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Tactical Review of BVB vs Hannover

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Liverpool v Borussia Dortmund - International Champions Cup 2018 Photo by Bob Leverone/Getty Images

There were a series mistakes, tactically, over the course of the game, and a couple of them stemmed directly from his team selection before the match. Despite his alright performance against Fürth, nobody expected Wolf to be selected over Sancho. During his 20 minute cameo against Leipzig, greater depth and context was provided to his skillset. The former wingback in Frankfurt’s 3-5-2 formation in Kovac’s Frankfurt side adds a sense of defensive rigidity and protection for the fullback behind him, which is good in late game situations. But he lacks the attacking output of someone like Pulisic, who’s creativity and skillset allow him to create chances for others as well as being a goal threat. Wolf did not look comfortable taking on defenders and, as an end result, ended up passing backwards more often than not. Because of Pulisic’s muscle injury that kept him out of the team sheet this week, Jadon Sancho would have been the obvious replacement, who has a very similar skillset to Pulisic. While Wolf’s inclusion in the match day squad was a good idea tactically, in reality he relies too much on running into open space where he can create for others from that situation, and Favre should have realized that Wolf was a liability when going for a goal late in the match.

The other inclusion that was confusing was Thomas Delaney, who played very well against a very physical Leipzig side the week before. He excels in a vertical midfield press, and winning the ball in one on one situations. But he was never able to really leave an imprint on the match because Hannover played the ball through the wings, in an attempt to cut out the presence of our midfield three, and attack our more exposable fullbacks. Think Delaney’s inclusion was based mostly on his defensive and/or set piece contributions, but without anybody to press, Delaney’s presence was slightly unwarranted over a more offensive player, like Götze. Delaney doesn't have the ability to pull a defense apart, and a dual midfield threat of Götze and Dahoud would probably have been more successful than during the game on Friday.

Dahoud played alright, but without the inclusion of Götze as the primary playmaker, Dahoud seemed a little out of his depth. He was unable to find penetrating passes at certain points in the game that Götze might would have found, including two opportunities, one risky, one safe, that should have been acted upon, but he instead turned inwards and played it back to Delaney or Witsel. His primary strength as a ball carrier was negated this game by the lack of a press from Hannover, and his playmaking skills are were not capable enough to break Hannover’s low block apart. Dahoud was more effective against Leipzig when Pulisic dropped next to him and was able to dribble at the opposing back line. Dahoud was our most creative player on the day with 0.31 expected assists, but he was very frustrating with how consistently inconsistent his play was, as he played intelligently one minute, and then wasted possession the next.

A lot of these issues can be described by looking at the graphics of how BVB lined up against Hannover on Friday.

BVB vs Hannover (defensive setup)

Maina from Hannover was especially effective, playing in the space next to the left most part of the midfield 3, and sat between our winger and our outside back. The problem is that should Schmelzer step forward, he leaves space behind him for another forward to drop into the space that he just created. He also does not have the speed to rush out and prevent the crosses that Maina whipped in all game. Should he step, he also does not have the speed to recover should Maina take advantage of his poor positioning and just dribble by him. That same issue exists with both Pisczcek and Schmelzer, as opponents sit into those spaces 10 yards away from either one of them and whip in crosses into the box. It’s how Fürth scored the opening goal against us during the first round of the DFB Pokal. That said, Akanji and Diallo did very well all game to prevent one shot on target and did exceptionally well to win almost every one on one battle throughout the 90 minutes.

Wolf’s defensive nature did well to protect Pisczcek, but Favre shouldn't be relying on a winger to protect a fullback, but rather have more athletic fullbacks play or do what Hannover did throughout large stretches of the game - force the opponent to sit deep by attacking. By attacking, it plays to the squad’s strength and gives Diallo and Akanji the time to mark the one or two forwards with their athleticism.

BVB vs Hannover (offensive setup)

Offensively, the game was a mess. Philipp never really got quality service, and his combination play was sloppy. Reus made several excellent runs, but, again, his touches and passes were off the mark at times. Wolf is limited creativity, and needs service rather than creating it. Favre banked on Dahoud to be that creative force from midfield, but he was just wasteful, despite having one or two good moments. Dahoud took three shots during the game, for a total xG of 0.07. Dahoud scored his first goal for BVB last week, taking his career total up to eight goals. All three of those shots came from outside of the box. Dahoud has only two goals in his entire career from outside of the box. That’s two goals in 5,671 minutes. That’s two goals from outside of the box in 63 complete games. That’s miserable. Rather than ripping a shot “on goal” from 25 out and slamming it into the stands, recycle play, and give someone else an opportunity to create a goal from, probably, much less absurd chances.

Witsel played alright, but its hard to look impressive when your midfield compatriots are not being utilized correctly by the coach and are not playing to their strengths. His Hannover counterpart in Walace played a great game in a more box to box role, connecting passes between the front line and the midfield. Walace was wasting away at Hamburg for the last couple seasons, and it was amazing by Hannover to pick someone of his dynamism for the meager price of 6 million Euros. The youngest captain in the Bundesliga, Anton, and the EPL veteran, Wimmer, did very well to contain Philipp and Reus, and keep their influence to a minimum throughout the match.

This is how BVB should have lined up.

I think the entire problem is more complex, and there are multiple reasons to why he feels that way. Favre thinks Götze is more of a false 9 or a number 10 than he is an 8, which mirrors Löw’s thinking. Favre wants to play Delaney for defensive solidity, even though Delaney’s defensive output against teams that don’t play through the middle, aren’t physical, and don’t press is pretty limited. I don’t think it should be a matter of Götze or Kagawa instead of Dahoud, but adjusting the midfield roles offensively so that Götze/Kagawa can play alongside Dahoud and share the creative responsibility, something which he tends to need against low block defenses. I understand Favre’s choices last game, but I think it was rather naive to not make any changes until there were 10 minutes left in the game.

Ultimately, Friday’s game against Hannover was very frustrating not because Hannover outplayed us, but because we prevented ourselves from outplaying them. Favre now has two weeks to look through everything that went wrong during that game and sort out how he wants to play against Frankfurt, on September 14th, after the international break.