Breaking Down How Thomas Tuchel Has Changed Borussia Dortmund Tactically

Stefan Bienkowski@@SbienkowskiFeatured ColumnistAugust 25, 2015

Dortmund head coach Thomas Tuchel shouts to his team during the German Bundesliga soccer match between Borussia Dortmund and Borussia Moenchengladbach in Dortmund, Germany, Saturday, Aug. 15, 2015. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner)
Martin Meissner/Associated Press

Borussia Dortmund have looked like a completely new side since Thomas Tuchel took over the reigns of Germany's second club this summer. 

Although the transition from Jurgen Klopp to the new coach was always expected, few could have predicted just how drastically different and just how well it would have gone. Tuchel has wiped the slate clean and started from scratch on the tactics board, and as such quickly turned this team around.

Perhaps the most notable aspect of Tuchel's new rule over this side is the manner in which Dortmund have finally given up any hope of playing a quick, long-ball game and instead turned to a style of play that Klopp himself once championed. 

The club's disastrous campaign last season was perhaps best summed up by the manner in which Klopp's team regularly punted the ball up the park in hope more than anything else. It lacked accuracy, it lacked desire and ultimately it lacked success. As Dortmund seemed off the pitch, the team looked clueless and out of ideas on it. 

The turn in fortune this summer has been down to a number of factors, but Tuchel's decision to go back to basics and play a simple, short-ball game has improved the standard of play at the Westfalenstadion drastically, and as such the manner in which Dortmund go about winning games. 

Mats Hummels, Neven Subotic and Sokratis Papastathopoulos have all been told to stop their punts up the park, and instead Dortmund now look to start attacking plays from the back with composed, short passes. 

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Again, it sounds all very standard for most modern sides, but the manner in which Dortmund have utilised their central midfielders under Tuchel in just a few short months has been nothing short of a complete transformation of the manner in which the team plays the game. 

Matthias Schrader/Associated Press

It's this new approach that has brought Dortmund's attacking line back to life. Henrikh Mkhitaryan scored five goals in all competitions last season, yet in just six games so far this year he's managed to already bag seven. Shinji Kagawa, who picked up six last season, already has two goals in his first five games under Tuchel. And Marco Reus, the star of this side, has three in five games and never looked better in the black and yellow. 

This move toward "tiki-Tuchel" and away from the hustle and bustle of Klopp's reign has also affected a number of individuals within the squad, as more technical players have thrived under the new style of football. 

Perhaps the most notable is Julian Weigl—the young signing from 1860 Munich—whose technical, specific style of holding on to the ball with quick, efficient passes have quickly outlined him as a more viable option in the defensive midfield role than more experienced yet brutish alternatives such as Sven Bender. 

With Weigl in the side Tuchel is able to push Ilkay Gundogan further up the park alongside Kagawa, through the middle of the pitch, and in turn allow the German international to play his more preferable game off the striker.

Although his sides tend to start in standard 4-2-3-1 formations, with Weigl as the anchor Tuchel's teams actually tend to attack in a 4-1-4-1 system that allows the full force of the club's attacking talent to combine in counter-attacks. It's these intricate little changes that have transformed Dortmund from a troubled side to one that could challenge for serious honours this season.

Another example of Tuchel's ability to turn players' forms around is left-back Marcel Schmelzer. Last season was a troubling campaign for the German defender, as he struggled with not only his defensive positioning and marking in a back line that never looked truly settled under Klopp, but also in his signature ability to push forward and attack. 

Dortmund's defence has gone from conceding 42 goals in 34 league games last season to keeping a clean sheet in both their opening two games and looking far more assured. Schmelzer looks like a new player in attack and defence, and the entire back line look rejuvenated from back to front. 

We may only be a half-dozen games into the new season and two games into the league campaign, but already it looks as though Dortmund are a team renewed, all thanks to Tuchel and his new tactics. 


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