Dortmund v Spurs Preview

I don’t watch a lot of German football but I have seen enough to say Dortmund are probably the best team we’ll play all season. If we’re to be beaten by more than a single goal this season this will be the game – not exactly insightful, I know. Let’s start with what I do watch:

We’re in a bit of a lucky position here in that the league game we have in between our two games against BVB is against the weakest team in the league. I know these kind of statements invite embarrassment but Aston Villa’s shitness cannot be overstated. They say there are ‘no easy games in the premier league’ but that’s just not true this year. Sunday’s game is one that we can approach with the mentality of ‘how weak can we make our team before its no longer a guaranteed 3 points’. It may seem like I’m being unnecessarily mean about their state but my passion for banging on about how poor they are stems from my sympathy for a Villa supporting friend of mine. My point is, with that in mind, we can afford to play our best possible team on Thursday; so here’s that:

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Alli is suspended and maybe injured too so likely Son, who has an impressive record against Dortmund, comes in. It’s unsure what Danny Rose’s fitness situation is; Davies the obvious replacement. Maybe it’s too soon for Dembele to start again in which case Mason will – I certainly expect a swap between the two at some point in the game regardless of which one starts. Any other rests or injuries would likely see Chadli start.

Once again I’m writing a blog post rather than making video due to time constraints from a new job. Some are preferring these anyway but for those missing the videos, here is one with much higher production values than I am ever likely to achieve:

In essence though, we all know about Klopp’s Dortmund, they made themselves one of the best teams in the world off the back of a system based primarily in pressing and counter-attacks. What let them down last season was teams setting up defensively and forcing Dortmund to ‘pick the lock’, which they struggled with. Quick side note: 10 men behind the ball is the Premier League default and Klopp is going to have to develop his system if he is to succeed at Liverpool – and we are a little similar in that. For Dortmund, at least, Tuchel has come in and given them quality in possession.

Where our pressing game has taken the league by storm it is, at least in part thanks to Klopp, much more common place in Germany and as a result Dortmund’s backline and deep midfield of comfortably technical players will be much more prepared to handle it.  (Unlike last round’s opponents, Fiorentina, who aren’t used to it at all and were dismantled by it.)

Ineffective pressing succeeds only to tire out attacking players and open up space for your opponents. This may be one for picking our moments, zones and players (fullbacks).

Windy (. Who am I kidding? The venn diagram of our combined followers is a dot in a circle; a crudely drawn eye) made an interesting observation. At the weekend Dortmund set up against title rivals Bayern Munich quite similarly, at least in shape, to how West Ham set up against us. However, like West Ham, the primary function of this was to shut down the opponent’s movement into the attacking third, somewhat sacrificing their own attacking output and as a result and I think it’s very unlikely that Dortmund would have that attitude towards their match against us.

Instead it’s likely they will simply field their strongest team and impose their usual approach with perhaps a slightly cautious tweak.

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Thanks to  for his help with this.

Although Dortmund normally play a 4231 on paper; Kagawa often drops deep from his AM role (even more so if Sahin starts) and the wingers play narrow with one (Reus) making direct runs and the other (Mkhitaryan) moving into the 10 role making them a little bit like a 433 or 4141. Remind you of anyone?

Honestly the tactical similarities between these two teams are quite strong. Both play that 4231/433/4141 hybrid with similar roles (only Gündogan/Dembele and Kane/Aubameyang really differ), both have an excellent playmaking centre-back (Hummels and Alderweireld), both like to overload centrally with a focus on the left channel, both look to find balance between possession and counter-attack, both are renowned for their pressing. I’m sure there’s more I’m missing.

So if we’re playing against ourselves should we set up in the manner which we know we’re weak to? It’s an amusing daydream but similarly to the idea of Dortmund doing it we are too invested in playing our own style to set up in a manner specifically designed to kill our opponents attacking threat, especially if it is at the sacrifice of our own.

Looking at the players who do differ from their Spurs counterparts: Gündogan is more of a metronomic playmaker where Dembele is a physical presence who will to bring the ball forward himself. ‘Auba’ is Lennon-fast but without Kane’s hold-up play. Man-marking Gündogan can go some way to making things more difficult for Dortmund and slowing them down. And Aubameyang’s pace is made more terrifying by us missing Vertonghen – but Wimmer can be helped by more a defensive and narrow role from Danny Rose and a deeper defensive line.

Because both are quality teams used to dominating games there might be potential for two very open and exciting games. More likely though we will see what we often do in big European games. Two good teams taking it turns to be the possession team and the counter team when playing at home and away respectively.

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