Tactical analysis TSG Hoffenheim Borussia Dortmund 2-1 Bundesliga

TSG 1899 Hoffenheim – Borussia Dortmund: Schreuder’s Substitutions Inspire Hoffenheim Comeback (2-1)

The Friday night Bundesliga fixture served up an interesting matchup between TSG Hoffenheim and Borussia Dortmund. A positive result would have gone a long way for Hoffenheim and their quest for European football, while Dortmund were looking to apply pressure to those at the top end of the table. Dropped points for the away side would put a dent in their title aspirations. An enthralling contest ensued with a quickfire comeback from the hosts that formed the highlight of the evening. 

Tactical analysis and match report by Julian Chingoma.

Hoffenheim were lined up in a 4-3-3 formation by Alfred Schreuder. Oliver Baumann was in goal for the home side. Sebastian Rudy and Robert Skov were the fullbacks who flanked the central defensive pair of Håvard Nordtveit and Benjamin Hübner. Florian Grillitsch was the single pivot with Diadie Samassekou and Dennis Geiger in the more advanced midfield positions. Christoph Baumgartner and Andrej Kramarić were in the wide positions while Ihlas Bebou was tasked with the striker duties.

Lucien Favre set Dortmund up in a 3-4-3 formation. Roman Bürki would be in goal with a backline of three in front of him made up of Manuel Akanji, Mats Hummels and Dan-Axel Zagadou. Achraf Hakimi and Nico Schulz were then the wingbacks around Julian Weigl and Julian Brandt who were 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’. in midfield. Thorgan Hazard, Jadon Sancho and Mario Götze were the three attackers up front for the visitors. Götze would operate more centrally out of the three.

Dortmund in possession

The visitors had threatened the most and controlled proceedings during the opening periods of the game. Hoffenheim would apply pressure to Dortmund’s buildup and this caused the gaps that the away side would exploit. Dortmund would build up with Akanji and Zagadou splitting wide with Hummels remaining centrally. The double pivot would then drop to assist while they were usually in line with the wingbacks who would be out wide. 

While the Hoffenheim front three could pressure the back three of Dortmund, their midfield three were outnumbered. The width of the Dortmund wingbacks would stretch this midfield and open the gaps for balls to Dortmund’s dynamic attacking trio. If the wingbacks were not marked, then they could drive the ball forward as Schulz and Hakimi had the athleticism and skill to do so.

Sancho, Götze and Hazard would also drop deep into midfield areas which the Hoffenheim defenders could not venture into without leaving gaps in behind them. Dortmund could then outnumber the Hoffenheim midfield and circulate the ball more easily. The pace and dynamism of Dortmund attackers were also a real threat throughout the contest whether they combined with the wingbacks or countered after winning the ball off the hosts.

A common scenario when Dortmund were building up with a wingback in space and gaps in the attacking trio.

A common scenario when Dortmund were building up with a wingback in space and gaps in the attacking trio.

It was generally in the wide areas that the visitors found the most joy as Weigl and Brandt were able to move quickly to the wingbacks and wingers who would exploit any space left by Hoffenheim. The opening goal came from a sequence similar to this. 

Hoffenheim attempted a counterattack with a ball behind the Dortmund defense but Zagadou intercepted it. As he was getting pressed by the hosts, he then quickly gave it to Weigl. The midfielder immediately played it to a dropping Hazard in acres of room as the Hoffenheim midfield struggled to recover. The Belgian drove forward and played a great through ball to Hakimi who made a well-timed run behind Skov. The wingback played it across to find Götze who had run across Nordtveit and Götze hit it past Baumann, with Rudy unable to stop it going over the line.  

Hoffenheim were in their 4-3-3 shape when applying pressure during the Dortmund buildup but would defend in a 4-5-1 formation when forced back. The press was not especially effective with Dortmund usually able to play out of the pressure with combinations out wide. Their 4-5-1 shape was also easily played around via the width that Dortmund employed.

