Bundesliga 2019/20: Borussia Dortmund vs Eintracht Frankfurt – tactical analysis
The Friday game from this Bundesliga round took us to the Signal Iduna Park for the game between Borussia Dortmund and Eintracht Frankfurt. Dortmund was looking to get back on track after their defeat in the spectacular game against Bayer Leverkusen, while Eintracht Frankfurt wanted to carry on their best form after the 5:0 win in the game against Augsburg. In this game, Borussia Dortmund dominated from start to finish and gave Frankfurt no chance. The good (counter) attacks, in combination with the solid defensive structure, lead to a 4:0 victory for Dortmund.
In this tactical analysis, we take a look at Dortmund’s attacking structure, especially the role of the wingbacks and the positional freedom for Sancho and Hazard. Furthermore, we analyse Eintracht Frankfurt’s struggles in defence during the first half. The article also includes an analysis of Frankfurt’s formation change after the break. Lastly, we take a look at Dortmund’s successful defensive tactics. Time to take a closer look at the line-ups.
Lucien Favre made some tactical changes to his side. First of all, Dortmund’s head coach decided to make a change in the formation. Instead of using a 4-2-3-1 formation as they did against Leverkusen, Borussia Dortmund started the game in a 5-4-1 formation. Favre also made some changes in his personnel. Manuel Akanji was left on the bench while Julian Brandt suffered an ankle sprain in the game against Leverkusen. As a result, Thorgan Hazard and Łukasz Piszczek were in the starting eleven.
Adolf Hütter didn’t change too much for this game against Dortmund. Just like they did in their last game, Eintracht Frankfurt started in a 4-2-3-1 formation. Hütter only made one change to his starting eleven. Dominik Kohr was left out of the squad. Sebastian Rode started in his place.
Guerreiro’s role in Dortmund’s build-up
As we saw in the section above, Borussia Dortmund used a 5-4-1 set-up for this game. This set-up changed when Dortmund was in attack. The wide midfielders left the flanks and positioned themselves much higher up the pitch. The role of the wingbacks, however, was very dynamic. Especially Raphaël Guerreiro had an interesting role in the build-up phase. Instead of constantly functioning as a wide midfielder in the attack, he sometimes dropped back to function as a left-back. As a result, Dortmund sometimes had a back four instead of a back three when attacking.
The analysis beneath is an example of how Guerreiro dropped back to support his centre backs. In this example, Mats Hummels had the ball. At that moment, Guerreiro dropped back to position himself at the line of his back three. Right centre back Piszczek positioned himself on the right flank, while Achraf Hakimi positioned himself higher up the pitch.
The interesting part is that Guerreiro didn’t position himself as a fullback all the time. The left wingback had the freedom to drop back, but also to position himself higher up the pitch and function as a wide midfielder. The analysis beneath is an example of how Guerreiro positioned himself higher up the pitch. In this example, Borussia Dortmund was attacking the opposition’s half. While doing that, Guerreiro positioned himself high up the pitch to provide the width on the left flank.
Positional freedom for Sancho and Hazard
As noted in the section above, Sancho and Hazard positioned themselves high up the pitch during the attack. The wide players left the flank and positioned themselves in the centre of the pitch. In that area, the two players had the freedom to roam around. Dortmund used these tactics to pull apart Frankfurt’s defensive structure.
An example of these tactics is shown in the picture beneath. Sancho had the ball. At that moment, Hazard roamed away from the left side of the pitch to position himself more to the right. As a result, Hazard enjoyed a lot of space, and Sancho played the ball to him. Hazard played the ball wide, after which the attacker immediately made a run in behind. Hakimi played the ball to Hazard, after which the cross failed.
Sancho and Hazard not only used this freedom in the final third but also dropped back to support their midfielders when trying to attack the opposition’s half. In the picture beneath, we see that Sancho dropped back to Dortmund’s midfield. The attacker received the ball, after which he turned towards the opposition’s goal and looked up for passing options.
We can also see this positional freedom of both players back in the passing maps beneath. These maps show in which area of the pitch the players received passes from their teammates. The maps show that both players received passes in all areas of the pitch.
Eintracht Frankfurt’s struggles in defence
Frankfurt started the game in a 4-2-3-1 organisation. From within this organisation, the side wanted to put pressure on Dortmund’s back three. However, Hütter’s side struggled to do so. At the beginning of the game, Dortmund could constantly play through Frankfurt’s defensive structure by finding one of their holding midfielders. One of the holding midfielders lured Frankfurt’s attacking midfielder Mijat Gaćinović out of position. This opened up the space for the other holding midfielder to drop back in, after which Dortmund could start an attacking Frankfurt’s half.
