Borussia Dortmund were held to a scoreless draw against AC Milan in their first home game of this season’s Champions League. Despite being the dominant team for long stretches of the match, Terzic’s side still have difficulty scoring in the most important moments. Today’s match, in particular, was marred by poor decision-making across Dortmund’s midfield and frontline.
Despite the lack of goals, it was a back-and-forth affair, as both sides battled in midfield but failed to create chances. Mats Hummels set the tone for Dortmund’s defense, who performed brilliantly throughout the game, with a fantastic slide tackle in the 4th minute on Tommaso Pobega. Donyell Malen produced several good chances for Borussia Dortmund, including the home side’s best chance of the first half that saw the ball flash wide of the Milanese goal in the 27th minute.
Dortmund continued the pressure in the second half despite a fantastic, and bottled, chance from Christian Pulisic in the 54th minute. Terzic’s substitutions, however, changed the game for Borussia Dortmund. Adeyemi replaced Julian Brandt and, for the most part, struggled to do anything of note. Ten minutes later, Jamie Bynoe-Gittens and Felix Nmecha replaced Donyell Malen and Marco Reus respectively. By the second half, Malen looked tired and I thought JBG performed well off the bench despite showing his inexperience at times. Nmecha, on the other hand, was a massive drop in quality from Marco Reus. He was struggling to press in the right moments and failed to play in Adeyemi for a one-on-one situation in the dying moments of the game.
Both teams will feel that they could, and should, have done better but Dortmund find themselves bottom of the group table after creating zero clear chances across two games.
Dortmund’s Midfield Struggle Continues
Today was the first time this season that Can lined up next to Özcan in Dortmund’s midfield. Marco Reus was in front of them and Julian Brandt was pushed out wide. Several problems arise from this situation. The first is that Özcan and Can struggle to progress the ball. Neither are intricate passers and neither are great dribblers. This pushes the responsibility of ball progression in the middle third onto the fullbacks and Marco Reus. Usually, this forces one of Donyell Malen or Julian Brandt to drop deeper as well. The next problem is that Julian Brandt is much less effective out wide than he is in the center of the field. Marco Reus, on the other hand, has been one of Dortmund’s best players this season. Both players fill a niche that the other one occupies and Terzic’s side has struggled trying to play them both.
What’s the solution going forward for either of these problems? I’m not sure but it isn’t Felix Nmecha as of this moment. The €30m replacement for Jude Bellingham came on during the final twenty minutes of the game and struggled to make a positive impact. Watching, you could see that he pressed too little or too late, he failed to get involved in the play, and he often opted for a backward or difficult pass instead of the better options that were available. If you dive into his statistics, you’ll see he had only 11 touches and a passing accuracy of 33%. He has to do better.
The Captaincy Curse
Dortmund has had a slate of captain issues for the past seven years. In 2016, captain Mats Hummels left Borussia Dortmund to title rivals Bayern Munich. In 2018, Marcel Schmelzer gave up the captain’s armband after declaring it was “strenuous and intense years that consumed a lot of energy”. Marco Reus gave up the captaincy this past off-season after proclaiming his desire to play without added pressure. Now Dortmund’s latest captain, Emre Can, is facing the pressure of the captain’s armband after he put in another uninspiring performance. While he wasn’t terrible, it is evident that he has returned to the poor decision-making that plagued him at the start of last season. He was quick to get a yellow card, made several other rash challenges, and was, at times, too relaxed out-of-possession. After missing Dortmund’s last two games, it looks like Can is feeling the pressure of the extra attention.
- Mats Hummels has been Borussia Dortmund’s best defender for the past three years and will go down as one of the club’s best players in history.
- Dortmund have trouble breaking down low blocks and generating high-probability shots.
- Bensebaini redeemed himself after his red card at the weekend.
- JBG might just be the successor to Dahoud in the coveted “Patrick’s Favorite Player Despite Not Being That Good” role.
What did you think of the game and what are the odds that Dortmund get out of the group? I’m giving them a 43% chance.