Tactical analysis Borussia Dortmund Bayern Munich DFL Supercup

Borussia Dortmund – Bayern Munich: Jadon Sancho Leads Dortmund To Exciting, Messy Victory In DFL-Supercup (2-0)

Bayern Munich looked to be the better side in the first half after overcoming some initial sloppy play. But Borussia Dortmund held on and finally made the most of another Bayern mistake thanks to Jadon Sancho, who also went on to score the second and seal the game.

Tactical analysis and match report by Om Arvind.

The rivalry between Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich has long been a story of inequality. Bayern is and has been the behemoth of the Bundesliga, winning every single title since 2013 to take their total tally to a record 28 crowns. Their financial power is incomparable to anyone else in Germany and they have used their position to consistently poach Dortmund’s most promising talents; first Mario Götze, then Robert Lewandowski, and then Mats Hummels.

Bayern’s transfer strategy and the skilled management of Jupp Heynckes and Pep Guardiola quickly paid off, leading to the aforementioned run of league titles. But Dortmund got their shots in when they could. They embarrassed Bayern in the DFL-Supercup in 2013 and 2014 and won the DFB Pokal semi-finals in thrilling fashion in the 2016/17 season. Most recently, they pushed Bayern to the absolute brink in the 2018/19 edition of the league, with the Bavarian powerhouse finally looking like it might be running out of steam.

The dynamic duo of Arjen Robben and Franck Ribéry was on its last legs that campaign, and the normally reliable Manuel Neuer and Hummels declined drastically. Kovač also struggled with his tactics and looked out of his depth for much of 2018, dropping nine points behind Dortmund at one point.

But, like with all things, a little bit of context is needed behind Bayern’s struggles. Despite all of the above being true, they still comfortably outperformed everyone else in terms of expected goals, The amount of goals a team is expected to score based on the quality of the shots they take. while the high-flying Dortmund drastically overperformed theirs. Eventually, things regressed to the mean In any event where a certain factor of luck is involved, like football, outcomes that differ from what one would expect based on underlying statistics are not sustainable over long periods of time. When a team starts scoring or conceding goals again in a way that is more suitable to their underlying statistics, this is an example of ‘regression to the mean’, as the unexpected results do not occur any longer. and Bayern closed the gap, thrashing the Black and Yellow 5-0 in April to signify their return to the top.

That, perhaps more than anything, signifies the gap in quality and resources between Bayern and Dortmund. Despite smart recruiting, capable tactics, and lots of luck, Lucien Favre’s side were still far behind Bayern from an underlying perspective. Hence, a feeling of futility must have inevitably overwhelmed Dortmund at the end of last season.

It is for that very reason that games like this hold just a little more importance than usual. If Dortmund can beat Bayern, they validate their reasons for believing that maybe, just maybe, they can beat all the odds and stop one of the most tremendous stretches of dominance in football history. 

Shaking off preseason rust

Lucien Favre and Niko Kovač both went with standard elevens. Favre played his classic 4-2-3-1 formation with Marco Reus and Paco Alcácer being flanked by Raphael Guerreiro and the exciting Jadon Sancho. Julian Weigl starting 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’. alongside Axel Witsel was a mild surprise, given his role as a center-back last season, but he has a long history of playing in midfield from years prior.

Kovač chose to go with a 4-3-3 structure; Thiago was positioned in between advanced midfielders Leon Goretzka and Corentin Tolisso and Thomas Müller started on the right wing.

The game started with an expected pattern – Bayern dominating the ball against Dortmund’s 4-4-2 medium block. A medium block refers to a team that retreats in their own half out of possession, generally only disrupting their opponents some way into their own half.

Bayern Munich’s 4-3-3 attack versus Borussia Dortmund’s 4-4-2 medium block

Bayern Munich’s 4-3-3 attack versus Borussia Dortmund’s 4-4-2 medium block.

But it soon became clear that not everyone had shaken off their preseason rust. The opening seconds saw Alcácer catch Niklas Süle sleeping, allowing Guerreiro to get forward in plenty of space. He wasted the opportunity, however, as he slipped and could only find Marco Reus after a defender was breathing down the German’s neck.

The biggest culprit of these types of giveaways, though, was Thiago. Normally known for being a ball retention specialist, he repeatedly made absurd decisions on the ball and failed to execute passes that would have been routine for him last season.

Dortmund for their part, failed to capitalize on these errors, as they seemed incapable of completing passes on the counterattack.

