Stuttgart’s Speed Too Much for Disorganised Dortmund

stutt2Borussia Dortmund didn’t have a great start against Stuttgart. In fact, it only took them five minutes to cough up a goal in remarkable circumstances. Stuttart midfielder Santiago Ascacibar hit a fairly harmless ball over the top, looking for Chadrac Akolo but not getting anywhere near finding him. That allowed Marc Bartra, Dortmund’s centre-back, to nip in and mop up any danger, but when he attempted to pass the ball back to his goalkeeper, Roman Burki, he created some danger of his own.

The pass was too strong, especially given that Burki had charged out of his own goal, and the shot-stopper couldn’t bring it under his control. His loose touch enabled Akolo to swoop in, take over possession and walk the ball into the back of the net. That was 1-0 for Stuttgart, and though many might argue that they got fortunate, which of course they did, there was a system to Stuttgart’s play that brought about this opportunity.

Just a couple of seconds beforehand, Andreas Beck, operating at right-back for Stuttgart, hit a ball over the top for Akolo. Former Barcelona man Bartra looked to have it covered, but then Akolo put his turbocharged pace to good use. He breezed in behind Bartra, at almost breathtaking pace, and hit a first-time cross into the area. It was cut out but, on the very next move, Stuttgart again hit a lofted ball over the Dortmund defence in a bid to find Akolo. That second pass, as it turned out, was the one which created the chaos between Bartra and Burki, and the one that created their opener.

In a lot of ways, these two early sequences summarised the game. Dortmund held the ball for the most part, but they poured forward in numbers and were therefore disorganised and undermanned at the back. That gave Stuttgart the opportunity to drive at them, especially on the counter-attack, and they came up with a strategy to do it.
Put simply, it involved firing forward balls into their speedy frontline, and just before half-time, when striker Daniel Ginczek found himself unable to continue and therefore replaced by Takuma Asano, the speed-oriented style became even more pronounced.

Even at half-time, when Akolo had to be substituted due to injury, Stuttgart made a pace-based change. Josip Brekalo entered the fray, and just minutes after the restart, he powered beyond the Dortmund backline. Naturally enough, this happened during a counter-attack, and with one sharp vertical pass from Berkay Ozcan, Brekalo was running into the open field. The scenario was two-on-two, with Asano up alongside Brekalo. Dortmund only had their centre-backs in defensive positions, so it always looked likely that Stuttgart could fashion an opportunity. Brekalo quickly cut back inside, steadied himself and scored, and with that, Stuttgart had their second goal and would go on to claim a 2-1 victory.

This is how Stuttgart went to work against Dortmund. They used their speed in attack to perfection, and given the desperate lack of cohesion in the Dortmund backline, that was always going to allow them to generate openings. Another such opening arrived on 70 minutes, when Arsenal loanee Asano burst in behind to latch onto a long, aerial ball. His speed took him away from Julian Weigl initially, and even though he then went back to square up to the same player, Asano breezed by him with a neat piece of skill. The Japanese then crossed into the goalmouth with enough precision to tee up a volley for Ozcan. The youngster probably could’ve done better, punching his shot over the bar, but the move was nonetheless illustrative of how well Stuttgart executed their plans.

The club’s manager, Hannes Wolf, would’ve loved it, and even more broadly speaking, he would be pleased that the newly-promoted Stuttgart find themselves in 11th place. That means they’re comfortably mid-table with a young team that also features a smattering of experience, and with wins like this against Dortmund, they’ve also shown an ability to successfully go up against strong teams.

To cap things off, a win against BVB would’ve been even sweeter for Wolf because he used to coach the club’s youth teams, and now, at Stuttgart, the 36-year-old is proving himself to be yet another talented up-and-coming German manager. His team is also showing signs of progress, and with a strong, cohesive and, perhaps more than anything else, pacey performance against top opposition, there’s no reason why the likes of Akolo, Brekalo and Asano can’t continue to propel Die Roten to bigger things.

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