BVB in preseason with Thomas Tuchel

1650305-35004035-2560-1440“Something is ending now, which I, as a human, never wanted to end, but I absolutely have the feeling that I am doing the right thing. I have had no contact with other clubs, I have nothing up my sleeve, but I also do not intend to take a sabbatical.” Watzke added : “We have together taken the decision, that our way, which has brought us seven years of incredible success, will be ending at the end of this season.” Zorc added: “In the past seven years, we have written a modern football fairy-tale with you, Jürgen, as the main actor. You have given this club so much energy and enthusiasm.”

After seven years of heavy metal football, Klopp departed the Signal Iduna and was replaced by Thomas Tuchel, one of the most sought after coaches in Germany. Tuchel left Mainz as their most successful coach after the 2013/14 season and took a one year sabbatical. The interest in his services was so high that during his break he was linked to the German NT before the world cup, Sociedad, Hamburg and other Bundesliga teams.

Like his predecessor, Tuchel became a nation household while managing FC Mainz. Under his tenure, he took the club to new heights and guided them to Europe – twice. His tactical flexibility shown and was evident in his two wins against Van Gaal and Juup Heynckes’ Bavarian machine which led Juup Heynckes to saying he could one day manage Bayern. Tuchel agreed. “I am absolutely certain I’m capable of coaching Bayern München or any other big clubs, but taking such a job at the right time is important.”

Tuchel made the most of a hardworking Mainz side and finished in very high positions. His Mainz team were known for their supreme tactical understanding and flexibility to switch to different formations throughout the season and also in games. In his time at Mainz, tuchel used many systems; 4-4-2, 4-3-1-2, 4-3-2-1, 4-2-3-1.

Mainz shape was mainly ball-oriented and depended on the opposition strength. They successfully defended with a high and mid-low block. With the low defensive block, they maintained a compact and narrow shape making it difficult to attack them from central areas. Statistically, there’s a more than 100% increase in chance creation attacking central space than wide, explaining Tuchel’s aim of controlling the center. 

With the high defensive block, Tuchel’s Mainz defended from the front by pressing opponents in the first phase. They made it difficult for opponents to build play from central areas by cutting off passing lanes in a well coordinated manner, forcing them wide and intensifying their pressure in wide areas, particularly on fullbacks. “I think attack should be the first line of defence, I rely on uncompromising, quick switch play, a great willingness to run and aggression when it comes to tackling. I trust my players and really get them on board. If they are ready to devote themselves to our common goal,”

In the 2010-11 season- when they finished 5th! no Bundesliga team made more tackles and interceptions than Mainz, summing up their industry in defensive phases.Screenshot 2015-07-19 00

Preseason is generally a time to work on strategic plans for the up and coming season as well as focusing on fitness and conditioning players for the hectic season. Teams use this period to work on systems and formations from a tactical point of view and also to regain high fitness levels. Player interactions on and off the field is also a main priority. The evolution of the game has mean’t preparation nowadays is more focused on than ever, and Tuchel concurs. According to kicker, he surprised the Dortmund team with an in-depth tactical scouting report of Kawasaki Frontale before the friendly. That is the kind of man Tuchel is.

Tuchel studied sports science, and is referred to as a Sportwissenschaftler- Sport scientist. He is one of the modern football coach who likes to integrate football with maths and advanced statistics.

“The scientific view of the game is an interesting input, mathematics combined with football. Sitting together with scientists and program a mathematical calculation model on the basis of the analyzed games and it results in future probabilities. Benham(Statistician) himself says of himself that he could never coach a football team, but he can tell from which position it statistically is most likely that the striker to score because its system has analyzed countless shots on goal and constantly analyzed further.”

His analytical team have been doing extensive research on their sessions. Analyzing minute detail such as the players’ positioning when receiving the ball among other details.

“Tuchel started with the simple things: Which foot do I control the ball with? Which foot does my team-mate like to receive the ball with? These details seem small but can make our game a bit faster; I think our progress is clear. Defending so bravely and being so brave in possession feels good.” – Gundogan said

One of the first things Tuchel did when taking over was to bring in his own fitness staff, with Klopp’s coach Andreas Schlumberger switching to Bayern. According to Bild, he discussed fitness with his team and players and after a performance test set out individual fitness plans. Majority of Dortmund’s training sessions have been with the ball with Tuchel often overheard stressing on ‘control’.  “It’s a balancing act between athleticism, running and stamina on the one hand and ball possession and defensive play – both individually and as a unit – on the other hand.”

In-depth match preparation is something you can expect to see from Tuchel, however his choice of formations isn’t as regular. During his time at Mainz he often altered and switched formations based on the opposition.

In Dortmund’s preseason, Tuchel has shown similar levels of tactical flexibility by playing different systems, the idea remains the same however, to control possession in the center of field and use quick passing combinations to probe the final third.

“Dortmund are synonymous with attacking football,” Tuchel said. “I am very comfortable with that. We will press the ball a lot and play lots of attacking football. This is something I enjoy and so do the fans.” Tuchel when asked about his ideas for Dortmund showed great level of adaptability with his response. “My schematic idea doesn’t matter, we need to do what’s comfortable for the players.”

