Regarded as one of the most feared teams in European Football, Borussia Dortmund has recaptured their aura after a disastrous 2014/2015 campaign under now Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp. The Gelsenkirchen club has recovered in the most devastating fashion under new manager Thomas Tuchel and has been one of the most mesmerising, entertaining and most watched clubs in Europe. Their new found attacking flair has been a horror for most oppositions and has sent fears right across Europe.
Despite their free-scoring nature, supplied by a constant attacking threat, the Signal Iduna Park club has their own problems to solve. For a team with the technical qualities and patience to move the ball from zone-to-zone shifting from defence to attack, their lack of defensive discipline is highly astonishing. The athleticism, youth and mobility in their team is quite majestic on the ball going forward. However, those qualities seem to evaporate when they need to fulfill their commitments to the ugly aspect of the beautiful game.
Tuchel has been praised tremendously for his remarkable tactical knowledge as well as giving his players more freedom to express themselves. However, he has many question marks over his head for his team’s inability to manage games and to stifle the threat of the opposition. Last season the BVB played 54 games in all competitions and while scoring an impressive 140 goals, they conceded 54 times – simply a goal per game. They let in 34 goals in the Bundesliga alone which was twice as many as Bayern Munich who they outscored. There is a similar story so far this season as they’ve conceded 16 times in as many games while hitting the back of the net on 40 occasions.
With 20 clean sheets across all competitions last season and just five (5) this season, Tuchel must accept that his team has a genuine problem at the back. It is great to be able to hit the back of the net at will but to keep outscoring teams is an extremely tough ask. To win championships and trophies, Dortmund has got to stop leaking goals. With the characteristics of their squad, it goes without guessing that they’re an offencive machine but they are a bit unbalanced which has cost them dearly domestically and also in Europe.
In terms of their shape, Dortmund looks very much in a 4-1-4-1 formation with Julian Weigl as perhaps the only defensive-minded midfielder to protect the defensive line. With his full-backs high up the pitch, Weigl is tasked with protecting the channels as well as the ‘hole’ in midfield just in front of the defensive unit. With an almost impossible task of covering both areas during the same phase, the 21-year-old gets caught out of position quite often, especially when he is dragged into the channels out wide to cover for his full-backs.
Tuchel could perhaps deploy Nuri Sahin alongside the German starlet to provide more cover in midfield against counter attacks or to just make up numbers on the defensive facet of the game. There also seems to be a lot of faith and trust placed in Gonzalo Castro who is capable of going from box-to-box. The former Bayer Leverkusen star has the ability of disrupting plays in the midfield. However, it seems he’s more focused on improving the attacking instincts of his game. There is a definite need for balance in midfield and if Tuchel persists with their current style, they will be great to watch but their title chances and run in the Champions League could be over sooner rather than later.
With the current options available to him, the former Mainz boss may well struggle to find a suitable partner alongside Weigl with Sven Bender seemingly out of favour. There is talk of a move for Borussia Monchengladbach’s Mahmoud Dahoud in January but a more experienced Lars Bender or even Morgan Schneiderlin of Manchester United could provide the answer in midfield. Both are very comfortable on the ball, mobile and technically sound while their appreciation of recovering the ball from the opposition is equally adept.
There is still a long way to go this season and they could very well turn things around. It is a young team and as such they’ll adapt to changes more quickly than an experienced one. The January transfer market could prove pivotal to their season as they could offload two or three players while perhaps bringing in a couple. A bit of experience as well as discipline could help curb the exposure of their defensive unit from midfield but they may face an uphill task to convince other clubs to sell in the winter.