26th January 2019, the game against Hannover was a significant game not just because of the dominant score line of 5-1 but because two Dortmund boys scored in the same game since January 2013. The last time both scored was 6 years and seven days ago. Marco Rues who has now played more than 200 games and Mario Götze who has played more than 250 games have been Dortmund golden boys since they started their professional careers.
Favre Ball: Similar Positions
When Favre was appointed as the coach of Dortmund, he had brought his playing style to Dortmund. One of the most interesting tactics brought in by Favre is the use of False nine or number Ten as a striker. Something which has been evident during his Mönchengladbach time where he played two strikers as False Nine or Number Ten. One of them being Reus whom really took off under him when played at front.
All of this came to the forefront during this years victory against Atletico Madrid where in the absence of Paco, Mario Götze was first played as a striker playing in between a False Nine and a Number Ten. Götze used his experience of playing in the same position for Joachim ‘s Germany to keep Madrid’s defense occupied. Combined with his clever gameplay, he was able to press and get the possession at important positions. A goal against Augsburg in an impressive 4-3 victory liberated Götze on the role being offered by Favre.
When asked about Götze’s positional play, Favre said “Mario plays in front and does that well, he runs a lot, defends and squeezes well”. In response, Götze said, “It all comes down to how you play this role. If it’s expected of me to stand up top and score goals with my head, then it’s going to be tough. But the way we’re playing, I can certainly take a liking to it”
Götze was most impressive in the game against Bayern. He was the unsung hero in that famous victory. His movement made spaces and supported the direct game style taken by the team in the second half to counter the pressing.
As a center forward, Götze has played 16 games this season and has scored twice. He has 4 assists to his name under the same position.
Götze’s Creativity backed up by Reus playmaking
Reus throughout this season has predominantly played the role of AM. Favre used his experience of playing Reus at center to lead Dortmund’s attack this season, a similar role to how he played at Gladbach. When asked about his tendency to play Reus in the middle, Favre replied, “I know Marco well from Mönchengladbach, and I must say that he has always been sensational. Offensively, he can put his stamp on every game – particularly in the middle at his favorite position.” Reus has been very instrumental to Dortmund’s attack. His movement creates spaces for the team to give those defense piercing passes, his experience and distribution of the ball gives an edge to Dortmund’s attack. This season Reus has 15 goals to his name from this position and is one of the leading scorer of Bundesliga. He also has 8 assists.
The highlights this season was his game against Atletico, and Bayern where he tracked back aggressively and distributed the ball very smartly. His through ball to Götze, and layover to Witsel for an incredible finisher was the highlight of the Bayern match. This was evident from the fact that Reus had 6 attempts on the goal which was highest amongst the players across the teams. Also, he had third most number of tackles.
Favre Ball: A beautiful Marriage
Favre believes in link up play where the striker would also have to track back and be in the core to create the play. Both Götze, and Reus in past have shown their capabilities of being a true number 9 and a number 10. This really brought all three of them together to create this harmony where each one of them has supported each other to create an impact on the field. In response to their relationship on the pitch and his new position, Götze replied, “If we keep switching the game so smoothly and if the play comes in from out wide, or Marco [Reus] is supporting from the number ten position - and if we can make deep runs and swap positions the way we have been doing - then it’s a great thing.”
The impact of Favre’s decision could be seen on the performances of both the players, when played together. The positional play under Favre has revived the career of both the players. Götze and Reus have been playing freely and aggressively something which was missing since Klopp’s time. This is evident from the fact that Reus has made 617 sprints, which is second highest in the team after Sancho and has had 1.4 tackles per game, 1.3 key passes per game. On the other hand Götze has 0.9 key passes per game with pass success rate of 81.7%. Their presence also brings composure in a young team pushes young players to work on the same ground.
Reus and Götze have always supported each other. That camaraderie can be seen on and off the field. The way both of them create spaces for a smooth movement in attack, and the way they both of them track back aggressively to take back the possession has been a big support for the team.
No Marco = No Mario = No Trademark Dortmund
Marco and Mario have always created an impact whenever they have played together. Unfortunately, it does not go the other way around when only one of them plays, especially when it is Mario playing in front without Rues to support. Although it does not mean that Mario does not justify his role of being a striker but Reus’ absence of has an impact on Götze’s game and also impacts the style of the team a lot.
We saw this during the Champions League game against Spurs, where Götze was alone in front and to support him Dahoud was played in the position of Reus. With Dahoud unable to justify Reus’ role it went south, and it was evident in the style Dortmund played. Their concentration shifted more towards the wings rather than being at the center. Götze had to come down the majority of the time to support the team, which made the work of Spurs defenders easier, as they had to target only the wingers and also could press easily when required. During the game only 19% of Dortmund attacks were through the center compared to 41% from the left and 40% from the right.
It forced the team to depend on crosses. Something which does not support Götze, considering he is not a conventional striker who can win areal duels and score. To an extent it also makes the work of defenders easier when it comes to defending against Sancho who has 9 assists which is second best in the league.
Reus the only engine running in attack?
Reus has 81.7% pass accuracy this season, and has been the top contributor for Dortmund with 13 goals out of 54 team goals, a 27% share which also makes him third best in the league. Second to him is Alcacer with 12 goals and 22% contribution.
It would be unfair to point the finger at Götze alone, when Dortmund has not been able to find any creative playmaker as a replacement for Reus. He is an asset for the team, but unfortunately his absence is now impacting the tittle race. Untill Paco can be a reliable starter and Reus can stay fit, Dortmund need to add the missing link to support Götze. It is with the partnership of two Dortmund boys will the dream of seeing both the players holding the Meisterschale in front of the famous Yellow Wall at the end of the season will come true.