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The XI: Looking to Build

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Welcome to The XI, where we take a look at the lineup from last week and try to piece together what our next starting XI will look like.

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Last Week:

So far in his first season with BVB, Thomas Tuchel has relied heavily on a more classic 4-3-3, and moved away from "The Shinji Formation" where Kagawa sat behind the striker in a very advanced midfield role, almost creating a 4-2-2-1-1 Gegenpress Frankenstein. The classic 4-3-3 was on display again against Moenchengladbach, with Mkhitarayn and Reus patrolling the wings high and wide, and Castro, Gundogan, and Weigl forming an attack-minded central triangle. As the game progressed throughout the first half, it looked a bit like this:

There are a couple things to note here. Reus is pushed up very high on the right wing, trying to get in behind Gladbach's backline. He managed to get a couple decent looks to Aubameyang in the first half, but the Gabonese speedster squandered all of his chances on the day. When Auba is having an off-day finishing, that's when the central midfield needs to come up big in supplying balls to the wingers that open up the defense and start the counter-attack. In the first forty minutes, that didn't happen. Ideally, Castro would be pulling the strings in this situation, with Gundogan acting as a box-to-box midfielder and Weigl serving as the defensive backstop. But Castro couldn't find time or space on the ball nearly all game. Eventually, you saw him float left to try and work quicker combinations with Miki and Park, to middling effect. Gladbach's man-marking effectively stifled the Dortmund midfield. They let their forwards pressure Weigl and the backline while being content to wait for Dortmund's midfield to receive the ball before closing space.

What changed? Well, Gundogan punished a Gladbach mistake and took over. The Gladbach midfield decided to push up and pressure Weigl more aggressively, but left Gundogan unmarked at midfield. The German was able to receive the ball and turn, putting the Gladbach defense on its heels. From there, a simply pass to Marco Reus put the winger through, and Reus finished ably. From there, the game opened up and played into our hands. As Gladbach pushed more men forward after the break, a clean tackle from Hummels sprang a four on three counter attack which saw Dortmund up 2-0, and another counter attack sealed the victory 3-1 in the 75th minute.

Notes:

  • Joo-Ho Park got absolutely undressed on Moenchengladbach's goal, and while he wasn't awful from start to finish, he wasn't fantastic either. Marcel Schmelzer played against Union Berlin the day after the Gladbach game and looked good, so I wouldn't be surprised to see him retake his spot on the left side.
  • Gonzalo Castro had a mediocre day, but he wasn't particularly bad, either. He failed to create much going forward, though, and with Gundogan showing off his attacking flair on the night, Castro needs to step up to solidify his starting position. I think Tuchel will run out the same midfield three against Ingolstadt as he did against Gladbach, but he has to be looking at the 4-3-3/4-4-2 diamond hybrid Ingolstadt uses so often and thinking about what Shinji Kagawa could do with all that space in the middle of the field.
  • Tuchel's first two substitutions were interesting ones, as he brought in Durm and Ginter, both typically defenders, into the midfield. Ginter's substitution for Castro flipped the midfield triangle upside down, putting Gundogan at the attacking point with Weigl and Ginter sitting behind him as defensive mids. The switch was rather simple, tactically-speaking, but might be important if Ginter continues to see minutes at defensive mid. He's more dedicated defensively than Gundogan, and if he can figure the shape out in real time on a consistent, that defensive triangle might see more time on the field.

Prediction:

Here's what I think the lineup will look like against Ingolstadt.

One prevailing mindset goes into this lineup: if it ain't broke, don't fix it. The counter-attack prevailed against a stout Gladbach side, and while Ingolstadt have proven to be heroic at times, I think the same fate befalls them. Castro keeps his spot in the midfield and tries to exploit space a bit more against a weaker Ingolstadt midfield, while Gundogan and Weigl pull the strings at the center of the park. Schmelzer reclaims his spot in the XI on the left. One last thing to possibly look out for: if Castro does push up a bit more and start connecting passes with Mkhitaryan on the left, look for Piszczek to get a piece of the attacking action coming in on the right side. Reus has a habit of pushing high and cutting in towards to middle, and generally drags defenders with him. That leaves loads of space of Piszczek to bomb forward and get some crosses into the box.

If I'm Wrong:

I think it will be Kagawa in for Castro. Also: Sokratis was holding his shoulder in the late parts of the Gladbach game. I don't know if it's anything or not, but Subotic might slot in at centerback.

Do you have predictions for this week's XI? Let us know in the comments section!