Borussia Dortmund – VfB Stuttgart: Stunned Dortmund Get Blitzed By Dominant Stuttgart (1-5)

Stuttgart arrived at the Signal Iduna Park with a clear game plan and executed it to perfection. They were helped along the way by a completely off-kilter Dortmund performance, whose latest setback puts further pressure on the beleaguered Lucien Favre.  

Tactical analysis and match report by Manasvin Andra

Despite some impressive performances this season, Favre’s Dortmund have failed to secure results that reflect their position as challengers to the Bundesliga title. With champions Bayern Munich and second placed RB Leipzig enjoying far better campaigns, the pressure has been turned up on the coach when it comes to reasserting his side in the context of the title race.

The manager stuck to the 3-4-3 formation for this game, with Manuel Akanji, Mats Hummels and Emre Can protecting Roman Bürki in goal. The midfield pivot Two central midfielders next to each other. of Axel Witsel and Jude Bellingham was flanked by wing-backs Raphaël Guerreiro on the left and Mateu Morey on the right. With Erling Haaland missing out of action, the front three consisted of Gio Reyna and Jadon Sancho, who supported Marco Reus upfront.

Stuttgart have done well this season under the stewardship of Pellegrino Matarazzo, with a similar three-man defense helping them climb to 7th in the table. That plan continued for this game as the away side was set out in a 3-5-2 shape, with Konstantinos Mavropanos, Marc-Oliver Kempf and Waldemar Anton protecting Gregor Kobel in goal. Ahead of them sat Wataru Endo, with Philipp Förster and Orel Mangala on either side. Upfront was the duo of Tanguy Coulibaly and Mateo Klimowicz, who received support from the wing-back pair of Silas Wamangituka and Borna Sosa.

Stuttgart deploy suffocating game plan 

At their best, Dortmund are a side that apply immense pressure to their opponents to force turnovers and benefit from superb combination play from their forwards. However, it was clear from Stuttgart’s measured approach that coach Matarazzo had identified the strong points of the team, as the away side’s game plan was built around nullifying the key sources of strength for Dortmund.

While they didn’t deviate from their usual three-man defense, Stuttgart had a clear plan off the ball: stop the Dortmund wing-backs from progressing play by dribbling, and maintain control of the centre with three midfielders to deny wall passes A one-touch pass that quickly sends the ball back to sender. In the meantime the sender has quickly moved into free space, and he momentarily escapes pressure. and one-two combinations which might allow the home side to beat the defense. Though functional, the plan worked a treat in the first half, with Stuttgart having the more assertive presence.

Stuttgart’s man-oriented setup out of possession. 


Dortmund were uncharacteristically sluggish when building the play, which might be connected to the slow pace of the game. In the first phase, Stuttgart sought to commit numbers to the high block, A high block refers to a team that regularly leaves their own half out of possession, to disrupt their opponents far into the attacking half. with Coulibaly often applying pressure to the ball carrier while cutting off the nearby center-back option using his cover shadow. When a player is positioning himself between the opponent that has possession of the ball and another opponent, he is blocking the passing lane. When applied the right way, his ‘shadow’ is effectively taking the opponent in his back out of the game, because the pass can not be played. The home side often built through the right, which meant Sosa stepped out on Morey, Förster covered Bellingham and Coulibaly pressed Can. By covering all possible passing options, Stuttgart forced Dortmund to either go long or recycle possession, both of which were inefficient options.

If Dortmund succeeded in progressing the play, the away side fell back into a 5-3-2/5-4-1 structure, where the focus was again on congesting the space available to Reyna and Sancho. This was a suitable option during the half, as Guerreiro and Morey were non-entities in the first half. The midfield congestion also helped in restricting dropping movements from Sancho and Reyna to play the ball into Witsel, who was never in a position to release the wing-backs into space.

As a result, the home side often had to recycle possession as they struggled with the low pace of the game. On the other hand, Stuttgart were more than happy to dart up the field to retake their positions and commence the process again.

