A horrendous display puts us on the verge of a Europa League exit as it finishes Dortmund 3-0 Spurs in Germany.
There was little to admire from us in Thursday night’s capitulation in the Westfalenstadion where it finished Dortmund 3-0 Spurs. The German side were much quicker in their play, more precise in their passing and operated at a tempo that our much-changed team couldn’t live with.
There was a lot going on in the game from a tactical standpoint. Dortmund’s use of Julian Weigel, the late third man runs of Erik Durm and the clinical through-passing of Henrikh Mkhitaryan were all a constant theme.
However, there were two highly prevalent factors at the centre of our capitulation. The first was the play of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, which was exposing Kevin Wimmer’s naive movement. The second was the lack of protection for Wimmer and the rest of our back four from Tom Carroll and Ryan Mason.
Spurs quick start
Before we were shunted backwards and in to playing much of the game in our half, there was a bright start.
With Harry Kane on the bench and without a recognised centre forward, Mauricio Pochettino opted for a front three of Christian Eriksen, Son Heung-Min and Nacer Chadli. Son and Chadli often rotated in and out of the number nine position with Eriksen floating in from the left. The trio caused the game’s first chance by trapping Dortmund nicely in their half, forcing a turnover. Eriksen took the ball, but could only shoot tamely at Roman Weidenfeller.
This set up also had an interesting use of Josh Onomah who would drop deep during the defensive phase, but then try and get out to expose left back Marcel Schmelzer when we had the ball. Onomah’s pace gave his opponent trouble and forced several corners, as well as allowing Kieran Trippier to get a couple of decent crosses in. Without a recognised centre forward though, these were wasted.
Both teams are renowned for their pressing and it was Dortmund that had the upper hand for much of the match with their insistence to swarm and keep us out of the centre of the pitch.
The German side were often first to the loose ball, but used their trio of Castro, Mkhitaryan and Weigel to swamp the ball carrier. These three were aided by Erik Durm and Marco Reus pinching in from their wider starting positions, which saw us struggle to get out of our half.
On the occasions we did escape it was because we played the ball over much longer distances, either switching the play from side-to-side in one pass or by sending it long on the diagonal. This pass is something Toby Alderweireld has made his calling card this season. However, without Dele Alli or Harry Kane to look for, we didn’t have the personnel to make this work and so the ball was coming quickly back.
Aubameyang vs Wimmer
With everything else going on around, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was the real thorn in our side throughout the game. The centre forward was dropping off the front in to the spaces left between the lines by Tom Carroll and Ryan Mason. From this position, Aubameyang could then either feed team mates in or send the ball out wide and race in to the box himself where he was also being smart. The forward was trying to pull on to a full back in order to use his height and strength advantage. This was giving Kevin Wimmer a real headache of when to come out and when to sit that he never got to grips with.
Wimmer got a warning as early as the sixth minute. He was sucked out by Aubameyang’s initial movement and then retreated as the centre forward got on the ball. This left Wimmer in no man’s land and Aubameyang free to pass in to Erik Durm’s run that saw the midfielder fire the ball just past the post.
Minutes later and Aubameyang was at it once more. Again, Wimmer started to come short with him and then stopped. This left the Gabon international free to play the ball out to Schmelzer to send in a cross. Aubameyang had raced in to box and tried to get himself on Ben Davies. As the cross came in, Tom Carroll fortunately got back to make enough of a nuisance of himself that Aubameyang’s could only scuff his volleyed effort just over.
The move was a warning as Dortmund took the lead through Wimmer’s naivety and Aubameyang pulling off to get isolated on Ben Davies again.
We failed to clear and as the ball went wide to Schmelzer, Wimmer had Aubameyang comfortably marked.
Wimmer wasn’t in the centre, but should’ve left Ben Davies to play the position, but instead decided to leave Aubameyang and dart back inside. This left the centre forward with a free run to get inside Davies and use his superior leaping ability to nod home. Wimmer was left marking fresh air.
With Dortmund dominating the first half, Mauricio Pochettino made some changes at the break. He was obviously concerned with how deep we were sinking and struggling to get out of our half, so he opted to play a much higher line after the interval.
This had its merits; it also allowed Aubameyang’s speed and his penchant for running in-behind defences to come in to play. On 50 minutes he was sent through from Mkhitaryan’s pass, but shot across goal with Castro then dinging the ball back out off the post.
Dortmund would then add their second from a corner and not long after the high line, space between the lines and Wimmer’s uncertain decision making saw them pretty much seal the tie with their third.
With no pressure on Julian Weigel, the defensive midfielder could easily play the ball in to Aubameyang who had come short in to the space between the lines. Mason and Carroll were again out of the game and this once more caught Kevin Wimmer in two minds, allowing Aubameyang to easily skip away from him.
Toby Alderweireld was forced out amd he couldn’t stop the Gabon international, who was now in full flow, and our defence was all over the place. Kieran Trippier was left marking Reus and Castro and as he went towards Aubameyang’s pass to Castro, Reus darted in to the space behind him. Wimmer, who had been sucked out, couldn’t recover to get back to Reus and a retreating uncoordinated, unorthodox mid-air sweep kick attempt at a clearance summed up his evening. Suddenly, it was Dortmund 3-0 Spurs.
In between the two goals from open play that were in large parts due to Aubameyang’s movement, Dortmund also scored from a corner. Their set piece was aided by poor defending from the pair that were operating in front of Wimmer and also the central defender himself.
Ryan Mason left Tom Carroll 1v2 from the short corner as he switched off. Kevin Wimmer then allowed Subotic to get the run on him and glance a header in to the path of Marco Reus. The look of disgust on Hugo Lloris’ face after Reus smashed home summed up our horrendous marking.
Dortmund 3-0 Spurs overall
Credit where its due, Dortmund were excellent. We did ourselves no favours by playing in to their hands through the inexperience of some of our players in our team selection. Kevin Wimmer had a shocker and was led a merry dance by the movement of Aubameyang, but he wasn’t aided by Tom Carroll and Ryan Mason leaving such large spaces between the lines on front of him. Had we closed this area off then the game may have taken on a different complexion.
Final score: Dortmund 3-0 Spurs.