Following a rather drab showing in Paris, where summer signing Marcel Sabitzer was forced off with an injury, there wasn't much cause for optimism heading into a tricky home game against high-flying Wolfsburg. Niko Kovac’s men sat a point ahead of us on the table, having won four of their previous five league games. Edin Terzic named a heavily rotated lineup, featuring no fewer than six changes to the XI, including a recall for Salih Özcan and a first start for new signing Felix Nmecha.
Much to my astonishment, Dortmund took control early on and remained in control throughout the contest, restricting the Wolves to a single shot on target. Up the other end, while the final pass or touch was missing, the boys kept their composure and kept at it, with the breakthrough finally coming in the 68th via our talismanic ex-captain Marco Reus after a lovely team move involving Julian Brandt and Donyell Malen. 1-0 it remained, with Wolfsburg offering little to no threat for the remainder of the 90. Here are your match ratings:
Thanks to a strong defensive performance, Kobel was only called upon once to make a save, which he did brilliantly.
Tough, hard-running and intelligent in the buildup. He didn’t get as involved on the offensive side as I’d have liked, but he did everything else to perfection.
Our veteran defender showed once again why he’s so important to the defense. I’ve criticized many of our players for poor passing, but Mats seems to be the only one who has retained this skill from last season. He's passing success in this match was 92% and eight of his nine long ball passes found a teammate.
Ramy is growing on me. He sure puts in a lot of effort in the defense and he made life quite difficult for Wolfsburg’s Vàclav Cerny. While his passing still needs improvement, Bensebaini‘s defending was quite impressive.
He may be a pretty useless full-back for us, but he’s ideal as the left-sided centre-back in the build up phase. Absolutely superb on Saturday.
5-for the first half, 7-for the second half. Felix looked bad in the first half in nearly every quantifiable category. Yet he came back out in the second half and demonstrated a mature improvement. Perhaps he needed a bit more focus.
His best game in a BVB shirt yet. Öz’s more defensively disciplined style gave him license to do what he’s best at, and he delivered after a rather shaky start (which the commentators used as a cue to level some rather over-the-top criticism at him). If he can keep up this level, it will go some way towards justifying the hefty price tag.
Oz actually played better than I anticipated him to. He’s a good holding midfielder but many attacking plays and counterattacks fizzle out when Salih touches the ball. He really likes pass back. BVB breaks forward and sends attacking players charging into Wolfsburg’s final third. Then Oz touches the ball and passes backward, effectively ending our counter attacks but allowing Wolfsburg’s players to track back. Salih is good for maintaining possession but he does so little with the ball.
Provided the perfect base for Nmecha’s more free-ranging style, and was involved throughout, with the second-most touches of any player on the pitch. Interestingly, he was also very active offensively, with only Brandt bettering his xA of 0.36 and creating more than his three chances. I wasn’t particularly optimistic about him starting, but his performance was exceptional.
Every aspect of Brandt’s game was impressive... except for his crossing. It’s hard to blame him when he’s forced into the wing. We all know Brandt plays his best when he can create through the middle. The end result mattered little, as Julian provided service for Marco Reus’s winner
Struggled a little until Donny came in but showed his quality again with a lovely assist.
Dortmund have a perfect record this season when Marco Reus is in the Starting XI in all competitions: three wins. Without Reus starting, BVB has won once, drawn twice and lost once.
Doesn’t need to wear the armband to be the on-pitch leader. This double-10 arrangement with him alongside Brandt must stay.
Many aspects of JBG’s game need improvement, but this was very promising. He seems to shine in one-on-one situations where he can utilize his ball-control and sprinting abilities to dust his opposing defenders. Now if he can just make that final touch an accurate pass, then we could be in for a very promising talent this season.
JBG was so lively against Wolfsburg, and showed significantly better decision making than he has for large parts of his Dortmund career. His off the ball movement isn’t quite up to scratch (which did limit our creative players a little bit), and the final product wasn’t there either, but this was an encouraging performance.
I was excited for Füllkrug’s first start and this was neither great nor awful. The new signing did well to get himself involved in the buildup but didn't manage a shot.
Donny’s off-ball movement caused Wolfsburg’s defensive unit real confusion, and directly resulted in the winner.
I think this was a great performance to build on. The match was very reminiscent of the early stages of the season last year. This was not a pretty win, but BVB managed a goal and the team stayed organized through ninety minutes to grind out this result. After the Heidenheim draw, it was clear the team needed to win at home. Anything less in the Signal Iduna Park is simply unacceptable.
I think many of us wish Dortmund were flying high right now and crushing our opponents, but I think we also have to accept that this squad has not improved from last season like we expected. Rather, they’re adapting to new players, new midfield formations and a disgruntled fan base. This match’s clean sheet speaks volumes to the improvement in this squad’s organization and should send a message to underperforming players like Adeyemi and Can, that their place in the starting XI is not guaranteed. Brandt was the only attacking player who started against Paris as well.
We only scored once, but the second half was predominantly controlled by BVB and I think that was the best half of football we’ve witnessed thus far.
The new shape worked a charm, as we were in total control from start to finish and players who had underperformed thus far put in some top performances. Despite the lack of goalmouth action for large parts of the game, we never looked panicked and the patience we displayed paid off; I’d argue that the scoreline flattered Wolfsburg, as it never really looked like they were in with a chance of winning.
This game was reminiscent of the early run of 1-0 wins we had last season, as the team was cohesive, showing both grit and composure; qualities certain key players have lacked up to this point. Bringing on Donny cracked open the Wolfsburg defense and set Brandt free, resulting in us playing some of our best football in the last half-hour. Terzic’s tactical tinkering appears to have worked, and I’m optimistic that we’ve got a solid base to build on going forward.