What went wrong for Dortmund v Darmstadt?

After a scintillating start to the Bundesliga season Borrusia Dortmund’s form seems to have hit a block, a bump in the road as they stumbled to a 2-2 draw vs newly promoted Darmstadt for their second stalemate in a row. Despite Thomas Tuchel claiming his team “deserved to win the game” they were robbed by a late goal from Darmstadt. But what tactically went wrong as Dortmund dropped points to this ambitious German side.

Thomas Tuchel has a clear philosophy he has tried to employ at Dortmund which involves relentless pressure in the opponents half leading to turnovers in possession and capitalising on mistakes, leading to dominant performances where teams aren’t allowed to play their style of football or get in the game. He is also a very confident rotator of players and isn’t afraid to leave a player out if he doesn’t fit into his pre match plans.

Considering Dortmund had only drawn one match before this game, winning five matches and scoring 19 goals during that period surely Darmstadt just wouldn’t be able to cope with this modern, dynamic and aggressive style of play Tuchel demands from his players. However despite Dortmund dominating possession and the amount of shots taken, Darmstadt made them look very average on the day brilliantly nullifying some of their greatest threats in the game.

With Dortmund played the large majority of the football in the Darmstadt half completing 192 passes in the Darmstadt final third! Along with that they managed to create 11 chances, through their variety of creative players including Shinji Kagawa however due to a poor showing in front of goal with just 4 shots on target there efforts were ultimately futile. Darmstadt clearly set up to play on the counter and had to make 35 clearances as well as 21 tackles due to the high tempo game Dortmund were employing. However there were signs of risks in the Tuchel philosophy with Dortmund becoming overconfident and perhaps over committing their full backs as well as their central midfielders.

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This meant that Darmstadt surprisingly scored the opening goal through a cleverly crafted counter attack where a false sense of security lead to Dortmund conceding. After being dispossessed in the opponents half, Tuchels side tried to implement his style by the centre back moving in to close down the space in the opponents half and win the ball back. However with the full back Ginter already way out of position when the through ball was hit towards the attacking midfielder Joseph Gondorf he was found in acres of space on the left wing leaving Max Hummels preoccupied with Heller in the box. By using the Dortmund style of play against them,Gondorf was able to exploit the space and put in a pinpoint cross to Heller which he finished with expert precision firing a volley into the bottom corner.

After this point Dortmund really knew they were in for a game and had to attack. Attack they did as two well worked through balls led to the deep lying Darmstadt line to being breached as the pace and instinctive finishing of Pierre Emerick Aubameyang proved too much for the defenders to handle however this wasn’t the end of Darmstadt just yet.

As they had to come out of their defensive shell they were gifted a goal by woeful defending from the Dortmund back four which i can imagine Tuchel would blame for this poor result. After the initial free kick came in the Darmstadt attacking players were allowed to nod the ball on unchallenged, only for Matias Ginter to cap off his awful game by pulling out of his challenge and exposing centre backs Sokratis and Hummels who were out of position. This allowed Adrian Sulu to fire past the helpless Burki in emphatic fashion. This momentary lapse in concentration and lack of commitment in ariel and grounded duels cost them two valuable points which may come back to haunt them at the end of the Bundesliga season.

Despite early success with this style of play it’s clear Tuchel has key problems to address in the defensive side of this squad as a tendency to overcommit in the opponents half seems to be costing them dearly. I believe to improve their performances they must work on the defensive positioning of centre midfielders as well as the whole team with set pieces against them.

After now falling 4 points behind the currently unstoppable Bayern Munich it looks like the Bundesliga could lead to being a very one sided affair once again unless Dortmund sort their act out, and quickly.

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