Tactical analysis: Dortmund midfield capitulates under Bayern pressure

In a thoroughly one-sided first half, Bayern Munich scored five past a hapless Borussia Dortmund. The visitors’ midfield was ill-equipped to deal with the Bavarian press and did not show the effort to make up for it.

Castro and Dahoud crumble

Right from the outset, the central midfield duo of Gonzalo Castro and Mahmoud Dahoud looked vulnerable. Perhaps the idea of coach Peter Stöger was to be press-resistant and orchestrate play from deep? If it was, it failed miserably on both counts.
Dortmund did initially look threatening, especially on the wings. Christian Pulisic tested Alaba in one-on-ones and created chances in the early stages.

Once Bayern settled into the game, though, the weaknesses of Castro and Dahoud came to the fore. The first goal exposed their lack of positional awareness and defensive application.

Castro and Dahoud get drawn to the ball, leaving Müller open centrally.

The two were constantly too advanced to restrict Bayern in central positions. The system didn’t help them either. Without a purely defensive midfielder, the gap between Dortmund’s back line and midfield was too big. Robert Lewandowski came deep to exploit it.
Dahoud and Castro caught in an advanced position. Lewa comes deep to exploit the gap between midfield and backline.

Castro himself was culpable for two goals: losing possession for Muller to score and failing to mark James Rodriguez for Bayern’s third. The substitution after twenty-nine minutes probably came as a relief to him.

Rodríguez prospering in a withdrawn role

It is difficult to tell whether James Rodríguez excelled solely to his own credit or as a by-product of Dortmund’s terrible showing in midfield. To be fair to the Colombian, it is not a one-off. He has been a revelation in the withdrawn role throughout the Rückrunde.

The performances of James offer food for thought for Jupp Heynckes. With Thiago returning and Kingsley Coman out for the season, which combination should the Bayern trainer go for?
Whatever the decision, James the central midfielder is undroppable at this point. He is combining Thiago’s build-up with Arturo Vidal’s attacking runs, facilitating Bayern’s offensive moves throughout the pitch. Javi being his defensive counterpart, the remaining central midfield spot is between Thiago and Vidal, depending on tactical requirements.

Final thoughts

“The first half, we weren’t there, and that’s impossible in a game like this and Bayern destroyed us. In the second half, they let us off.”

“I don’t know where it came from. It doesn’t matter about tactics. It doesn’t matter about the players. They could have scored more. We are lucky with 6:0.”- André Schürrle, post-match.

Anyone who has played football would know the sinking feeling of being the inferior side during a match. You keep picking up the ball from the net, try to build up play, then lose possession and the process repeats itself.
That is what Borussia Dortmund are at the moment: an inferior side to Bayern. Yet the bees attempted to go toe-to-toe with die Roten in an away game. It was an ill-advised move, bordering on naive.
To make matters worse, Stöger’s men lacked the confidence to play a possession game. Conversely, Bayern were always on the front foot, evident in the way Mats Hummels was winning the ball virtually in midfield and joining attacks. His movement was reminiscent of Germany’s 7:1 demolition of Brazil in World Cup 2014. So was the score by the end of the first half.