Since the start of the second half of the season, Borussia Dortmund has won all six competitive games. Even if some performances left a lot of room for improvement, head coach Edin Terzic seems to be slowly finding a working tactical approach.
Terzic has the reputation that the 40-year-old is primarily a coach for so-called heroic football. In his first term, the temporary success was mainly based on the individual class of Erling Haaland and Jadon Sancho.
This season, Jude Bellingham and a few others are said to be responsible for BVB perhaps being able to get into the title race. But given the recent winning streak and how it came about, that would simply be unfair to the Dortmund head coach.
The performance gap to Bayern Munich may be greater than the three points in the table, but with a positive expected goal difference of around 0.5 per game and the second most shots or shots on target of all Bundesliga clubs, some key figures speak for Borussia Dortmund.
BVB is only in the middle of the league with a value of 4.4 for shots on goal. The games since the winter break clearly show that there is still a need for improvement in terms of defense – not least the away game in Leverkusen, which Dortmund was able to win with a portion of match luck.
BVB: rediscovered wing play
When it comes to the offensive, the changed basic formation of Dortmund is the first thing that catches the eye. The 4-1-4-1 looks almost like it was drawn on the drawing board during the build-up phase. What Terzic apparently wants to achieve is basic stability in the play structure with two central defenders, a somewhat more passive six and two eights, which are positioned similarly wide to the central defenders and, if necessary, offer vertical passes. Jude Bellingham is usually the eighth who offers himself with a certain vehemence for passes and is most likely to deviate from his predetermined position.
The comparatively wide eights automatically pull BVB’s offensive line apart. And therein lies a key to success. Unlike in the recent past, Dortmund is again trying to attack on the wings. This is done either by freeing up a dribbling winger like Karim Adeyemi or from now on Jamie Bynoe-Gittens and sending it into a one-on-one, or by a full-back positioned close to the touchline, who, almost in the traditional Piszczek manner, plays diagonal passes from there as Giovanni Reyna and Julian Brandt locates. A wide left winger allows Raphaël Guerreiro to run in diagonally, sometimes up to the offside limit.
BVB: Emre Can becomes a problem
This tactical structure takes advantage of the fact that many Bundesliga teams may carry out the first pressing phase up front across the entire width of the field, but tend to concentrate on the center of the field as a result of retreating into their own half. The flanks are deliberately given up by teams with a back four and those with a back five lack protection against back passes due to a widely fanned last line.
In addition, Dortmund’s opponents have recently had a hard time tackling Emre Can properly. The 29-year-old may not be the most technically gifted or pressure-resistant six, but when unmarked and allowed to pivot into open field, Can can quickly become a dynamic ball hauler, easily running into opposing formation and opening up spaces. However, if Can is closely marked, a player may be missing to approach the central defenders equally or to adequately guard the pass to Bellingham. A dilemma arises that Dortmund already knew how to exploit.
Borussia Dortmund needs speed
The ultimate goal for Terzic is to create a base tempo and, where possible, spot breakthroughs. This can be done by turning up Can as well as diagonal passes or wing dribbles. A ball circulation that is too slow is not good for the Dortmunders and also does not suit the existing player material. The basic tactic currently being practiced also has the advantage that Bellingham does not always bear the main responsibility for the development of attacks and that Marco Reus is kept out of the ball circulation in deep zones and primarily has ball contacts in the last third of the field.
Of course it remains a problem for BVB that the team is still insufficiently preventing opposing shots. In particular, the retreat movements and staggering in deeper basic formation are error-prone. In addition, there are individual mistakes, bad timing when moving out of one of the chains or coordination difficulties between neighbors. Dortmund have risen to the top of the table in recent weeks, but if there is one facet in Borussia’s game that could lead to setbacks, it’s defensive inconsistency.
Offensively, on the other hand, BVB seems potent enough to score goals. However, that not only has something to do with an abundance of talented players, but also with the input from head coach Terzic. With all remaining doubts about the 40-year-old, this should not be forgotten.