RB Leipzig – Borussia Dortmund: Rose Pricks At The Progress Of His Former Admirers (3-0)

How better for Marco Rose to begin his new job than to down the club he formerly coached? The Leipzig manager set out his stall in front of a home crowd, bagging a comfortable victory. However, the self-inflicted damage from Borussia Dortmund eased his task considerably.

Tactical analysis and match report by Emmanuel Adeyemi-Abere.

The two contestants of this fixture have been pretenders to the throne in a league under Bavarian dominance. Should the early signs be misleading, can either dislodge the status quo at long last?

Only five games into the Bundesliga season, such prospects are already bleak for RB Leipzig. Bayern Munich bruised them in a first half contributing to a 5-3 defeat in the DFL-Supercup. That loss purely set the scene for the demise of Domenico Tedesco. A record of one win since the start of August has cut his men seven points adrift of the top of the table, lying in eleventh place. In the dugout now is a manager whose roots, inside and out of the profession, ought to rejuvenate the squad: Marco Rose.

As Rose is to Leipzig, Edin Terzić is to Borussia Dortmund: a local keen to take his home club to the top. Rising through the ranks, he answered the club’s cry for help at the end of 2020, holding onto the managerial role on an interim basis. A top four finish and 4-1 DFB Pokal final triumph over Leipzig capped a storming finish to the campaign, but Rose was the man assigned to occupy the post full time. Now back in charge, Terzić will endeavor to ensure his dream does not degenerate into a nightmare.

Terzić has adopted the same 4-2-3-1 formation that frequented his interim spell at Dortmund. He also picked ten of the eleven men that beat Copenhagen 3-0 in midweek. Alex Meyer guarded the goal in place of Gregor Kobel, still out due to a muscle fiber tear. In the absence of Mahmoud Dahoud, Salih Özcan has been the new partner to Jude Bellingham in the double pivot. Behind the lone striker were Marco Reus and Julian Brandt, but not Thorgan Hazard. So, Marius Wolf replaced the injured winger.

An abject 4-1 loss to Shakhtar Donetsk was the death knell of Tedesco. He moved away from a back five to a 4-2-3-1 shape in what turned out to be a futile act. But it might be the case that the former manager was on the path to a solution since Rose chose the same structure for this clash. Marcel Halstenberg dropped to the bench, making way for David Raum on the left of the back four, while Emil Forsberg operated as an attacking midfielder. The other nine players now had at redemption.

Rose presented with a spectacular start

Rose could not have dreamed of a better start. Timo Werner’s will to get behind backlines prompted him to evade to the right wing, where Nkunku fed him a pass. He could not escape Niklas Süle but earned a corner. Dominik Szoboszlai whipped a cross into the box, finding compatriot Willi Orbán. His header crept past Meyer: the hosts had stolen a march on their opponents in a mere five minutes.

 Once in the lead, the home team worked with a clear plan. They defended in a 4-2-3-1 block. The intensity and compactness worked well, often allowing the winger on the ball far side to suffocate Dortmund’s buildup. They sought to use transitions to set away Werner, whose movement and running paths were typically dangerous. Meanwhile, in longer spells on the ball, neat pieces of interplay from Forsberg and Nkunku arose from the right edge of their attack. Though all the finer details of the plan were not perfect, Rose’s men offered a glimpse into what we may see from them.

Dortmund play themselves into trouble

Dortmund’s ideas in possession still require ironing out. Özcan has changed the dynamics of the pivot since he first started in the 1-0 win over Hertha Berlin two weeks ago. The former Köln midfielder is the deeper of the pair, securing gaps near the central defenders. In this way, Bellingham has the license to advance, make more ball contacts in the final third and gain space with his dribbling.

Ahead of Özcan were some loosely defined patterns of play. The wingers moved into the halfspaces, while the fullbacks moved up the flanks and mainly held the width. Brandt had a freer positional role than Wolf, able to drift from the left to overload the right. Yet, the structure was rarely productive.

The chance creation was of no note before the break, but even more damaging was the buildup phase. The axis on the left, where Schlotterbeck stood, was prominent in many sequences. He and Süle have valuable traits in possession, but they diminish in value without options to progress and retain control of the ball. Poor positional play, failing to get out of cover shadows or ensure a man came close to the ball carrier to provide a safe option, caused Dortmund to run into pressing traps.

To make matters worse, Schlotterbeck often desired to find short solutions in the buildup phase rather than bolt the ball away from danger. Leipzig pounced, forcing ball receptions under tight pressure in packs, then sprung into open ground with the splendid stamina of Laimer and the front four to hand.

In the end, Leipzig cashed in on these mistakes in style. On the stroke of half time, Laimer shuttled out to press Bellingham, whose pass ended up at the feet of Simakan. The right back turned inward, playing the ball to Szoboszlai. Werner’s relentless running on the last line opened up room for the left winger, whose strike from range swerved to the left of Meyer and cannoned into the back of the net.

34th minute: exemplar sequence highlighting Dortmund’s structure and problem. Schlotterbeck drives inside Nkunku, uses his open body shape to force Forsberg to block the lane to Özcan, then twists to face the center. Laimer moves inward to manage the overload, but Brandt runs out to the flank and isolates himself. The central defender has to turn back to pass to Guerreiro, whom Nkunku presses. The left back thus ends up hitting a pass down the line towards the winger that Simakan intercepts.

Fundamental flaws undermine the comeback

The visitors were desperate to turn around the contest in the second half without managing to address their frailties. Out of exasperation, Bellingham began to drop deeper to support the progression of the ball. But the front four still did not find much better positions inside the Leipzig block. Equally, the height of the fullbacks took them out of the game as Nkunku kept finding joy through shutting down Schlotterbeck with arcuate sprints. Just short of the hour mark, Terzić turned towards his substitutes.

The manager brought on Giovanni Reyna for Brandt and Youssoufa Moukoko for Wolf. Reus moved over to the right halfspace, Moukoko filled the space behind Anthony Modeste, and Reyna was on the left. The American almost had an immediate impact, teeing up the striker for a volley that he blazed above the bar in the 63rd minute. The finish befitted a day that Dortmund will wish to forget quickly.

At the 70th minute mark, Terzić rolled the dice. Justin Njinmah, a forward, replaced Özcan. The guests then shifted into an aggressive 4-1-3-2 formation. Moukoko was now upfront with Modeste, and Bellingham sat at the base of the midfield. Sadly, more attackers mean little if the ball cannot reach them. It was hence suitable that Leipzig profited from a familiar avenue. Thomas Meunier lost the ball deep, the hosts caught their sluggish opponents on the break, and Amadou Haidara netted.



All the goals on a disappointing afternoon for Borussia Dortmund.


Leipzig’s falloff under Tedesco mirrored the end of his time at Schalke in 2019. On the one hand, the tactical stability he offered after arriving wore out over time. On the other hand, a limited style of play emerged, thanks to a lack of constructive ideas on the ball. So, along with the result, Rose took heart from the intensity and tempo of the performance, striving to make more improvements in due course.

Dortmund will lament their failure to take any points from the match, not least because Bayern Munich’s draw has left the top spot in the Bundesliga up for grabs in favor of Freiburg. Though displays have bettered since the 3-2 defeat to Werder Bremen, Terzić’s men suffer from faults in an offensive system that is heavily reliant on the instinct of the individuals right now. Ahead of their journey to Manchester City next week, it is a weakness from which they would be wise to learn.

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"Possession as a philosophy is overrated. Possession of the ball as a tool is underestimated." João Cancelo stan (19) [ View all posts ]


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