Stuttgart fire multiple warning shots in slow burn first half

When in possession, Stuttgart’s plan was to find the wing-backs – especially Wamangituka – as quickly as possible. With Dortmund falling back into a 5-2-3 shape, Stuttgart made use of clever movements to fashion their chances. This involved Klimowicz pinning the defense while Coulibaly received in the right half-space, as Wamangituka made runs into depth in Guerreiro’s blindside.

Helping this process was the proactive movement of the midfield, as Endo and Mangala often overloaded When one team has more players in a certain area or zone than the other team. the flank to support Coulibaly. Meanwhile, Förster and Sosa were available as options on the far side, and could be accessed either through a long switch or quick lateral passes.

Coulibaly played a central role in the Stuttgart offense.

Coulibaly’s ball carrying was vital in this regard, as he often took on his marker in a bid to enter the box. He was also active off the ball, and should have scored after Wamangituka put in a low cross into the box after running beyond Guerreiro. Nevertheless, he was a constant danger against Akanji and Witsel, and proved to be a suitable partner to the speedy Wamangituka on the right flank.

A big factor in their offense was the fact that ball circulation proved simple for Stuttgart, owing to the natural three-versus-two advantage created by the teams’ shapes. While Endo pushed up to make the midfield three for the away side, the Dortmund pivot rarely received any support, since the wing-backs fell into the defensive line rather than joining the midfield.

Another avenue of chance creation for the visitors was in exploiting Dortmund’s sloppy build-up play, as they pounced on loose passes and took advantage of their numbers to attack quickly. This almost led to a goal in the opening minutes, as Endo benefited from a Dortmund turnover to force a sharp save out of Bürki from distance. Another big chance fell to Klimowicz, who failed to score from a rebound after Bürki saved from Coulibaly.

Dortmund capitulate in calamitous second half

The second half got off to the worst possible start for Dortmund, as sloppy play in build-up allowed Mangala to steal the ball and feed Wamangituka inside the box. The wing-back did not make a mistake from close range, returning the lead to the away side.

Though the pace of the game saw a slight uptick, Dortmund remained incapable of knitting together sustained spells of possession in the final third. The one-third of the pitch that is closest to the opposition’s goal. This could partly be attributed to the deeper positioning of wing-backs, who were late to offer support. By the time they arrived, the away side had already won the ball and were in the process of attacking the home side’s transition defense. More importantly, the movements by the attackers to drop and bolster the defense meant that Reus was often the sole target for an outlet ball, which forced Sancho or Reyna to progress the ball on their own to generate some offense. They were often unsuccessful in this regard, adding to the home side’s issues.

Things went from bad to worse soon after, as Stuttgart’s overload on the side of the ball attracted the Dortmund defense and left acres of space for Sosa on the far side. The wing-back was allowed to come inside and slip the ball into the box, where a clever touch from Förster took him away from Akanji and allowed him to beat the keeper. A Coulibaly goal followed soon after, as the striker was allowed to go one-versus-one with Hummels and curl a shot off the far post.

A personnel change saw the introductions of Reinier and Nico Schulz for Can and Bellingham respectively, which meant Reyna partnered Witsel in the pivot. Sancho now frequently came into the middle, but Dortmund were simply outnumbered by Stuttgart’s shape. It was clear after Coulibaly’s strike that the game was over, but Stuttgart substitute Nicolás González added to the pain by scoring a fifth in stoppage time.


It is a truly impressive result for Stuttgart who have been one of the better sides to achieve promotion in recent years. Coach Matarazzo has a clear plan both in and out of possession as well as the perfect team to carry out his instructions. They posed issues for Dortmund throughout the game, and took advantage of their inability to resolve the same.

With this latest defeat, Dortmund have already dropped points on five of eleven match days. Any hopes they had of challenging for the title now rest on slip-ups from the other clubs, and Dortmund desperately need a sustained run of victories to recapture their stalled momentum.

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Manasvin covers the Bundesliga and Champions League for Between The Posts. He can be found on Twitter @RPftbl. [ View all posts ]


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