Tactical Analysis: Borussia Dortmund’s Counter Attacking - Part One

By Stevie Grieve, author of Coaching the 4-2-3-1 and Attacking in the 4-2-3-1.

One of Borussia Dortmund’s main strengths comes from the speed of which they attack, and the fluidity of the movement of the players in the front 4, a choice of either Blaszczkovski or Aubameyang, with Mkhitaryan, Reus and Lewandowski. All of these players have explosive pace, especially Aubameyang.

They have an interesting mix of attackers; Lewandowski brings old fashioned target man ability while having the combination play of a midfielder. Mkhitaryan brings balance to the attack as he fills in and opens up space well while combining with the midfield and providing a consistently good final ball, while Reus brings flair and penetration with runs from deep. Aubameyang offers penetration behind the defensive line as he likes to play high (similar to Walcott at Arsenal), while Kuba is the most defensive minded of the group, and is a vital part of the team balance – he will play deeper as Reus moves forward to play ahead of Lewandowski.

Borussia Dortmund have also perfected the art of ‘Counter-Pressing’ where the team press the ball after losing it, to win it back within 6 seconds, to ‘counter counter-attack’ and the speed of transition is a major way that they score goals.

Dortmund Mid-Block Positioning – Ball with full back or wide positioned center back.


Dortmund like to force play to one side, then ‘trap the opponent into passing into a specific opponent either on the side, where they will flood the zone with 3-4 players, or allow a pass inside, where this player will be closed down by 2-4 players, with the intention to force a mistake and launch a counter attack.

When the ball is passed into the outside zone, Dortmund’s closest 2 players will close off forward passing lanes, while the other 2 players screen passes into central penetration positions.

Dortmund’s Counter Attacking – Dortmund v Schalke

In this game, most of Dortmund’s best chances of scoring came from counter-attacking and using the pace of the front 4, and the drive from midfield of one of the central midfielders.

Mid-Block Defence to Counter Attacking Goal

Dortmund 1

Here, we can see that 10 is forcing play inside, as 7 blocks the passing lane wide. The pass is forced into an overloaded area where 6 and 8 can both press to pass and look to start the counter attack quickly. 11 see’s the trap and starts to move forward to support the counter attack before the ball is won.

Dortmund 2

6 drives forward as 11 anticipates the next pass, into 9, who has a 1v2 scenario and needs support as he won’t have many touches or time on the ball before he is under high pressure.

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Dortmund 3

As the ball is passes into 9, 11 arcs around him and offers a pass into the space away from where the pressure came from, stopping the defender getting infront of him to stop the shot.

In Part Two Grieve looks at some of Dortmund's goal chances.

By Stevie Grieve, author of Coaching the 4-2-3-1 and Attacking in the 4-2-3-1.


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