Tactical analysis Eintracht Frankfurt Borussia Dortmund 2-2 Bundesliga

Eintracht Frankfurt – Borussia Dortmund: Dortmund Cannot Dominate And Gets Punished Late (2-2)

Dortmund started the game with lots of possession against the high pressing Eintracht Frankfurt. They showed some good combinations to exploit the hosts’ man-marking way of pressing, but failed to do so constantly in the first half. The second half was much more open, with a lot of turnovers and transitions on both sides. Dortmund could not control the match after going up in the second half, allowing Frankfurt to force the late equalizer. 

Tactical analysis and match report by Jonas G.

Dortmund experienced a successful week coming into this match against Eintracht Frankfurt. They convincingly beat Bayer Leverkusen 4-0 and were unlucky to not take the three points in a Champions League group match against FC Barcelona. Frankfurts are still in a period of transition after selling all of their three strikers – Luka Jović, Sébastien Haller and Ante Rebić – in the summer. After the international break, they first lost away at Augsburg and then went on to open their Europa League campaign with a 3-0 loss to Arsenal on Thursday. 

Unsurprisingly, Dortmund manager Lucien Favre did not make a change to his starting lineup. His team started in a 4-2-3-1 shape with the offensively strong fullback duo consisting of Achraf Hakimi and Raphaël Guerreiro. The physically stronger Thomas Delaney again started instead of Julian Weigl in the 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’. Julian Brandt was benched as well, with Belgian international Thorgan Hazard being part of the first eleven. 

Adi Hütter reacted to his team’s problems in the last match; he switched from a 3-4-1-2 formation to a more defensive 3-5-2 shape. However, this switch may not only be down to the last match, but also to the tactics Frankfurt used against Dortmund in this match, which will be covered later. Offensive midfielder Daichi Kamada had to make place for defensive midfielder Gelson Fernandes. In addition to that, Almamy Touré, Erik Durm and Gonçalo Paciência were also new to the starting lineup. 

Dortmund in control against Frankfurt’s man-marking scheme

As explained before, Hütter may have switched to the 3-5-2 formation to use a man-marking press, in order to combat Dortmund’s buildup. By using this formation, every Frankfurt player naturally had a direct opponent and therefore did not have to leave his position. Their high press led to some turnovers in Dortmund’s defensive third If you divide the pitch in three horizontal zones, the defensive third is the area closest to a team’s own goal. in the first half, but all in all they struggled to pressure Dortmund. 

This had a lot to do with Dortmund’s buildup structure. The fullbacks stayed very deep, Durm and Filip Kostić therefore had to run long distances to reach their direct opponents. Axel Witsel also positioned himself just behind the two strikers and created a three-against-two numerical superiority with the two center-backs. Frankfurt’s midfielders would not follow him into that position, because it would create too big spaces between the lines. Sometimes Witsel even dropped between Mats Hummels and Manuel Akanji or even Delaney supported the deep buildup.

Dortmund used their numerical superiority in buildup to escape Frankfurt’s high pressing. From there, they looked for passes to the strikers.

Dortmund had six players which made it hard for Frankfurt to win the ball in a pressing situation. Dominik Kohr and Djibril Sow had to decide between a deeper position where they were not able to pressure Dortmund’s midfielders, or moving up, which came with the risk to permit big spaces between the lines that could be exploited. With their numerical superiority in the buildup, Dortmund looked for passes behind Frankfurt’s midfielders into one of their strikers. 

If Dortmund were able to get the ball into these spaces, they showed a clear idea to exploit the man-marking of the defenders. They used a lot of opposite movements to pull the defenders out of their positions. The opened spaces were exploited by another striker or sometimes even a fullback. The first goal for instance was created by an offensive run from Hakimi. His cross found Jadon Sancho, whose shot was saved by Kevin Trapp. However, the ball came to Hazard who played it back to Witsel to give Dortmund the lead after eleven minutes. 

