Borussia Dortmund meet Arminia Bielefeld on Sunday. It will be BVB’s 37th competitive match this season. Coach Marco Rose is then forced to send the no less than 18 different defensive formations on the field. You need to keep this fact in mind when talking about the team’s defensive problems.
Such an extreme fluctuation simply makes it difficult for processes to establish themselves in this area. After the positive corona tests by Raphael Guerreiro and Mats Hummels, BVB still have to do without Thomas Meunier (torn late) against Ostwestfalen, while the recently injured central defenders Manuel Akanji and Dan-Axel Zagadou have at least a little hope of playing minutes.
In the end, Marius Wolf, Emre Can, Marin Pongracic and Nico Schulz were to make up the back four. And one of their tasks will be to defend set pieces. Anyone who has followed BVB closely for a long time knows that stationary balls of all kinds have been the team’s kryptonite for years – it also includes their own standards.
The weakness was especially striking in the 2018/19 season, where Dortmund narrowly missed out on the championship under Lucien Favre. At that time, 39 percent of the 44 goals conceded in the Bundesliga came from standard situations – no other of the 17 teams undercuts it (source: opta). In the previous season, the share was only marginally lower by 37 percent (17 out of 46 goals scored), but again was no worse.
BVB and the defensive standards: Fifth worst value
The values in the last five seasons were only significantly better in 2017/18 (12 out of 47 goals scored, 26 percent) and 2019/20 – in the last season they even reached the second lowest value in the league (10 out of 41 goals scored , 24 percent). Under Rose, however, BVB slipped back into the bottom third of the table for collected standard goals.
Currently, they, along with Wolfsburg, have the fifth worst value. Twelve of the 37 goals scored, ie 32 percent, came from set pieces. Borussia conceded five of them after corner kicks, only six teams are worse in this regard.
However, BVB has modestly stabilized during the current season. After five Bundesliga match days, Westphalians came back after six of the eleven conceded goals (54.5 percent) were the result of a set piece. “Standards are a problem that we tackle because they can decide matches. We want and need to get better at it,” Rose said at the time.
BVB: Standard goals collected compared to previous seasons
50 BVB corner balls in a row failed
If you take an international comparison, it becomes clear that several top teams are struggling with the same problems as Dortmund. BVB shares the rate of 32 percent standard goals locked into the league with FC Barcelona. Atletico Madrid and AC Milan are significantly worse with 41 percent each, followed by Juventus Turin (40) and Chelsea FC (39).
However, it also shows that the old adage that the defensive decides championships is still correct: League leaders Manchester City (12 percent), Real Madrid (20) and PSG (20) are very stable with standards, just as Liverpool FC are in the top class with a share of 25 per cent.
And what about the Dortmund offensive? The last time anything extraordinary happened was on January 14, when Meunier scored twice with a header from a corner kick against Freiburg, each time after a pass from Julian Brandt. It is very rare at BVB – since then, 50 corner balls have been flown into the opponent’s penalty area in all competitive matches, without scoring.
“We have already scored standard goals this season. Now we have not scored a couple of games – possibly because the opponent defends well,” Rose said after the 1-1 draw in Augsburg. “There are games where the set pieces do not come so well, we might have had that too. Yes, set pieces are part of it – but what should I say? I do not quite understand the subject now. We’re trying to score set pieces again.”
BVB: Eleven Bundesliga teams score more set goals
After Marco Reus, Giovanni Reyna, Thorgan Hazard and Guerreiro tried corner kicks, Brandt has now established himself as the first shooter. His attempts mostly reflect the problems he has to deal with as a player: sometimes light, sometimes shadow. In terms of the success rate for corner kicks played into the penalty area, Dortmund are in the league average with around 34 percent of crosses.
If you look at the last four seasons, Rose’s team currently has the best odds. 15 of the 64 goals scored, ie 23 percent, were currently scored from set pieces. In the previous season it was 21 percent, in 2019/20 it was only 14 percent. Despite the minimal improvement, it is also true that eleven teams in the Bundesliga have scored more goals from set pieces than BVB – and Dortmund, together with Leipzig, also received the most penalties (7).
Westphalians, who have scored 64 goals in 24 Bundesliga matches, certainly do not lack offensive power. On the other hand, there is a wealth of variation. There is also plenty of room for improvement when it comes to defensive standards, especially in terms of the willingness to uncompromisingly defend the balls that fly into the sixteen with ferocity.
“Alexander Zickler is working his way into it with our video specialist Daniel Ackermann,” Rose announced this fall. Maybe on Sunday against Bielefeld, the 18th defensive formation will show signs of progress.