Points. Lovely, delicious points. It’s been a tough couple weeks for Borussia Dortmund, picking up just one point from a possible nine against Mainz, Bayer Leverkusen, and Borussia Mönchengladbach, but BVB managed to stem the flow of points hemorrhaging out of their season with a much needed win over Augsburg. Goals from Delaney, Sancho, and a Uduokhai own goal, helped see Borussia over the line, but it was also a much improved performance. It wasn’t without fault, but it was a lot better than recent displays.
Dortmund currently sit 5th in the Bundesliga, just outside the Champions League qualifying spots, but things are looking very congested near the top, with just one point separating 3rd to 7th (and four of those teams split only by goal difference). Wolfsburg are yet to play, and a victory over Freiburg could put them third in the league, and three points clear of BVB, but things at the top are pretty tight.
Penalties are Very Weird
Marco Reus missed a penalty against Mainz, and this was met with frustration among fans, not just at the miss, but at the fact that Reus was taking it in the first place. Some fans felt that Erling Haaland should have been on penalty duties all along, and that Dortmund would have claimed all three points had he been. Unfortunately, Haaland’s penalty miss today shows he isn’t quite the sure thing that everyone thought.
Haaland’s miss looked to me like it was a product of Gikiewicz standing his ground and giving nothing away, and Haaland’s hesitation as a result of that. Haaland took a pronounced pause in his run up, similar to the kind of run up we see so often from Robert Lewandowski. The pause is designed to draw the goalkeeper out, and force them to involuntarily show which way they’re going to dive (whether through a quick shift of the eyes, a slight lean, or a subtle movement of the hands or feet). The stuttered run up that guys like Bruno Fernandes, Paul Pogba, and Neymar use is another attempt to force their opponent to tell on themselves.
Some goalkeepers, however, are made of steel, and give you absolutely nothing. As you can see in the image below, Gikiewicz was rooted to the spot, giving nothing away. He does start to lean right at the last second (though I’m unsure if this was after Haaland had looked back down to the spot), but either way, he did an excellent job.
Whether or not Haaland caught this slight lean right before he looked down would help explain exactly what happened. Either Haaland saw it but it was too late in his motion and he was unable to get sufficient direction on the shot, or he hesitated because he was expecting Gikiewicz to show him which way to place the penalty.
Responsive penalty takers need to have a clear plan in place for the eventuality that the keeper doesn’t show them anything. If the keeper gives you an indication of where they’re going, then you can update the plan, but you’ve got to know what to do if they don’t. Further, any attempts to draw a response out of the opponent has to be done with enough time to change the direction of the shot. If you’re looking for clues too late in your run up, it’s hard to make changes when they come.
Sancho is a Good... Leader?
At some point the commentator needs to stop declaring that Sancho is back every time he scores a goal. If he is making a comeback every single week, you have to wonder if he was ever really gone. I think his demise was exaggerated, but he has certainly improved in recent weeks.
Interestingly, it wasn’t just a solid performance from Sancho, he also finished the game wearing the captain’s armband. It’s possible it meant nothing (fans often overstate the importance of the armband), but I would be surprised if this was a decision made by Sancho himself, since it would seem to disrespect an existing leadership hierarchy within the team. Perhaps this is an indication of the kind of player Sancho is? Or the player they feel he can be? Or maybe it’s just pandering to try and keep him at the club for a little longer.
BVB Showing Signs of Improvement
In recent weeks it has felt like Dortmund are playing without a plan. The disjointed defensive pressure and the lack of coherent offensive patterns seemed like a team that was making it up on the spot. However, there was a little more order today. Borussia seemed to be applying pressure as a unit (though this unit did collapse on occasion), and the team seemed a lot more connected going forward. BVB are still patient in the buildup, but Terzic seems to be asking the team to play at a higher tempo than they were under Favre, on both ends of the ball. In and around the final third, Dortmund were able to unlock the Augsburg defense with overlapping runs and Haaland’s switches with the wide forwards. I’d really like to see BVB do a little more to disrupt opponent’s as they start to find their rhythm, but this is a start.
On top of that, there were some strong performances from several players that had been struggling to find form or minutes recently, with good efforts from Julian Brandt, Mateu Morey, Rapha Guerreiro, and Thomas Delaney, who was excellent today.
After BVB’s recent run of poor form, I’m not ready to declare the club’s problems solved, but if Terzic can get the team playing a little quicker, and bring the best out of players that had been lagging, it will be a good start.
What did you think of the win today? Let us know your thoughts below.