In the analysis beneath, we can see how Dortmund used this tactic. Hummels had the ball. Axel Witsel recognised that he could lure Gaćinović out of position, which would open up space for Emre Can. Witsel went a little to the right, after which Gaćinović followed him. The space opened up, and Hummels played the ball towards Can.
Frankfurt started to recognize this tactic and changed their way of pressing. One of the two holding midfielders would support Gaćinović to create a two versus two situation for Dortmund’s holding midfielders. This, however, was still no solution to the problem. Dortmund was still able to play through Frankfurt’s press after this change. One of the ways was through finding the free wingback. Dortmund lured Frankfurt’s wingers to press one of their centre backs, after which they immediately played the ball to the free wingback.
The analysis beneath is an example of this pattern. Piszczek had the ball and attracted the attention of Kostić. Frankfurt’s winger started to press, after which Piszczek played the ball back to Hummels. Instead of staying in position, Kostić kept pressing. As a result, this opened up space for Dortmund to find the free Hakimi.
Dortmund was also able to play through Frankfurt’s defensive structure by using a dropped back winger. In the analysis beneath, we can see that Dan-Axel Zagadou had the ball. Sancho recognised that Frankfurt flanked both Dortmund’s holding midfielders, so the winger decided to drop back and offer support. Zagadou recognised the space and played the ball to Sancho.
Because of these struggles, Frankfurt really struggled to recover possession on Dortmund’s half. In fact, Hütter’s side only recovered possession five (5) times on Dortmund’s half during the first 45 minutes.
Frankfurt changes formation
Hütter recognized that Frankfurt struggled during the first half and wanted to make some changes. Instead of keeping their 4-2-3-1 structure, the head coach decided to line his team up in a 4-4-2 / 4-2-2-2 formation for the second half. Hütter hoped that this change would make it harder for Dortmund to find the free player in the build-up phase.
The analysis above shows the change of tactics by Eintracht Frankfurt. We can see that they have two holding midfielders, while the wide midfielders position themselves high up the pitch. The two strikers flank each other in the centre of the pitch.
Despite the best intentions, the tactical change from Eintracht Frankfurt didn’t lead to the result Hütter wanted. The change in the set-up mainly led to extra problems, especially in the transition phase. This was due to the positioning of Frankfurt’s players in attack. In the analysis beneath we can see that Frankfurt’s right centre mid, Stefan Ilsanker, had the ball. Frankfurt’s other centre mid, Rode, positioned himself on the other side of the pitch. As a result, Frankfurt left the centre of the pitch wide open. Ilsanker lost possession, after which Dortmund could play on the counter.
A comparable situation resulted in the 3:0 for Borussia Dortmund. As we can see in the picture beneath, Frankfurt lost possession after which Dortmund played a fast counter-attack. Again, Frankfurt left the centre of the pitch wide open. This time around, Dortmund punished Frankfurt for it.
Dortmund’s defensive dominance
Dortmund’s defensive organization was on point during the game against Eintracht Frankfurt. Favre his side gave no chances away, which resulted in a comfortable win. Dortmund was able to do this, through creating a numerical superiority around the ball at their half. As a result, Frankfurt struggled to find the free player and as a result, struggled to create any chance.
In the analysis beneath, we can see how Dortmund put this principle into practice. Frankfurt tried to attack Dortmund’s left flank. On that flank, Dortmund created an eight against five situation. As a result of this defensive organization, Frankfurt lost possession.
The result of this solid defensive structure was that almost every Frankfurt attack stopped somewhere around the midway line. As we can see in the pass map beneath, there are almost no successful passes from Frankfurt on Dortmund’s half. This resulted in an exceptionally low xG value for Eintracht Frankfurt (0,04).
Borussia Dortmund dominated the game from start to finish. They were able to play Frankfurt’s defensive structure constantly. Favre will be pleased with how Sancho and Hazard filled in their roles and disorganized Frankfurt’s defensive structure. However, the head coach will especially be pleased with the defensive display from his team. His side only gave one shot away, which went way wide. As a result, Borussia Dortmund stays close to the top spot of the Bundesliga.
Eintracht Frankfurt will take some lessons from this game. Hütter will go back to the drawing board and think of a way to stop a team that plays with three at the back. Furthermore, he will try to get back the good spirit as Frankfurt faces Red Bull Salzburg next Thursday.