Borussia Mönchengladbach 1-1 Borussia Dortmund: compact sides and balls over the top

December 4, 2011

The starting line-ups

2nd v 1st going into the game, but this draw allowed Bayern Munich to return to the top.

Lucien Favre was without Marco Reus, so Raul Bobadilla played alongside Mike Hanke. At the back, Martin Stranzl returned from injury and was in for Roel Brouwers.

Jurgen Klopp is still missing Sven Bender after he got injured against Arsenal, so Ilkay Gundogan played instead – otherwise, the side was as expected.

This wasn’t a particularly tactical match – the sides played their usual systems, there were no major switches in formation, and the first substitute entered the pitch in the 77th minute.

Mönchengladbach shape

This is the first time ZM has featured Mönchengladbach, so it’s worth outlining their system in detail. They play a 4-4-2ish shape – Reus is a key player, and having started the season on the right wing, he’s now moved forward and drops off the main striker. In his absence, Mönchengladbach were less nuanced and often lacked a link man. Bobadilla played as more of a conventional forward.

There is a clear division of responsibilities in midfield – the central midfielders are told to sit and protect the back four, the wide players move forward and link up with the front two, particularly on the counter.

The movement of the front two is interesting, both with and without the ball. When Mönchengladbach are in possession they strikers are happy to drift into the midfield zone and to move wide – and when the opposition have the ball, they drop deep, rarely pressure the defence, and create a ten-man barrier between the ball and Marc-Andre ter Stegen. They’re extremely compact (more on that here) the defence plays reasonably high up, the attackers play rather deep.

Squeezed middle

Dortmund also pushed up and playing a high defensive line in combination with their pressing in midfield. Therefore, the action took place in a small area of space in the centre of the defence. A little like in Dortmund’s win at Bayern, the space was always in behind the defences. Within two minutes, both Felipe Santana and Mats Hummels (the only two players on the pitch who weren’t being closed down quickly) had launched balls over the top of the Mönchengladbach defence.

The main chances came from this simple approach; Bobadilla and Shinji Kagawa both found themselves in good positions through on goal, and Robert Lewandowski made that run twice, on the second occasion managing to draw Stegen off his line into a poor position.


The main difference was the attitude without the ball – Mönchengladbach’s forwards dropped off towards the midfield, but Dortmund won the ball more quickly, using both their central midfielders high up to press energetically. Mönchengladbach were clever enough to get around this by dropping Havard Nordtveit, comfortable as a centre-back, into the defence to play out from the back.

Dortmund weren’t as fluent as we’ve come to expect – Mario Gotze drifted inside quickly but struggled to find space, as did Kagawa. The central midfield department was not as dynamic without Bender, and they needed more from that zone. Their goal came from a Lewandowski header from a corner.

Second half

At 0-1 down, Mönchengladbach’s wide players stayed higher up in the second half, not forming a second bank of four so readily. There was also more movement inside from the flanks – and this proved important. Juan Arango briefly took up a false nine position, brought both Dortmund centre-backs out, and Hanke darted into the space from the left flank and fired in the equaliser.

Neither side worked their transitions perfectly, though – Mönchengladbach because Dortmund pressed well, Dortmund because Mönchengladbach rarely left spaces at the back.

Both Gotze and Kagawa were removed in Klopp’s first change. Jakub Blaszczykowski came on, as did Lucas Barrios – pushing Dortmund to 4-4-2, making them more direct. Favre altered little, and though neither side shut up shop, a draw seemed likely after the equaliser.


Not a great example of a tactical extravaganza, but a good example of current German footballing ideology. Both sides play with two holding players, both look to play quick transitions from defence to attack, both remain compact. There was an element of the two sides cancelling each other out, but better finishing would have resulted in more goals – there was so much space behind the defences.

Tags: , , ,