Borussia Dortmund have the firepower but there′s room for improvement in defense | Sports| German football and major international sports news | DW | 23.09.2017
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Borussia Dortmund have the firepower but there's room for improvement in defense

As they demonstrated in their dismantling of Borussia Mönchengladbach, Dortmund's attacking threat comes from all over the pitch. But, for DW's Matt Ford, their near-perfect defensive record is deceptive.

Borussia Dortmund's impregnable Yellow Wall was finally breached on Saturday by Borussia Mönchengladbach's Lars Stindl. But there was no celebration from the Foals' captain, nor from the travelling supporters behind the goal. The damage had already been done.

In the preceding 66 minutes, Gladbach had been taken apart by a display of attacking football so ferocious that there are now legitimate hopes that Dortmund can mount a genuine title challenge for the first time since they last won the Bundesliga in 2012.

As they have done in each of their Bundesliga games this season, Dortmund dominated possession. Admittedly, 79 percent wasn't quite the 83 percent they enjoyed away at Freiburg but this time, unlike in that goalless draw, they found a way through. Several ways, in fact.  

Variety is the spice of life

Dortmund are not reliant on one striker; the threat comes from all over the park. If the first half on Saturday was all about Maximilian Philipp, the second half belonged to Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. Even Julian Weigl, not known for his potency in front of goal, got in on the act with a sumptuous volley. It's that variety which will please Peter Bosz most.

In contrast to the endless horizontal passes in the Black Forest draw with Freiburg, the return of Weigl to the starting line-up gave Dortmund some much-needed penetration.

He split open the Gladbach defense with a laser-guided vertical pass into Aubameyang in the build-up to the first goal, expertly finished off by Philipp with a right-footed volley. Defender Sokratis produced a similarly inch-perfect pass for Dortmund's third, Philipp this time turning provider for Aubameyang.

1. Bundesliga 6. Spieltag | Borussia Dortmund - Borussia Mönchengladbach | 3. TOR Dortmund (Getty Images/Bongarts/C. Koepsel)

Pierre Emerick Aubameyang (center) and Max Philipp (right) were among the goals

Bosz will also be pleased with his team's high pressing and rapid transitional play, as exemplified by the second goal. When Mahmoud Dahoud pounced on Matthias Ginter's attempted clearance on the edge of the Gladbach box, he quickly found Jeremy Toljan who had sprinted to make himself available on the left, crossing for Philipp to make it 2-0 – left-footed, this time.

Aubameyang's second - Dortmund's fourth - came from a Mario Götze set piece, while Dahoud's midfield pressing instinct was again instrumental in the fifth goal. Intercepting a loose ball from Vestergaard, he wasted no time in sending Aubameyang on his way to his hat-trick.

Deceptive Dortmund

Nevertheless, for all the variety with which Dortmund were able to hurt Gladbach, Bosz will be concerned by his team's defensive frailties – which seems like a strange criticism for a team who have conceded one goal in six games. But that record is due in greater part to toothless Bundesliga opposition than solid defending.

Keeping clean sheets against Wolfsburg, ten-man Freiburg, Hertha Berlin and catastrophic Cologne is one thing but, as Tottenham Hotspur and Harry Kane demonstrated at Wembley in the Champions League, Dortmund are vulnerable to aggressive pressing and quick counter-attacks themselves.

Fußball Champions League Tottenham Hotspur - Borussia Dortmund (Reuters/D. Staples)

Harry Kane caused Dortmund major problems

Indeed, the first chance of the game on Saturday fell to Gladbach, Raffael and Stindl capitalizing on sloppy passing and playing in Thorgan Hazard who could only shoot straight at Roman Bürki. The three Foals combined twice in similar fashion before the break but Hazard's finishing again let him down. When Stindl did eventually beat Bürki, it was too late for Gladbach - but it may have done Dortmund a favor by ending a defensive record which doesn't reflect reality. 

Because, while Dortmund proved on Saturday that there is no more potent attack in the Bundesliga, they are not the full package yet and there is a long, long way to go. It begins with the visit of European champions Real Madrid on Tuesday who, as Bosz noted post-match, will pose a different challenge altogether.  

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