Talking Points from Borussia Dortmund’s 3-0 win over Borussia Mönchengladbach

Erling Haaland and Gio Reyna scored for Borussia Dortmund (Photo by Alex Gottschalk/DeFodi Images via Getty Images)
Erling Haaland and Gio Reyna scored for Borussia Dortmund (Photo by Alex Gottschalk/DeFodi Images via Getty Images) /
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Manuel Akanji had a solid game at the back (Photo by INA FASSBENDER/AFP via Getty Images)
Manuel Akanji had a solid game at the back (Photo by INA FASSBENDER/AFP via Getty Images) /

Borussia Dortmund’s defence exudes stability and aggression

While Dortmund’s attacking display was very much a joy to watch, I was also very much impressed with the way the defence handled itself in this clash against Gladbach. From start to finish, despite a couple more shaky moments, the back line looked impressively strong as Mats Hummels, Manuel Akanaji and Emre Can lined up in the back three, with newcomer Thomas Meunier and Felix Passlack as the wingbacks.

Having already spoken about Passlack, lets start off with Meunier. The Belgian international came into the side surrounded by skepticism as to whether he could play the role Achraf Hakimi played for Dortmund. As mentioned in the past, the swap was never going to be one to one; Menuier and Hakimi are fundamentally different players. There were questions about whether Meunier could bring a similar attacking spark, and I think those questions have been tentatively answered: yes.

While Meunier perhaps isn’t as fast as the former Dortmund and Madrid player, he is still rather spry and able to work around some tight situations to be incisive. He was able to pull off a turn here and there to recycle possession for Dortmund back into the midfield. His interplay with Sancho was also quite good, with the two players reading each other’s play to create some dangerous opportunities for Dortmund. Meunier was also able to provide dangerous crosses into Gladbach’s box, and with some refinement, may unlock more threat from Dortmund in an aerial capacity both in the box himself and when passing to a teammate like Haaland, Hummels, or Can.

In addition, Meunier’s defensive actions seemed rather assured. Perhaps this comes with both his age and experience, but Meunier attended his defensive duties with a calmness Hakimi sometimes lacked, (this is of course not counting that one ball across the Dortmund box, I think we can all agree that was both heart stopping and rather risky of Meunier), which I hope is something Meunier can build on this season.

Looking across the back line, Hummels was of course the solid rock you would expect him to be. He led by example, making crucial tackles and clearances all game long. He did get away with what could have been called a penalty in the second half, as he made contact with Marcus Thuram at the edge of the box. Luckily for Hummels and Dortmund, the referee waved play on. Otherwise he was composed and continued his trend of sending passes forward with precision, and he also played a key role in getting the ball out to Sancho late in the second half for Haaland’s second goal.

Both Can and Akanji also looked much more assured at the back against Gladbach. The former looked much more comfortable than he did in some of his performances in preseason – he was able to make runs forward but also cover his defensive duties, creating on one end and providing crunching tackles and clearances on the other end. He was able to provide chances like the ball into Sancho which saw his header denied only by the post, and then also cut out dangerous balls into the box the likes of Stefan Lainer had a tendency to attempt.

The most impressive improvement defensively came from Manuel Akanji, however. Coming off an extended run of performances that left much to be desired last season, Akanji seemed so much more at ease in the back three with Hummels and Can. He especially showed his quality in the advent of the introduction of both Alassane Pléa and Marcus Thuram. Akanji marshaled Pléa particularly well, nullifying the danger he looked to pose Dortmund’s goal. It was a performance for Akanji that one hopes he will continue to replicate as the season progresses.