Tactical analysis Bayern Munich Borussia Dortmund 5-0 Bundesliga

Bayern Munich – Borussia Dortmund: Bayern dominate from start to end as Dortmund collapse (5-0)

Dortmund were completely obliterated by Bayern Munich, as loads of uncoordinated defending cost them dearly. With a shot count of 22-4 and a final score line of 5-0, it is hard to argue against Bayern Munich as rightful German champions after this confrontation.

Tactical analysis and match report by Erik Elias.

Let’s not forget why this match was relevant in the first place. Dortmund had won back-to-back games in stoppage time, while Bayern Munich inexplicably lost points at Freiburg. In this season’s Bundesliga Hinrunde, Bayern set the tone, duly chasing Dortmund and gobbling up forty points in their last fifteen matches. The fact Dortmund went into this match with two points in hand should be seen as a testament to their excellent first half of the season, rather than an accurate reflection of the team’s quality over recent weeks.

Bayern’s manager Niko Kovač has settled on a 4-2-3-1 formation. When the stakes are high, four players are guaranteed starters on fixed positions: Manuel Neuer, Joshua Kimmich, David Alaba and Robert Lewandowski. Filling in the other seven positions poses questions. Who are the two central defenders? Does Thiago act as the lone pivot in possession, or does he play alongside Javi Martínez in a double pivot? 4-2-3-1 is one of the most frequently occurring formations in football. The two most defensive midfielders are called a ‘double pivot’. Where does the flexible Leon Goretzka play? Does Mülller slot in as the number ten or from the right wing? Does Coman play? And James?

For this pivotal match, Kovač benched Jérôme Boateng and paired Mats Hummels and Niklas Süle in central defense. A double pivot of Thiago Alcántara and Javi Martínez was formed, while the trio of Serge Gnabry, Thomas Müller and Kingsley Coman played behind Lewandowski. This left the likes of Franck Ribéry, James and Leon Goretzka on the bench.

Lucien Favre has fielded a 4-2-3-1 formation in over ninety percent of Dortmund’s outings this year. If he is in a bit of a crazy mood, the Swiss manager might field a 4-3-3 shape, but that’s about as wild as it gets. In terms of personnel, he did pull a little rabbit out of the hat, as captain Marco Reus was fielded as the number nine, while Mahmoud Dahoud found himself at the number ten spot. At the back, Abdou Diallo is still filling in as left back since Achraf Hakimi is out injured. Veterans Mario Götze and Marcel Schmelzer were benched, while Paco Alcácer was out injured.

This match was crucial for the Bundesliga’s title race, which is very clear when looking at the preview plot below.

Match prediction, standings and implications going into the weekend.

Dortmund miss their only chance

Dortmund put very little pressure on the ball when Bayern was in possession, instead opting to draw back and form a low block. A low block refers to a team that retreats deep in their own half out of possession, generally only disrupting their opponents around their own box. High up the field, Dortmund defended in their normal 4-4-1-1 shape, which turned into a 4-1-4-1 or 4-5-1 formation when Bayern progressed the ball on their half, Dahoud turning into an extra central midfielder.

Bayern 4-2-3-1 formation on ball Dortmund 4-1-4-1 defense

All twenty-two outfield players in their nominal positions when Bayern had the ball.

In the couple of moments Dortmund did try to put some pressure on Bayern’s players, this was done through a man-oriented approach, with Delaney attempting to take care of Thiago and Dahoud on Javi Martínez. This was seldom done, and when it was done, it was unsuccessful. 

In the sixth minute, Dortmund had their biggest chance of the match, which originated from their best attack. A nice flick-on by left winger Jacob Bruun Larsen was at the base of two interplays with Marco Reus. At the end of the move, Dahoud found himself inside the penalty area with a free shooting opportunity. He struck the outside of the post with a placed inside-of-the-foot shot.

Five minutes later, Bayern Munich scored the opening goal from a corner kick, which was powerfully headed in by Hummels.

Bayern got to take seven corner kicks in the opening half hour of the match. Five of those ended with a shot attempt, which is an insane amount. Dortmund defended their corner kicks partly zonally and partly by man-marking. Thiago whipped in some fantastic deliveries that landed right in the sweet spot: between the four Dortmund players defending zonally and the onrushing Bayern Munich players. Apart from Hummels’ opening goal, Müller hit the bar and Lewandowski forced Bürki into a save.