Bayern Munich clean up their act and start to dominate

Bayern began to get tidier as the game approached the twenty-minute mark, allowing them to start affecting the final third. The one-third of the pitch that is closest to the opposition’s goal. They did so, specifically, through two strategies: high tempo side-to-side passing and pressing. The former produced a U-shape When a team has possession on the sides of the pitch and with their own central defenders, this is called a ‘U-shape’, because it resembles the letter U. . in possession that is normally associated with ineffective ball circulation. This is the case because it usually implies that the team with the ball is stuck on the fringes of the defensive block A defensive block is the compact group of defenders that defends a particular zone, either their own half in a medium defensive block, or the zone around their own box in a deep defensive block. and cannot penetrate the center.

In this case, Bayern were not interested in attacking down the middle, and used the speed of their approach to get free crosses down the wings. This was helped by their three-man midfield, which occupied the halfspaces If you divide the field in five vertical lanes, the halfspaces are the lanes that are not on the wing and not in the center. Because there is no touchline like on the wing, players have the freedom to go everywhere. But this zone often is not as well-defended as the very center. This makes it a very valuable offensive zone to play in and a lot of chances are created by passes or dribbles from the halfspace. and narrowed the width of Dortmund’s midfield line. Alaba also played his part, drifting into an inverted role to do the same and aid ball circulation whenever Goretzka decided to surge forward.

Dortmund’s four-man midfield was obviously outnumbered and therefore unable to shift their attention from flank to flank quickly enough. Such an advantage allowed Kingsley Coman plenty of one-versus-one opportunities and provided Joshua Kimmich and Müller with unobstructed crossing opportunities.

Last-ditch defending and some smart keeping from Marwin Hitz saved the day for Dortmund.

When said last-ditch defending led to goal kicks, Bayern pressed extremely high and with full intensity. Corentin Tolisso would burst out of midfield to join Lewandowski up top in order to go man-to-man against Dortmund’s center-backs. To complete the structure, Müller and Coman would guard the wings while Thiago and Goretzka cut off access to Weigl and Witsel.

Bayern Munich’s 4-4-2 high press versus Borussia Dortmund’s buildup

Bayern Munich’s 4-4-2 high press versus Borussia Dortmund’s buildup.

Though Dortmund had their moments where they broke free, Bayern were largely successful in suffocating their opponent’s buildup and even created two good shooting opportunities from their approach.

Jadon Sancho decides the game

Soon after the restart, Thiago thought it would be a good idea to try to outrun Marco Reus with the ball, leading the Spaniard into a dead-end. If that was not bad enough, Thiago then attempted to play a backpass with Sancho clearly blocking the lane, leading to a loss of possession and a counterattack.

Sancho, having been anonymous up until that point, raced towards goal, cut inside past three defenders, and poked a pass through Tolisso’s legs. Alcácer latched onto the delivery and struck a clean shot from outside the box to make it 1-0.

Bayern responded by throwing bodies forward even more urgently and got chances as a result. Their best set of opportunities came close to the hour mark, when Coman headed a Kimmich cross right at Hitz, creating a set of rebounds that Bayern failed to convert from point blank range.

As the misses piled up, Bayern became more and more desperate and thus more disorganized. Their frenzied desire to attack destabilized their shape with the ball, destroying their ability to counterpress After losing possession, a team immediately moves towards the ball as a unit to regain possession, or at least slow down the pace of the counterattack. when they lost possession.

In the 68th minute, Boateng was forced to rush far off his line to stop a counterattack. He did well and blocked the pass, only for the ball to roll towards Guerreiro. Wasting no time, the left midfielder punted possession towards Jadon Sancho, who sped away into the vacated space and coolly slotted the decider past Neuer.

Bayern continued to push forward and managed to create three more shots, but it was clear that the game was over from that point onwards. They had been well and truly rattled, as signified by Kimmich’s baffling decision to walk up to Sancho and stomp on his foot well after the ball was out of play.


Bayern Munich were arguably unlucky to have lost the DFL-Supercup in such fashion. They were by far the better team in the first half and looked to have the tactical edge over their rivals. But you cannot expect to win games when you needlessly give the ball away in midfield, something that is especially dangerous when the likes of Sancho and Reus are waiting to take advantage of transition opportunities. Consequently, Kovač and co. will want to move on from this loss quickly, but it by no means signals the end of Bayern’s reign at the top.

Borussia Dortmund will beg to differ – as they must. Victories like these are what keep the fire of hope burning in the players, the manager, the fans, and the club’s management. However irrational, they must take this victory as absolute evidence that they are superior to Bayern. The only other alternative would be to recognize the resource gap for what it is and be satisfied with a top four spot. Something tells me that Favre will choose the more daring attitude, and the Bundesliga will be all the better for it.

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Om Arvind (21) is a massive Real Madrid fan who works as a Managing Editor for managingmadrid.com. When not watching and writing about his beloved Los Blancos and contributing to Between the Posts, he spends his time crafting video analyses for the youtube channel The School of Real Madrid. He adores deep-lying playmakers, something that was molded by his time watching the likes of Xabi Alonso. [ View all posts ]


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