Frohe Weihnachten from Fear the Wall! We continue to look at second-guessing our tactician in chief Thomas Tuchel in this installment of Best XI. While Mark put out his best, realistic scenario best XI, I concentrated on what we can do with all available players and without transfers in the January window.
Formation: This lineup is closer to a 3-4-3 than anything else, but as Pep and Tuchel have noted, formations mean little in contrast to player roles. This lineup is best suited to a high-intensity pressing side with very active players in the midfield providing outlets to the defense in build-up play.
Goal: Bürki is unquestionably the number one between to the posts.
Defense: Sokratis (or potentially Subotic) anchors a no-nonsense defense. As he is want to do, Weigl drops back in to provide an outlet in build-up play, while Ginter and Piszczek are the other members of a line while in defense. The highly mobile Schmelzer drops back into defense as needed and Pulisic does as well, though not as frequently. A back three allows Piszczek the ability to pick up defensive duties at times on the right.
Midfield: The key to this formation is the Guerreiro and Weigl partnership. As always, there is a Gündogan-shaped hole there, but we have seen how Guerreiro is in pressing-resistance. Götze remains a backup option, but is not as reliable defensively. Pulisic and Schmelzer provide the width that is key to opening up an opponent’s half-spaces.
Forwards: Reus gallivants up the flanks before cutting in as the best inverted left-winger in the world. Dembélé performs his magic in the half-spaces opened up through the width provided by Pulisic on the wing. Aubameyang as always, does what he does best: finishes the chances created by Ousmane, Marco, and Christian, while lays off his own assists.
Strengths: This lineup is pressing resistant. The inclusion of Guerreiro and width opened up with the extra wing-midfielders provides vital outlets to sides that try to beat Dortmund in the only consistently, demonstrable manner: a high press. The additional width also assists in stretching opponents back lines and opening up the half-spaces for Dembélé and Guerreiro to exploit.
Weaknesses: Defensively it requires a lot of communication and automatism amongst the back three and Schmelzer. Any breakdown of a Bender/Ginter|Sokratis/Subotic partnership, and it can be carved up as we have seen with Bartra in recent months. The lineup also relies on a tireless work rate for Schmelzer and Pulisic, but for the 18 year old, with the fixture schedule a little less congested, it should be manageable.