Adopting the Right Mindset: How Mental Tactics Can Create Champions

Football is a funny old game and, like all sports, the margins between victory and defeat are often razor thin. In fact, as the...
Ritesh Gogineni
Editor/Founder of The False 9.

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First look at Thomas Tuchel’s tactics at Dortmund

Thomas Tuchel’s Dortmund career got off to a perfect start as his side thrashed Borussia Monchengladbach 4-0 in the opening fixture of this year’s Bundesliga. Dortmund’s famed free-flowing attacking football which we saw in 2011 and 2012 under Klopp was back to its thrilling best.

Dortmund lined up exactly as expected with new signing Julian Weigl lining up beside Gundogan in the double pivot in a 4-2-3-1 formation .

Tuchel at Mainz had a lot of similarities with Klopp wrt to tactics and the way their teams attacked. Geggenpressing was one common thread with both the teams. At Mainz, Tuchel encouraged long balls forward to his attackers but with more accomplished players at Dortmund,a more patient build up play is favoured. Mats Hummels looked like he was back to his best as he started a string of counterattacks with his accurate passing.

Watch- Mats Hummels- The Playmaking Defender

Another interesting move was to play Gundogan as the deeper midfielder when Dortmund were in possession. Gundogan often dropped in between the two center backs,this allowed the German time and space on the ball as the visitors were outnumbered 2 to 3 in that part of the field. Dortmund used it to their advantage as Hummels and Gundogan started orchestrating play with ease and with the fullbacks pushing high into the opposition territory, the Mönchengladbach midfield was stretched and they were prone to attacks. With Kagawa’s movement overloading the left and Reus excellent on the right,  Mönchengladbach were too static to counter any of the threats. Dortmund were very effective in switching play from one side to the other and scored the first two goals primarily due to a quick switch which  Mönchengladbach were slow to adjust to.

Defending

A high line with the youngster Julian Weigl sitting in front of the defence suffocated  Mönchengladbach extremely well. Weigl looked fantastic for his age and Dortmund look like they have once more made a brilliant signing. Calm and composed with the ball,the young German showed maturity and class off it.

“I believe that Barcelona’s outstanding performance based on the way the whole team with abandon and passion tried to win the ball back after a turnover.”- Tuchel

Although at Mainz,Tuchel favoured pressing as a key part of the game, against Mönchengladbach the pressing was more restrained. Gundogan was the most active midfielder in the press as he stormed from his position to hassle the opposition.  Mönchengladbach struggled to string any sort of a comeback and they were a shadow a side which qualified for the Champions League last year. Although they did look a little under-prepared it was Dortmund’s magnificent display which  determined the course of the match.

Thomas Tuchel even at Mainz proved that he was one of the most tactically flexible coaches who had no qualms in changing his formations at any time,even during a match. His pre-match analysis and research is famed and the work he puts in watching videos and analysing the opposition is second to none.

At Dortmund he seems to have decided on a 4-2-3-1 formation which actively changes to a 4-1-4-1 with a high backline. He realised that the intense gegenpressing which we saw in Klopp’s early days puts a heavy strain on the players in the long run, he favours a high line which suffocates the opposition(We will have to wait and see whether this high line will be repeated against Bayern who have players to run in behind). He wants Dortmund to build from the back which allows the fullbacks to push forward and overload the wings. Kagawa then moves wide to overload one side which allows the striker and the second winger(Reus) to move into the vacated space thereby multiplying the passing options the deep playmaker has. Although Dortmund are yet not perfect ,an exciting challenger to Bayern Munich will make the league even more stronger and interesting to watch. The battle between Tuchel and Guardiola this season is promising to be the most exciting managerial duel.

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