Borussia Dortmund played their final match before the international break this morning, taking on lowly FC Augsburg at the Westfalenstadion. What should have been a very comfortable win was somewhat less so, as poor BVB finishing and a very lucky Augsburg goal kept the scoreline close.
Within 10 minutes, Dortmund were gifted a lead when Augsburg’s captain Jeffrey Gouweleeuw needlessly clipped Donyell Malen’s ankle, to which the referee awarded BVB a penalty that Raphael Guerreiro easily converted. Augsburg would equalize before the half on a goal that is almost too ridiculous to be described:
Luckily, Julian Brandt would score early in the second half, and despite a plethora of BVB chances in the following minutes, the score would remain 2-1 until the final whistle.
Here are our match observations:
This team misses Erling Haaland
Shocking, I know. Take away a team’s star striker, and the offense will suffer. This effect was glaringly obvious, especially in the first half. Between Julian Brandt, Marco Reus, Raphael Guerreio, and... um... Marius Wolf, BVB had a plethora of playmaking talent in the squad. Donyell Malen should have been the one to finish off more plays, but he often found himself dropping deeper in the buildup instead of doing a striker’s job of pushing against the opponent’s back line or getting on the end of crosses.
Without a true striker on the pitch, BVB were forced to execute a series of intricate passing combinations through Augsburg’s midfield, which they stuffed full of physical players. This led to lots of back-heels, flicks, dummies, and other skill moves, but ultimately culminated in few solid shots. This changed a bit in the second half with the addition of Thorgan Hazard and as Augsburg became more desperate for a goal, but for the majority of the first half, BVB’s attack looked woefully impotent.
Augsburg’s midfield did its job
While Dortmund mostly have themselves to blame for their lack of offense in the first half, credit does have to go to Augsburg. They clearly entered the game with a plan. With a back three and a narrow midfield, they did a good job preventing either Witsel or Bellingham from having any opportunities to progress the ball.
As you see in the screenshot above, Jude Bellingham would have to drop almost into a center back position to have any breathing room on the ball, while Witsel was effectively surrounded by three Augsburg players. In fact, just inside and around the center circle, there are six Augsburg players against only three BVB players. This setup made it very difficult for Dortmund to progress the ball. BVB tried to shift Raphael Guerreiro into a more central position to diminish the numerical disparity, but this just played into Augsburg’s hands by making the game more narrow.
When BVB did have possession in wide positions, there was often nobody to aim at, other than Julian Brandt and Donyell Malen. And with respect to both of those players, neither of them is going to get on the end of a cross anytime soon.
In the second half, after a rare counterattack by Marius Wolf led to a goal, Augsburg gradually opened up and allowed more space, and the chances for BVB began to rack up. Unfortunately, nothing ever came of any of these additional chances. Luckily, Augsburg never made Dortmund pay for their mistakes.
Poor finishing went unpunished
What surprised me was that the chances were there in force for Borussia Dortmund! BVB registered 20 shots, but only four on target, for a total of between 2.7 and 3.44 expected goals, depending on your source. Despite the quality and quantity of chances that BVB collected, they only scored twice, and only once from open play.
Marco Reus fired a close shot off the post, after Marius Wolf’s shot from in front of the net after Augsburg’s keeper parried a save into his path. He also had an entire net to fire at in the 70th minute, but wired a shot over the bar instead. Donyell Malen also missed a golden opportunity when he was darting down the wing after a Jude Bellingham through ball, and instead of lashing the ball with his left, he tried to dink it with his right back across to nobody in particular.
BVB were lucky that they didn’t pay for their poor finishing, today. Augsburg did not pose enough of an offensive threat to really threaten them. That won’t be the case when Dortmund face Bayern Munich, or Champions League opponents like PSG or Chelsea. Hopefully, Haaland can recover during the international break and be ready to face Mainz when he returns.
This brings me to my final point:
The international break couldn’t come soon enough
Just today, both Marius Wolf and Mats Hummels were subbed off with injuries. That adds them to a list that includes Haaland, Gio Reyna, and Dan-Axel Zagadou. Meanwhile, Emre Can only just made his return from injury, as has Thorgan Hazard. Other players like Manuel Akanji and Jude Bellingham have been run into the ground over the previous month. Thankfully, in Jude’s case, he will not have to make an appearance for England, as manager Gareth Southgate has announced that Jude can use the next two weeks to rest and recuperate.
Erling Haaland will likely be able to recover as well, as will Emre Can and Gio Reyna. Hopefully, when the squad returns to training in two weeks, something resembling a first-team squad should be available to Marco Rose.
What did you think of today’s performance? Leave your thoughts below.