Against Kawasaki, Dortmund were lined up in 414/4231 variant with Weigl the youngest captain ever of 1860 Munich as single pivot and Castro in a more advanced starting position. The coach has told me how he rates me what he has seen of me and what plans he has with me. His analysis was very aptly. That what he’s up to me, convinced me enormously. He gave me made ​​it clear that he wants to work with me. I think our cooperation has great potential for me.” 

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Goalimpact measures the extent that a player contributes to the goal difference per minute of a team. If a player has a high GI value, then his team has a good goal difference when he plays compared to matches where he doesn’t play. An average player in my database has a value of 100. The best player in the world approximately 190.

Dortmund XI to face Frontale: Bürki; Piszczek, Subotic, Sokratis, Durm; Weigl; Hofmann, Kagawa, Castro, Maruoka; Reus. They won 6-0. Dortmund had a more controlled approach looking to build attacks through the center. Gung-ho vertical passes were less and there was a more positional game to control the tempo. Apparently Tuchel particularly works on this by training with a rhombus shape. Tuchel never used a football field entirely for players to practice instead formed fields of different shapes and sizes: diamonds, circles, rectangles so that players saw their space reduced to an almost negligible space where responsiveness is paramount. Tuchel was visibly disappointed whenever the team played a failed long ballScreenshot 2015-07-29 00tBurki, the new signing to take over as number one had an interesting role. Burki was proactive in possession and often positioned himself as a tool for circulating in the deeper areas of the field. He looked to bring the ball forward by moving out his box and at times positioned between the centerbacks as a pass option. Screenshot 2015-07-29 12This allowed Weigl to remain high, often positioning himself to receive a pass ahead of the centerbacks and control the center of midfield with short and simple distribution. His positioning was very good, often making himself available to a teammate. When in possession, he had a calm head and wasn’t really fazed when pressed. Tuchel has already said “It’s fun to work with him.” The fullbacks were generally positioned high to provide width in the attacking areas in deep build up. BVB looked to concentrate play on a zone with strong overloads forcing opposition to switch to ball side and quickly play to the underloaded area. Through Kagawa and Weigl’s clever positioning. Reus, who played up front had freedom to drop deeper, move into the channels and interact with the midfielders.Screenshot 2015-07-20 21Tuchel has been stressing on compactness and defensive organization in training. Two areas Dortmund really need to work on after last season. One fundamental of Tuchel’s playing philosophy is counterpressing. Tuchel urges his team to try to press immediately after losing possession. Against Kawasaki, Dortmund as we have come to know them immediately put pressure on the ball when there was a turnover. Here Dortmund have all their players in their opponents half, after losing the ball they quickly push on to win possession back. Their pressing in the shot below led to a goal after regaining the ball very high.Pressing high has it’s offensive benefits.bvbIn the second half, Dortmund made 10 changes. Wiedenfeller; Stenzel, Hummels, Stankovic, Schmelzer; Gundogan, Bender, Mkhitaryan, Sauerland and Aubameyang came on and they switched to a 4231. Gundogan who played in the double pivot played higher than the other six and controlled positioned in the higher areas of the field creating some sort of 4141 variant.

Against Bochum, Dortmund started in a 4312/442 diamond shape, this time Bender was used at the base of the midfield. diamondAgain Burki was used in circulating the ball in the initial stages of build up moving to the same line of the centerbacks at times. With the centerbacks being man-marked in some instances vs Bochum, Burki gives Dortmund a numerical advantage by joining in build up making it a 3v2.

Bender didn’t quite position himself to ensure a clean progression of the ball however. It seems Tuchel would prefer Nuri Sahin to play at the base as he is much better technically and in positioning. Mkhitaryan who has spoken on how eager he is to learn from Tuchel (“It was important that Tuchel and I had an intense talk. I immediately felt that he has great potential as a coach. He understands and lives football. He knows how to build up a game and how to defend. Afterwards I thought to myself: ‘Maybe it is the best to stay and learn from him.’) and Gundogan played beside Bender with Kagawa playing as the 10. Reus and Aubameyang were the attacking duo. In the second half, Dortmund switched to a more familiar 4231 formation with Gundogan playing as a mobile partner to Bender in a double pivot, again Tuchel switched to a 4141/433.

He is technically top, very meticulous and flexible. Every coach has a different handwriting. Klopp was completely different. Just as well Tuchel is a different type than Klopp. That’s a good thing. We therefore do not need to reinvent the football in Dortmund again. – Watzke


4 thoughts on “BVB in preseason with Thomas Tuchel

  1. This is absolutely top stuff! Exactly what I was looking for. Saw the Tottenham vs BVB game last night and wanted to go deeper into the Philosophy and Ideas of Tuchel. I am working towards being a Coach myself and have to say, this is a fantastic report! Keep up the good work! Also, while the basic philosophy of the team remains the same, high pressing with possession and incisive passing, what is it that Tuchel has changed at the Club?? Nutrition, Conditioning, Training to play multiple systems like Mainz? If you could have shed a little more light on that it would have been an even more complete report. Fascinating and very insightful none the less. Thank You!


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