Preview: Supercup in Dortmund
Matches against Borussia Dortmund were something of a mixed bag in previous years. After Thomas Tuchel was let go after winning the DFB Pokal, the Yellow-Blacks hired Peter Bosz as their new manager. The Dutchman worked at Ajax Amsterdam before, reached the UEFA Europa League final last season but lost to Manchester United. Now he wants to realise his vision in Dortmund.
What does the 53-year-old stand for? Explosive, offensive football, first and foremost. Dortmund’s decision of hiring a coach whose style wasn’t too different from possession-focused Tuchel makes sense.
Especially in their domestic league, Ajax played football with the ball, rarely against it. The creative combining play that made the team so successful was supplemented by dangerous counter-attacking moments. A playing profile that should work well with Dortmund’s squad.
Despite that, preseason was less than ideal for various reasons. For one, several regular starters will be missing for the Supercup game, most of them have been out for several weeks. Among them are Guerreiro, Schmelzer, Reus, Weigl, Schürrle, and Durm. It’s especially painful for them to be missing several full-backs, as they play pivotal roles in the new system – both to add offensive pressure and to build up play.
Schmelzer is the player in the squad that is most suited to these tasks, while Piszcek raises the question of how long it’s been since he last played convincingly in a passing game. Their alternatives, all of them very young players like Felix Passlack or Jan-Niklas Beste, weren’t convincing during preseason either. Durm, too, will have to prove after his return whether or not he is up for the task. In the past, his performances were irregular in quality.
Another change at Dortmund is the switch back to Klopp’esque counter-pressing. BVB is back to attacking more offensively, giving opponents as little space as possible, and playing vertically themselves. These patterns were repeating again and again during Dortmund’s preseason tests. Time will tell how successful this step back to previous methods will be.
BVB had it all: performances that showed off their offense’s enormous firepower, to those that revealed massive instabilities. Bosz is still looking for balance – a task that should become easier once Weigl and Guerreiro return. Both are fast thinkers as well as good at handling the ball. Weigl in particular is irreplacable as midfield metronome.
One of the new manager’s goals, therefore, must be to relieve the deep-lying playmaker and solve Tuchel’s problems from last seaon. Dahoud could play a central role in this, but returning Mario Götze will also want to attack again. Both are player types that can help create structure, and rarely lose the ball. In midfield, Dortmund has high potential.
Balance and the offensive style both pose demands to the defense, too. The Yellow-Blacks regularly faced their biggest issues in this area in the past. The extremely offensive Bosz-(counter-)pressing lead to a couple of situations where entire parts of the team were taken out with one simple pass.
The weekend will be a good first indicator for the current situation. The lack of balance, the worries about injured players, and the transition from calm, patient possession play to more vertical football might all cost the team valuable points early in the season.
How can FC Bayern play?
But the record champion’s situation is far from carefree, too, keeping pace with Dortmund’s problematic preseason. Part of it were injuries that will cost Thiago, James, Bernat, Boateng, Neuer, and likely also Alaba participation in the Supercup. But injuries aside, Bayern showed very little in terms of structure and tactis, as well.
There are several potential reasons for that. One is that the Asian tour was exhausting for the players, with four games in ten days and the long travels in between leading to uninspired, lethargic performances. In contrast, the Telekom Cup saw brilliant early form from the team.
Tactics won’t change much under Ancelotti. One of the positive aspects of the preseason was Thomas Müller, who played well both in combination with James and in his usual role of “space interpreter” behind Lewandowski. Discussions about him and his role in the team should die down quickly if he continues on this level.
The game on Saturday is one against a team that will put Bayern’s build-up play under pressure. Ancelotti’s team had issues with that both in the past season and in the more recent past – Klopp’s Liverpool brutally lay open the weaknesses both of individual players, and the entire team structure.
Tolisso is still trying to find his footing and has to accommodate to having a lot less time to think on the ball than he’s used to from Ligue 1. His mistake against Liverpool, as well as some other situations, showed that he’s not quite ready for that yet. But the Frenchman also showed his talent. With a bit of patience and adaptation, he can solve many problems.
However, overall structure is much more important than single players. Just like Dortmund must find ways to relieve Weigl, Thiago is Bayern’s pivot point in midfield who controls everything. Ancelotti and the team will have to find solutions to replace the Spaniard situationally. Rudy, while playing for Hoffenheim, showed that he might be able to do that, and could be a help for this.
Build-up play in preseason was as catastrophic as it was because control in midfield was lacking completely. On Saturday, this will be the decisive strength to oppose Dortmund’s pressing. Without Thiago, it will be a real challenge.
Vidal should be a starter. Next to him, only Tolisso and Rudy are left as candidates for the second central midfield position, with Rudy the stronger footballing choice, but it would be an important test for Tolisso. Sanches is an option, too, of course, but his unreliable decision-finding process and hectical style of play is not ideal against Bosz’s BVB.
Generally speaking, fans should hope that the structural and conceptual weaknesses within the team will be solved by the coaching staff. The focus will be, once more, on coaching the team to perform at their best, at the best possible time. Last season, the biggest reason why this concept failed was lack of rotation.
Coman, Bernat (injured, unfortunately), and even unsettled Renato Sanches showed good performances during preseason, because they were allowed to play regularly. This is exactly the kind of balance that will be needed. The Supercup will be a first chance for all the young players and talents to show Ancelotti what they can do.
It would be tempting to see the game between these two teams as a crisis summit, although one should consider that there were understandable reasons on both sides for the results that happened. In the end, control in midfield and individual class will be the deciding factors. Whoever makes fewer mistakes in passing and frees themselves better from the opponent’s pressure will very likely win the first title of the season.
Interesting facts about the game
- Borussia Dortmund (5) and Bayern Munich (5) are record winners of the competition. Saturday’s winner will be sole title-holder.
- Since the rehaul of the competition (2010), Munich won the title 3 times, Dortmund 2 times.
- Robert Lewandowski and Thomas Müller can surpass Philipp Lahm as record player of the competition (all 6 games).
- Out of the active players, Müller and Robben (both 3) have scored the most goals in the Supercup. Best scorer, however, is Wynton Rufer (4 goals) of Werder Bremen.
- Since 2011, the game is held in the DFB Pokal winner’s or vice league champion’s stadium. Since then, the away team managed to win only once (FC Bayern – 2016).
The experts’ predictions are a new part of the preview. Going forward, an external expert will give their opinion on the game in a couple of sentences and predict the end result. A correct prediction earns them three points, a correct tendency (victory, draw, loss), one point. This will be compared to a second prediction, made by Miasanrot’s editorial team. At the end of the season, we will see whether the external experts gained more points than the Miasanrot team.
Our first expert for the season is Luca Gierl of Yellowwallpod. There, you can regularly find latest news around Borussia Dortmund. In their podcast episode #193 they invited MSR’s Maurice to talk about the Supercup.
Luca: Dortmund showed weaknesses both offensively and defensively during preseason, and Zagadou in particular, in his role as left-back because nobody else could do it, will likely be a weakness. Much will depend on Dembélé’s form and on how consistently Bayern will be able to shake off the high pressing. I expect that Bayern will be able to do that too often, and they will win 2-0.
Justin: I think the game will be unstructured and disjointed. Both will have to try and limit their own errors as much as possible. In the end, Munich, with their bad preseason, will have more issues with offensive Dortmund than the other way round, and lose 2-1.