Hosts struggle during first half

The hosts would build up with their fullbacks moving up the pitch while Grillitsch dropped to help the center-backs play it out and Geiger and Samassekou were searching for the ball in more advanced midfield areas. Baumgartner, Bebou and Kramarić would then look to make runs in behind the Dortmund backline. 

Hoffenheim’s primary form of attack was the long ball in behind the Dortmund defensive line. This was not effective on a consistent basis and may have resulted from their inability to find players between the lines. But Dortmund were indeed vulnerable with their high line. Early on, Hübner drove into space unmarked and sent a ball in behind to Bebou who had made a run between Zagadou and Hummels. He was flagged for offside and had squandered the opportunity anyway but this did highlight a potential avenue for success. Despite this, Hoffenheim struggled to create much of anything although they did find themselves in promising areas.

While they pressed the home side, Dortmund would be in their 3-4-3 shape. The press would be aggressively applied when the ball went to a Hoffenheim fullback or center-back out wide. This would usually result in a long ball being played which may have also contributed to Hoffenheim’s overreliance to this pattern of play. 

When not pressing, Dortmund would drop back to defend in a 5-4-1 shape. Hakimi and Schulz drop back to form the line of five with the back three while Sancho and Hazard did similarly to flank the midfield double pivot. Weigl and Brandt would then track the movements of Samassekou and Geiger thereby blocking Hoffenheim’s options between the lines while Götze pressured Grillitsch.

The usual positioning with Hoffenheim on the ball.

The usual positioning with Hoffenheim on the ball.

Schreuder changes the game

There were some changes from both sides after the midway point of the game. Favre made two of them as Łukasz Piszczek came on for Hummels while Jacob Bruun Larsen was brought on for Hazard but Dortmund remained in the same shape. Bruun Larsen joined the front three on the left hand side and Akanji moved into Hummels’ slot with Piszczek taking his position at the right of the back three. For the home side, Sargis Adamyan was introduced at half-time for Samassekou which brought a shifting of positions. Adamyan went to the left of the front three while Baumgartner went into the midfield slot vacated by Samassekou. Kramarić took up the lone striker role and Bebou went to the right.

The play from the opening half continued for much of the second half with Dortmund threatening after winning the ball off the hosts through their press and through the wingbacks. Also Hoffenheim almost got in behind Dortmund’s backline through a long ball, only for Baumgartner to miscontrol the long ball at an inopportune time. 

As time wore on, there was a greater threat by the hosts and they eventually bagged the equalizer in the 79th minute in a move that involved other substitutes in Pavel Kadeřábek and Jürgen Locadia. Kadeřábek was introduced for Baumgartner and took up the right fullback spot which meant Rudy moved into midfield. Locadia came on for Geiger and moved into the forward areas. Hoffenheim appeared to be in a sort of 4-2-4 formation from this point on.

The general setup during the Hoffenheim comeback.

The general setup during the Hoffenheim comeback.

For Hoffenheim’s first, when Bruun Larsen got sucked into pressing Nordtveit, Kadeřábek was left with time and space to play the ball. He then played a dangerous ball across and behind the Dortmund backline towards Locadia. The ball was deflected upwards but still found its way Locadia’s feet, who controlled it but was smothered by an onrushing Bürki. The ball then fell to Adamyan who made no mistake from close range. 

Minutes later Hoffenheim were ahead. Kramarić collected the ball in the halfspace 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. behind the Dortmund midfield line and the presence of Locadia in attack, may be the reason he was not tracked as he dropped. He turned and drove at the defense before passing it to Adamyan out wide. The winger crossed it in swiftly and his cross was met by Kramarić who had found some space while running into the box. His header gave Bürki little chance and the game was turned on its head. The changes in personnel and shape by Schreuder certainly paid dividends.


Dortmund will be sorely disappointed in giving away the lead as they were in charge for most of the contest but simply did not capitalize on their openings. Eventually Hoffenheim found a way to goal and the changes by Schreuder were all key to the comeback victory. The win for the home side takes them closer to the European spots in the table while Dortmund remain in fourth place and looking over their shoulder. Dortmund go away to take on mid table side Augsburg after the winter break while Hoffenheim host Eintracht Frankfurt.

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