Borussia Dortmund II: attacking third pressing in minutes 0-15

It’s safe to say that I’m a big fan of 3. Liga. There is something spectacular about that league that has so many important outcomes. Relegation to Regionalliga means a lot to clubs in a negative way, but promotion to the 2. Bundesliga is a great step up and makes the dream of playing in the 1. Bundesliga feasible.

In this article, I will look at Borussia Dortmund II. This second team is allowed to play in the 3. Liga, but is not allowed to be promoted. But there is enough incentive to get better and learn, as they are progressing the talents and making them ready for the first team.

Today I’m looking at the pressing from Borussia Dortmund II and I wanted to focus on the attack third pressing – pressing the goalkeeper and central defenders. I’ve taken the decision to this in the first 15 minutes of the game, as many 3. Liga teams are known for pressing their opponents early on and getting quick goals.

In the image above you can see the pressing done by Borussia Dortmund II in the 2021/2022 season so far. In this pitch provided by InStat you can see how they are set up: by third. If we look at the numbers of pressing, the defensive third has the least, followed by the middle third and the attacking third the most – which is quite local. In the time fram we are looking (0-15 minutes) Dortmund has pressed 35 times.

As you can see the pressing has been done in the middle but also on the flanks. For the purpose of this article I want to look at the pressing done at the goalkeeper and central defenders. You can see that in the image below.

As opposed to the pitch above, you see a pitch with 18 different zones. Now every zone can illustrate something really interesting, but again I want to focus on the attacking third, especially the middle zone with 14 in it. This 14 means that there were 14 pressing moments in the first 15 minutes of the games so far in this season.

Before I’m going to how Dortmund pressed, I wanted to explain why it’s relevant to look at this element of their game. If we want to see whether a team is aggressive and wants to recover the ball high up the pitch to create goalscoring opportunities from those areas, we can measure it by looking at the press. How do they do it? Where do they do it? I have 3 different examples where Dortmund do exactly that.

In the video above you Dortmund II in their game against Viktoria Berlin. The opposition has the ball and we see that Dortmund II is lined up with two inverted wingers/double #10 higher than the actual striker. At the moment that the goalkeeper passes the ball to one of his central defenders, the pressing has been triggered and the striker will press the player on the ball. Depending on which side the central defenders has his vision, that particular winger will press that flank as well. The striker presses aggressively while the wingers will only press intensely when the ball is going their way. The idea behind pressing in this example is to force the defender to give a long ball forward – in order to win the aerial duel and construct an attack themselves.

In the video above you Dortmund II in their game against VfL Osnabrück. You see 3 player in that 2-1 formation going forward. As soon as the ball is played from the central defender to the right full back, two players press as a unit towards the central defender and full back, with the #10 also following to block passing lanes or preventing the defensive midfielder getting the ball. In doing so they force the defence to play it long towards the middle third, or towards the goalkeeper – who will be pressed by one of the player from that two-man unit, making it uncomfortable for the goalkeeper.

In the video above we see Dortmund II in their game against Kaiserslautern. The attack ended at the right flank after which Kaiserslautern had the ball. They choose to resume play via the other flank to build, because there is space. When the defenders have the ball on the right flank, the pressing scheme is different, because the position of pressing is optimal. Instead of pressing organised or with 2 players, Dortmund II opt to only use the striker who needs to be aggressive in his pressing. This will mean that if it’s successful, the full back will play the ball back to the central defenders/goalkeeper or kick it long to the middle third.

Final third

In the first 15 minutes, everyone is fresh and steady. They want to make a mark and we have seen in the videos above how Dortmund II press the central defenders and the goalkeeper, by using different forms of intensity: a high pace, aggressive press by the striker and a structured press by the inverted wingers/double #10s in a unit. The press will be different later on in the game and subject to tactical changes, but Dortmund II set out to make a mark via this kind of pressing in the first 15 minutes.

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