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Three Observations from Borussia Dortmund’s DFL-Supercup loss to Bayern Munich

Dortmund once again struggle at the hands of the Rekordmeister, but could this loss be different?

FC Bayern München v Borussia Dortmund - Supercup 2021 Photo by Lars Baron/Getty Images

Borussia Dortmund hosted Bayern Munich at the Westfalenstadion in the DFL-Supercup match on a rain soaked pitch Tuesday night, however, it was the visitors who would hoist the preseason trophy, winning 3-1. A Robert Lewandowski brace sandwiched a Thomas Muller tap in, while Marco Reus managed to get on the scoreboard for the hosts in what was an extremely fun match even though quality was lacking from both teams. While the Supercup is the least significant trophy awarded out each year, a piece of silverware is always important to add the cabinet. Furthermore, the chance to lay down a marker against your top league rival is also extremely important, and based on the fiery performances from both teams, each wanted this victory badly. Here are my observations from the match:

Dortmund Desperately Need a Right Back

While I thought about omitting this observation given how easily observed it should be from Felix Passlack’s performance, the statement still needs to be made. However, let’s go one step further. Should Thomas Meunier have been available can we honestly say that things may have gone differently? The Belgian struggled mightily in his first season with Die Schwarzgelben, and while many will point to a strong EURO campaign, there is no guarantee that Meunier would fit into what Marco Rose is trying to do with BVB’s setup. While Passlack will always put in a shift, he just does not have the quality needed to be a Dortmund starter, or even a rotational player for that matter. Dortmund were “Juste” in desperate need of strong defending and pace on the right side, of course I know someone who said all this a little bit better today.

Dortmund were not afraid of Bayern

Despite the loss in front of the home crowd, Dortmund gave themselves a chance after Marco Reus’ sensational strike in the 64th minute brought BVB to within a goal, before Lewandowski pounced on a Manuel Akanji mistake late to put the game to bed. Nevertheless, Dortmund’s high press created opportunities and helped to stifle the Bayern buildup play, while the two strikers occupied both center backs. Mahmoud Dahoud and Jude Bellingham in particular were flying into challenges early and looked incredibly amped for the match.

Both midfielders made sure to let their opposition know that this was not going to be a walk in the park despite Bayern’s strong record against the black and yellows. Dortmund continued to attempt to play directly through a crowded midfield even though poor passing gave the visitors possession in dangerous areas. Nevertheless, BVB were a real threat going forward with Youssoufa Moukoko and Erling Haaland as a strike team and twice had the ball in the back of the net only to be judged offside. If Dortmund can sort out the back and get those forward passes in sync they will be a problem for anyone moving forward, including Bayern.

Diamonds not forever?

The hiring of Marco Rose and subsequent transfer of Donyell Malen from PSV indicated that the new boss wanted to switch to a diamond formation playing with two strikers up top. However, in much of preseason and against Eintracht Frankfurt, Dortmund played a 4-2-3-1 formation with Malen on the bench. Perhaps Rose is bringing along the Dutchman slowly, allowing him to integrate without putting too much pressure on him. German prodigy Moukoko started alongside Haaland today but when Malen came on as a substitute Rose switched formations once again. While we know the team is going to have to be tactically flexible, Rose may not be able to play with a midfield diamond until he gets the right personnel defensively.

Bayern’s attack was really thriving, particularly in the wide areas where Gnabry and Coman were either winning the ball off of Passlack, or getting in behind via well timed runs. By playing with two strikers and Reus, Rose has a narrow midfield 3 in front of the back four which is trying to cover a lot of ground. Many times Bellingham was able close passing lanes and make tackles, but as the match went on Passlack was constantly troubled on the right flank without much help. Should Rose continue with the diamond, he is going to have to get more pressure on the ball up top to prevent being outnumbered in the wide areas. An alternative could be to have either Reus or a striker slide wide to create two banks of four at times when sitting a bit deeper. It will be interesting to see what Rose does moving forward.

Final Thought

Hey, it’s only a friendly and there is a lot to be excited about this year. Dortmund are really fun to watch and will be all season long, and one should be absolutely elated with the fight and determination shown today. I know, I know, moral victories do nothing, but it was a good performance despite having only one starter in our back four against one of the best teams in Europe.