Dortmund went on to dominate possession for the rest of the first half, but were not able to constantly create breakthroughs. The problem was that the strikers played too unconnected. Therefore, the player that received the ball in the buildup did not have a teammate to lay it off to. 

Despite Frankfurt’s inability to create any kind of dangerous situations against Dortmund’s compact defense, they surprisingly scored the equalizer just before half-time. The hosts were able to successfully combine through the right wing, exposingDortmund’s defense. Because both defensive midfielders Witsel and Delaney moved to the wing, the box was not sufficiently covered when the cross came in. André Silva dropped back into the open space and scored.

Hütter’s tactical change makes game more open 

Adi Hütter adjusted his side’s tactics a little bit during half-time. His team started to defend just a few meters deeper, but still defended in a medium-to-high 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. 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. A medium-high block is well… in between these two variants. This adjustment made it harder for Dortmund to play between the lines. Favre’s team still could have used a patient buildup to wait for the spaces to open, but decided to play more long balls. Therefore, in the second half, the game was dominated by lots of turnovers and transitions. 

Usually, a more open-minded game with lots of transitions and spaces to exploit for the offensive players is an advantage for Dortmund. And in fact, they were able to create chances, but overall lacked the accuracy in their counter-attacks to create more scoring opportunities. They did take the lead, after Touré fouled Paco Alcácer just outside the penalty box. Again, a run by Hakimi made the difference, as the Moroccon exploited the space behind Martin Hinteregger, who beforehand followed Sancho and therefore left his position. The following free-kick by Guerreiro was saved, but the ball again fell to Dortmund and Sancho scored, retaking the lead after 66 minutes.

Another change: Hütter goes for more offensive approach

Right after Dortmund’s second goal, Adi Hütter substituted Kohr for Kamada. Although Kamada is a more offensive player, the defensive shape stayed the same. The change came in their possession spells. The hosts would now set up in a 3-2-5 formation. The wing-backs moved up on the wings and Kamada supported Silva and Paciência behind Dortmund’s midfield line. However, Frankfurt could not advance the ball into dangerous areas against a compact defense.

Dortmund again used their 4-4-1-1 shape to guide Frankfurt’s buildup to the wings. Alcácer and Reus denied switches and 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. shifted to close the passing lanes to the strikers. Frankfurt had to rely on long balls but were not overly successful with that strategy. That changed with the introduction of Bas Dost. 

Frankfurt had a numerical superiority in buildup, but were not able to take advantage of it because of Reus’ and Alcácer’s clever marking scheme.

Because Dortmund did not hold on to the ball in the second half, and also made poor use of their own counterattacks, Frankfurt still just trailed by one goal in the final minutes. Dortmund were forced into a low block in the closing stages, allowing Frankfurt to whip in one cross after another. Eventually, after Timothy Chandler’s cross found Hinteregger, the Austrian international played it square through the box in the hope of finding a teammate. The ball fell to Kamada, whose shot was deflected by Delaney into his own net. 


Dortmund controlled the first half with a clever buildup, but struggled to create chances. However, the first half counts as a respectable performance. The second half, however, was something Lucien Favre will have to worry about. Although he correctly stated after the match that it is impossible to dominate and control a match for ninety minutes, it should be the aim for a team striving for a Bundesliga title to control a match against a mediocre opponent for more than just forty-five. 

In addition to their overall strategy, Dortmund had a bad day with regards to their counterpressing. 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.

However, this performance was far from poor. As Favre correctly said after the match, Dortmund should have created more chances, but the passes were just too inaccurate. 

For Frankfurt, the transitional moments were the most promising situations when it came to creating chances. Their possession spells against a compact defense looked uncreative, as they rely too much on long balls and crosses. But it still has to be considered that Frankfurt have been through a radical change in the offense after losing their three strikers from last year. Therefore, relying on set-pieces and offensive transitions is completely understandable. 

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