position of his body and his overview. He also demonstrated his feeling for the situation, if Liverpool doubled him or not.

Sacrificial lamp for Favre’s tactics

So, Mo Dahoud has many abilities on his scout report, which are helpful for Dortmund’s 3-4-2-1. But why does he not have a starting XI place then? The answer could be Favre’s tactics. The analysis below shows Dortmund’s starting formation.

Mo Dahoud 2019/20 - scout report - tactical analysis - tactics

Dortmund was predisposed for counter-attacks in the first half of the season. They could not handle quick opponents. So Favre looks for more defensive stability. And he knew that his wing-backs were deciding for Dortmund’s great offensive play. As a consequence, he could not hold them back. He came to the solution, that he had to cement the central part with his central defender and his two pivots. The pivots should exude strength and aggressiveness. They need to keep their position in the centre disciplined. This is not the case for Dahoud interpretation of the role, as you see below.

Mo Dahoud 2019/20 - scout report - tactical analysis - tactics

Mo Dahoud is everywhere detectable between the boxes. He exploits the complete width of the pitch. As a consequence, he could not stabilise the centre. Favre favours instead of the creative Dahoud the disciplined workers Witsel and Can. Moreover, the highly talented Jude Bellingham was signed for this position, too.

However, Dahoud is also offensively not a perfect fit. Favre calls his formation actively a 3-4-2-1 formation because he wants his wingers Hazard and Sancho to move inside. They are the actual playmakers in Dortmund’s system. They should enter the half-spaces so that the wing-backs can act as wingers.

But Dahoud is at strongest if he can carry the ball from the centre into these half-spaces. He would reduce the space for Dortmund’s best technical players. He seems to be a foreign body in Favre’s tactics, despite having the abilities of Hummels, Can and Hazard untied.

Conclusion

Mo Dahoud is a very strong box-to-box midfielder at a good age. He loves to have the ball at his feet and to manage the game with intelligent passes. Furthermore, he can bring a pressing component to a team. Also, he can act like a technically adept pivot like Thiago from Bayern Munich as he is also pressing resistant.

But right now, there is no place for the typical number eight in Dortmund’s starting squad. We showed in this scout report that Favre wants first of all compactness in the centre. Moreover, the coach wants to give Hazard and Sancho freedom in the half-spaces. All in all, we think Mo Dahoud should move on to another club, where he can pull the strings.

Philipp Von Friesen
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