Borussia Dortmund's Attacking Woes Epitomised By Jadon Sancho in Augsburg Defeat

James Cormack
Sep 26, 2020, 5:45 PM GMT+1
Borussia Dortmund were poor in their 2-0 defeat at Augsburg
Borussia Dortmund were poor in their 2-0 defeat at Augsburg / DeFodi Images/Getty Images

Borussia Dortmund fell to a miserable 2-0 defeat at Augsburg on Saturday afternoon, as strikes from Felix Uduokhai and Daniel Caligiuri handed the hosts a deserved three points.

This was a contest in which BVB's flaws were laid bare. With Heiko Herrlich's side well-drilled in a compact 4-4-2 block, the visitors seemed stumped from the get-go.

Heiko Herrlich outfoxed Lucien Favre and Dortmund
Heiko Herrlich outfoxed Lucien Favre and Dortmund / DeFodi Images/Getty Images

The majority of Dortmund's success under Lucien Favre - especially when the Swiss coach switched to a 3-4-2-1 midway through last season - has come through rapid transitional play and the overloading of ingenious creators between the lines, who penetrate the half-spaces and establish a deadly dynamic with the marauding wing-backs.

Herrlich, though, ensured Favre's men would have to conjure up alternative solutions if they were to break down his side.

Space came at a premium between the lines, Erling Braut Haaland was isolated against Augsburg's two impressive centre-halves and they committed a limited number of bodies forward to ensure they didn't get murdered in transition.

But thanks to a set-piece which should've been claimed by Roman Burki and a deadly counter-attack of their own, Augsburg were still able to score twice. Dortmund, meanwhile, looked utterly bewildered and flustered.

Anonymous / DeFodi Images/Getty Images

Where was all the space?!

Perhaps one man who epitomised their woes was superstar Jadon Sancho, who, after an impressive showing in their season opener against Gladbach - where they were able to wreak havoc in transition - churned out a forgettable display.

Functioning as one of the interchangeable inside forwards behind Haaland, Sancho typically took up smart positions between Augsburg's defensive and midfield lines - often drifting into the central space. But with the space afforded to him minimal, the Englishman - like Giovanni Reyna, Jude Bellingham and anyone who found themselves in similar zones on the pitch - struggled. His touch had to be perfect, movements had the be timed to perfection and combinations had to be extremely efficient.

But he, like were rest of the super-talented Dortmund attack, were disticntly out of sync.

Augsburg's physicality and ruggedness got the better of BVB's nimble creators
Augsburg's physicality and ruggedness got the better of BVB's nimble creators / DeFodi Images/Getty Images

Passes went astray, touches were too heavy and combinations were anonymous. They seemed overwhelmed by the ruggedness of the Augsburg block - the same side they'd put five past and killed in transition last season on Haaland's debut, turning around a 3-1 second-half deficit to win 5-3.

The introductions of Marco Reus and Julian Brandt signalled a change in Sancho's role. With Augsburg setting up their own blockade, Sancho - along with Reyna - were thrust out wide.

But this didn't suit Sancho at all. With Dortmund's structure to their attacking play all wrong, they failed to support and overload the flanks which may have granted the 20-year-old greater freedom to have an impact.

The England international was as isolated as they come on the right, with Emre Can behind him and the odd underlapping run from Brandt the only form of support Sancho received. He regularly found himself one-vs-two against Iago and the tenacious Carlos Gruezo and on the sort of day the Dortmund star was having, it was a battle he was rarely going to win.

Overall, though, while some may be hasty to point this defeat to being 'just one of those afternoons', there's no doubting there are systematic flaws in this Dortmund side.

They clearly lack solutions against sides that sit deep, lack outlets when Haaland can't run channels and now Hakimi's wreaking havoc at San Siro and are incredibly vulnerable in defensive transition with the role Jude Bellingham's been tasked with since his signing.

It's the role Julian Brandt mastered last term, with the 17-year-old constantly moving up to join the Dortmund attack and facilitate combination play which leaves Axel Witsel as a one-man band to prevent the opposition from penetrating vertically.

Jude Bellingham had mixed success playing in the Julian Brandt role
Jude Bellingham had mixed success playing in the Julian Brandt role / DeFodi Images/Getty Images

Today, they were pitiful defending the counter. Augsburg could attack with two or three bodies and still cause all sorts of problems. The hosts' second goal, meanwhile, was one they'd been threatening all afternoon with the superb Caligiuri the beneficiary of an unbalanced Dortmund backline.

Nevertheless, despite how bad today was, there's certainly no need to panic just yet.

It's only matchday two and although Bayern don't look like losing another game ever, plenty can happen in 35 games. But after seeing their struggles today, there's little doubting that more Bundesliga outfits will set-up against Dortmund as Augsburg did today.

The onus is on Favre and a supremely talented BVB attack to discover solutions. They simply can't afford to drop more points against middle-of-the-road opposition if they're to end Die Roten's monopoly over German football in 2020/21.