Eight minutes after the opening goal, Dortmund’s left center-back Dan-Axel Zagadou hugely misjudged the amount of space he had for a pass to his fellow central defender Manuel Akanji. Instead of finding his partner, he found Lewandowski, who only needed two touches to lose Bürki and place the ball into an empty net.

Dortmund totally forget how to defend and the game goes berserk

The 2-0 by Lewandowski came in the seventeenth minute, but it was already Bayern’s seventh shot of the match. Even though some of those were from set pieces, that is a lot to concede. In the entire first half, Dortmund conceded fifteen shots.

Dortmund willingly invited Bayern into the final third The one-third of the pitch that is closest to the opposition’s goal. and paid the price for their comically bad defensive display. In the five minutes before half-time, Gnabry and Martínez added to the score-line, making this title-clinching game have a four (!) goal deficit game at half-time.

It is hard to say why this defensive breakdown happened, as Bayern’s offensive approach was not different than normal. Dortmund’s players were second best in almost every one-versus-one duel between attacker and defender, and huge spaces were given away in the center of the pitch and in the penalty area. Defensive organization at set pieces was an enormous problem all game long.

In the first half, Bayern Munich attempted 139 passes in the middle third. If you divide the pitch in three horizontal zones, the middle third is the most central area. 130 of those passes were completed successfully. Which is a tidy statistic to show just how meek Dortmund’s approach had been in terms of pressing and trying to keep Bayern out of their own half.

Second half is one long fizzling out game

Whereas the first half had been a blitz, an onrushing and ongoing storm of events, the second half was quite the opposite. Between the 46th and 76th minute, only two shots were taken, one for Dortmund and one for Bayern. After a while, it seemed like no team wanted to waste any more energy on this game, and Bayern’s offensive intentions were vastly mitigated.

Favre would have been very optimistic if he would have thought he could turn this match around, which is probably why Dortmund used the same tactics in the second half. The Swiss manager brought on Julian Weigl – a midfielder by heart – who partnered Akanji in central defense, as the unlucky Zagadou was taken off. Götze was brought on for Dahoud later on, as was Marius Wolf for Piszczek. None of these substitutions changed the match from a tactical point of view.

Dortmund hacking away and making some hard fouls was probably the most noteworthy talking point in the second half of play. Especially Lewandowski got a lot of ‘love’ from Dortmund’s defenders and midfielders, and even Marco Reus took a twenty yard sprint to give his former teammate a firm kick in the side.

In the closing fifteen minutes of the match, Bayern found back some of their energy and willingness to chase a fifth goal, spurred on by substitutes Renato Sanches, Ribéry and Goretzka. It gave Lewandowski the opportunity to score his fifth goal, one minute before the game finished.


In the 100th edition of Der Klassiker, Bayern effectively sealed the Bundesliga title. A bit of a harsh conclusion when the difference between these two clubs is still only one point, but the overall gap in quality seems to be just to big for Dortmund to even be in contention. Three of Bayern’s five goals were scored by former Dortmund players, mind you, which is a stark reminder of the economic realities in this league.  

In every line of their formation, Bayern Munich had one standout player (Hummels, Thiago and Lewandowski). In the era of European super clubs we find ourselves in, a season without a successful Champions League run is almost by default a bad season for said super clubs. However, if Kovač manages to win the double in his first season at the helm, it is hard to argue the Bavarians have had a bad season, is it?

Do Dortmund have a chance of getting the title? Our model has them at 24 percent now, which is still a one-in-four chance… It seems unlikely, however. Perhaps coming this far and presenting the crowd with a genuine title race until mid-April is a commendable performance anyway, when you’re up against a global superpower like Bayern Munich.

Use the arrows to scroll through all available match plots.

Erik Elias (27) is co-founder and chief editor of Between The Posts. Dutch, so admires Johan Cruijff and his football principles, but enjoys writing about other styles as well. Former youth coach. Videoscout at digital scouting consultancy 11tegen11. 'Quality without results is pointless. Results without quality is boring.' [ View all posts ]


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