Google+ Blueprint for Football: Analysis of Jurgen Klopp’s Borussia Dortmund

Monday, October 26, 2015

Analysis of Jurgen Klopp’s Borussia Dortmund

by Nicholas Baldacchino

After analysing a number of matches from Klopp’s Borussia Dortmund, one could easily understand the passion and intensity in the football being presented.

Klopp presents a very intense and hyper type of play which also embraces the main factors of all great teams which is organisation and teamwork. When defending his team is very compact and, when the possibility is on, presses high with all his players staying high in order to keep team compact keeping the pressure on their opponent. 

When in possession, Klopp’s Borussia Dortmund had an array of different solutions; keeping the ball through possession, playing on the counter, playing direct on the striker, keeping a wide front or attacking with the three up front and gaining width through both fullbacks, whatever the solution it depended on the strengths and weaknesses of his team and the opponent.

When it comes to formations Klopp is a one-trick-pony mainly as his teams are fixed with the 1-4-2-3-1 formation which gives balance all over the pitch and the much needed flexibility when going forward.

Defensive setup
Defensively, Klopp’s Dortmund side operated with a flat back 4 at the back which shifted in unison depending on the area of play. When a long ball is played centrally, one central defender pushes out to win the ball from the striker the ball is directed too, whilst the full backs squeeze in to give cover and the other central defender falls back to give adequate cover for his defensive partner.

The 4-2-3-1 turns into a 4-4-2 or 4-5-1 when defending with two perfect defensive lines which function in unison, are compact and within a perfect distance from one another.

The two central midfielders always give the much needed defensive cover and are a barrier in front of the defence at all times when Dortmund are not in possession. They give cover to the central defenders in switch into the back 4 if one of the central defenders ventures out. When the ball is played in transition onto the sides, the two central midfielders are quick to give necessary cover and defend the sides especially when full backs are caught in attack.

When loosing the ball (negative transition) – Dortmund are set up to press the ball immediately in order to win the ball back and attack therefore countering the counter. This takes place mainly when the opposing team has the ball at their defenders and Dortmund are pushing the whole team in the opposing halve to condense the area and not give the opponents time on the ball. When pressing is not on, the team gets behind the ball very quickly and start pressing when they are organised in a 4-4-2 or 4-5-1 shape.

When defending Dortmund condense the strong zone with as many players as possible to create a numerical advantage at all times in order to win the ball and counter quickly.

When defending dead ball situations, Klopp’s Dortmund defended man to man and with 10 men behind the ball.

Roman Weidenfeller has been Klopp’s No.1 throughout his tenure, a good goal tender, very capable with his feet but the most important characteristic is his height and strength in the air, his guts and leadership which has helped Dortmund in becoming one of the best teams around.

The main actors of the central defensive bloc of the Dortmund teams managed by Klopp are players who are very intelligent, capable of anticipating, very strong in the air and good in 1 vs 1s.  During the first couple of years players like Santana, Dede, Nevan Subotic and Mats Hummels were a fixture in the central positions, the only addition which was able to slip into the team during 2013/14 was the Greek international Sokratis Papastathopoulos who is still playing very well within the side.

The two full back roles which are an integral part in the  team set up have been filled in well by Marcel Schmelzer, the German world cup winner on the left and with Owomoyela in the first two seasons and the Polish great  Pisczek on the right which has turned out to be one of the best right backs in the world. 

The midfield pairing which give the balance and are pivotal to the team in both defensive and attacking functions have been mainly defensive midfield and a creative midfield maestro pairing for Klopp which have seen the likes of Club captain and stalwart  Kehl be paired with the technically gifted Nuri Sahin, later on Sven Bender and Ilkay Gundogan, two very good technically gifted midfielders who are full of energy and work hard.

In possession and attacking
Borussia Dortmund build play from the back in a very patient way. The team, when keeping possession in their own half, do so at a slower tempo and with the team wide, when ball is in opponents half, tempo is higher and more movement is made in order to create fast short combinations until a killer ball can be executed. 

When building up from the back they keep the ball with a very wide team with one midfielder come in between the central defenders who in turn receive the ball and play through the middle or on the full backs that are set up wide.

When the two central defenders are pressured, ball is played directly onto the striker who tries to combine with the three players behind him.

Up front the striker gives depth and drops to receive ball in order to combine with the three behind him in quick short combinations. The two side attacking players take different positions either giving width in the front line or tucking in to create an overload in the central areas with the full backs joining in attack wide to cross into the area. 
Figures 1-3 : in this passage of play Dortmund are quick to play ball from midfield into forward on the left hand side who in turn plays the ball into the attacking midfielder who quickly turns the ball into the right hand channel where the oncoming right winger plays a dangerous ball into the area
Fig. 4-7 : Borussia Dortmund in this passage of play keep possession of the ball for a minute starting play from the left hand side of midfield and ending up with a good chance to score. One may evidently see, the positional play of the team with all players supporting and creating angles at all time.

Positive Transition
Klopp’s Dortmund excelled in positive transition (the moment when the ball is won and an attack starts) as the game plan was built around winning the ball and going fast to attack the opponents when they are least organised.

In fact the high pressing is the defensive equivalent to quick transition as after winning the ball after an aggressive pressing the team can attack the opponent before it gets organised.

Thanks to an array of quick players behind the striker - which throughout Klopp’s era was always a good player capable of holding up the ball and scoring goals both with his foot and in the air - Dortmund were equipped with the correct mix to be able to play in many different ways and have different options in order to break the defensive block of the opposing teams.
Fig. 8-9 : In these figures we can see how from 5 players in own half in less than 5 seconds Dortmund have 5 players in proximity of Mainz’s penalty area whilst still in possession. 
The players who have been most influential up front during Klopp’s rein have been Lewandovski who has turned out to be one of the top strikers, Lucas Barrios previously and Aubemeyang later. In the attacking midfield positions players such as Grosskreutz, Blaszczykowski - mainly wide on the right, Kagawa, Goetze and Reuse and Mkhitaryan have all been of impeccable service.

This was the thesis carried out by Nicholas Baldacchino as part of his UEFA B Licence qualification.  Nicholas, who has since obtained his UEFA A Licence, is currently the Head Coach at Mqabba Youth Nursery in Malta and can be followed on twitter.

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