Bundesliga 2019/20: Paderborn vs Borussia Dortmund - tactical analysis tactics

After defeat to Bayern Munich in the Der Klassiker mid-week, Borussia Dortmund looked to bounce back in an away fixture against Paderborn, who sat at the foot of the Bundesliga table.

The first half ended without any goals, as Dortmund struggled to conjure up anything in the final third. The second half, however, brought an incredible seven goals; six of them being in the Paderborn net as Dortmund collected all three points to separate themself from the rest of the pack battling for the Champions League spot.

In this tactical analysis, we will assess how Paderborn managed to keep Dortmund at bay in the first half and then how Dortmund overcame this in the second half. We will also use analysis to show the impressive transition in Paderborn’s tactics.

Lineups

Steffen Baumgart lined his side up in a 4-2-3-1. Leopold Zingerle was in between the sticks and his defensive line consisted of Mohamed Dräger, Christian Strohdiek, Uwe Hünemeier and Jamilu Collins. In front of them was an interesting pivot of Sebastian Vasiliadis and Sebastian Schonlau, the latter being a natural centre-back. The right and left-wing were occupied by Christopher Antwi-Adjei and Gerrit Holtman respectively. Streli Mamba played upfront with Dennis Srbeny playing just off of him.

Bundesliga 2019/20: Paderborn vs Borussia Dortmund - tactical analysis tactics

Meanwhile, Dortmund lined up in their preferred three-at-the-back formation but were without striker Erling Haaland. So, Jadon Sancho was brought back into the starting line-up in an interchanging front three with Thorgan Hazard and Julian Brandt, Brandt was often the deepest out of the three. Behind them was a midfield-two of Emre Can and Thomas Delaney, with Achraf Hakimi and Raphael Guerreiro providing the width in the wing-back positions. Dortmund’s back three included Lukasz Piszczek, Mats Hummels and Manuel Akanji; behind them was goalkeeper Roman Bürki.

Paderborn defensive shape

In most of Borussia Dortmund’s games, the success comes in the half-spaces. Baumgart ensured that this would be made difficult as Paderborn played with compactness both vertically and horizontally. This meant that it was harder to access the half-spaces and when Dortmund were able to find Brandt, Sancho or Hazard in those spaces, the Paderborn defence would surround the ball to tackle them. This was a risky strategy as Dortmund have the quality to play through this, as they did throughout the second half but it was a successful plan throughout the first half and they limited Dortmund’s influence in the half-spaces.

Bundesliga 2019/20: Paderborn vs Borussia Dortmund - tactical analysis tactics

As shown in the image above, Paderborn’s midfield and defensive lines were very vertically compact, leaving minimal space in between the lines and in the half-spaces. It is clear that Dortmund would need to eventually focus on attacking through the wide areas, as I will analyse later in the tactical analysis but they did not do this until the second half. Even when Dortmund were able to find their forward men in the half-spaces in the first period, they could hardly influence the game due to the collapse of the Paderborn players onto them.

Bundesliga 2019/20: Paderborn vs Borussia Dortmund - tactical analysis tactics

In the image above, Hazard receives the ball in the half-space yet his return ball to Brandt is unsuccessful mostly because of the overload of the opposition in the half-space area, making it difficult to hold onto the ball. Haaland’s absence meant that Paderborn also did not have to worry about the run in behind as much, also none of the Dortmund front three could pin the defensive line back so that there would be more space for the inside forward’s in the half-spaces. Paderborn’s defensive shape was partly reasoning behind Dortmund’s lack of success in the final third in the first half, as BVB only had 0.34 xG in the first half.

Paderborn’s impressive transitional play

For a team that looks to be heading down to the 2. Bundesliga, Paderborn have played some good football. They have a relatively low long pass percentage of 12.28% as they often look to build and pass their way into the final third.

Against Dortmund, especially in the first half, Paderborn’s transition was fairly impressive. They managed to play their way out of Dortmund’s counter-press on a numerous of occasions and they focused on getting the ball to their wide men, especially Holtmann, who attempted six dribbles in the game. Paderborn also committed many men forward in attacks, this was ultimately not sustainable throughout the whole game though.

Bundesliga 2019/20: Paderborn vs Borussia Dortmund - tactical analysis tactics

The image above is an example of Paderborn beating Dortmund’s press, with Srbeny’s pass to Vasilidis leaving both Can and Delaney out of the game. This allowed Vasilidis to progress the ball centrally before passing to Antwi-Adjei out wide.

17 of Paderborn’s 27 attacks came from the flanks; granted 15 of them were through the left side. They looked to get the ball to their winger’s feet so they could dribble at the full-back and try and cross the ball or shoot.

Bundesliga 2019/20: Paderborn vs Borussia Dortmund - tactical analysis tactics

In both of these images, we can see Paderborn attacking through either flank, and they have multiple men in forward areas, this shows the intent that Paderborn had in attacking transitions. Although, ultimately the quality was not shown from the Paderborn wide men, with the shot in the left image off target and the cross on the right side unsuccessful. They attempted six crosses in the game and zero of them were accurate, as well Paderborn only had one shot on target in the game – the penalty kick.

It was clear that Paderborn could not sustain their attacks and still keep a solid defensive shape and it was evident in the second half that this was the case.

How Dortmund overcame Paderborn in the second half

As I have already mentioned, it was clear that Dortmund would need to attack the flanks in the second half due to Paderborn’s compact defensive shape. This is exactly what they did and it was successful.

Bundesliga 2019/20: Paderborn vs Borussia Dortmund - tactical analysis tactics

In the image above we can clearly see that Dortmund’s success in the second half came through the wide areas, with 76% of their key passes in the second half coming from the wide areas. Dortmund would look to play wide and then the player in the half-space would make a diagonal run behind the full-back, this created an overload on the flank as the Paderborn wide men were unable to get back quick enough in the second half. This was a reoccurring pattern in the second half which helped Dortmund unlock the Paderborn defence.

Bundesliga 2019/20: Paderborn vs Borussia Dortmund - tactical analysis tactics

The image above is in the build-up to Dortmund’s opening goal and a clear example of the pattern previously explained. The ball is switched to Guerreiro and Dräger moves towards him. This allows space in behind for Can, who is in the half-space, to attack. It is a 2v1 overload on the flank as Antwi-Adjei is unable to help his full-back in defence. Can receives the pass and is able to cross the ball which ultimately finds its way to Hazard for an easy tap-in.

Bundesliga 2019/20: Paderborn vs Borussia Dortmund - tactical analysis tactics

Here is another example of the pattern BVB used on the flanks in the build-up to their third goal. Again Guerreiro receives the ball and he plays it in behind the full-back to Hazard who is making a diagonal run towards the flank. Even though Dräger doesn’t commit forward, Hazard’s pace allows him to get to the ball and cross, which Sancho finishes.

Due to tiring legs from Paderborn, the half-spaces were more accessible for Dortmund in the second half, also Dortmund played with higher quality in the second half at times which made it difficult for Paderborn’s collapse on the half-spaces to work like it did beforehand.

Bundesliga 2019/20: Paderborn vs Borussia Dortmund - tactical analysis tactics

Here is an example of Dortmund just having too much quality in the half-space and this opens up space in a wide position for Sancho to attack. Brandt and Hakimi play some lovely interplay in the half-spaces, which causes the Paderborn players to collapse on the area as they did in the first half. Yet, some great footwork and quick passes from the two Dortmund men means that Brandt can escape the press from the opponent and due to the heavy press on Brandt in the half-space, there is extreme space in the wide-area for Sancho. Brandt passes to him and he crosses the ball into Hazard, who somehow misses the goal with his shot.

Bundesliga 2019/20: Paderborn vs Borussia Dortmund - tactical analysis tactics

In the image above, Brandt receives in the half-space and even though there are multiple Paderborn bodies close to him, their intensity has clearly dropped and allows Brandt to turn and pass into Can in the space. In the first half, this wouldn’t have been allowed but the Paderborn players were visibly tiring in the second half. Notice that Paderborn’s defensive structure is also all over the place in the image in complete contrast to how it was throughout the first half.

Both the increased quality of the Dortmund players in the half-spaces and also the focus on attacking the wide areas ensured that Dortmund took control of the game in the second half; leading to an xG of 2.44 for Dortmund in the second half. The great effort that Paderborn put in the first half was always going to be difficult to replicate and sustain in the second half.

The Jadon Sancho show

Jadon Sancho had an average first half, this was met with his first ever professional hat-trick in the second half. The teenager who’s looking likely to leave Dortmund at the end of the season, showed why he is so special, in his first start since the resumption of the league. 

His clinical nature is what sets him apart from many other players and this was particularly on show against Paderborn where he only took three shots. His xG from those shots was just 0.88 but he scored thrice. The Englishman also completed all three of his crosses attempted. 

Bundesliga 2019/20: Paderborn vs Borussia Dortmund - tactical analysis tactics

Here is an image showing his second goal and it is a clear example of Sancho’s clinical nature. Even with three opposition players in close proximity, Sancho is able to receive the pass, move the ball onto his left foot and shoot into the corner of the net. This kind of composure and clinical nature has helped him to 17 Bundesliga goals so far. 

Dortmund are known for their impressive counter-press and this is shown through their average PPDA of 12.06. What isn’t so known is Sancho’s involvement in this, he showed great pressing qualities throughout the game and ended it with four recoveries and two interceptions. This has been a steady improvement in his game since joining Dortmund and was clearly apparent during the match.

Bundesliga 2019/20: Paderborn vs Borussia Dortmund - tactical analysis tactics

This image shows what Sancho brought to the game in his pressing. He doesn’t allow Paderborn to build from the back as he tightly presses the centre-back and smartly cuts of the passing lane to the full-back, winning possession back in the process.

Dortmund’s press was impressive throughout, ending the game with a PPDA of 9.1, Sancho was important in this aspect of Dortmund’s game, as well as the goalscoring.

Conclusion

While it was an impressive performance in the first half by Paderborn, Dortmund’s quality ultimately took over. The result leaves Paderborn six points adrift at the bottom of the Bundesliga, making it very unlikely that they avoid the drop. Meanwhile, Dortmund pushes themselves three points in front Borussia Mönchengladbach in third, yet the loss to Bayern last week means they are still seven points away from the top of the table.