Well, I’ve reached the winter break of the first season of the Borussia Dortmund save, so I thought it was an ideal time to update you on how things have been going. This is probably the most ‘classic Football Manager update’ you’ll get throughout this save, so it will be a little bit of a throwback to how I used to write on this blog.
In the last update, I covered the development of the first tactic I intended to use with my Dortmund side. I also outlined how it was designed to get the best out of my new signings – particularly Kasper Dolberg and Matthijs De Ligt. I also analysed the DFL-Supercup against Bayern Munich – as we came away with a 1-0 win against Heynckes’ side following a goal by Andre Schürrle. To say I was pleased would have been an understatement. I was also very optimistic about the 3-4-3, thinking it was a system we could use moving forward.
However, future matches illustrated to me that this wasn’t the case (at least against some opposition – it seems to work wonders against Bayern) and as a result I’ve had to be fairly flexible tactically throughout the first half of the first season of this save.
Throughout the first half of the season, I’ve used the 3-4-3, a 4-2-3-1, a 4-1-3-2 and finally now a 4-4-2. I’ll very likely be doing a standalone piece on the 4-4-2 if it should continue to work by the end of the season (that’ll effectively be the end of season update), but it is a high pressing counter attacking 4-4-2 based on winning the ball and breaking forward quickly with short sharp passes.
Our adoption of the 4-4-2 has also coincided with the rise of Alexander Isak from talented young player (who I’d put into the first team as backup) to one of the most important players in our team. Since coming into the team to partner Kasper Dolberg upfront – largely because I had precious few options and I know he’s good on the game, Isak has scored 9 goals in 10 games, finishing off everything that has been sent his way by Dolberg (who currently has 15 goals and 10 assists for the season). They’ve been a terrifying front two, and I hope to keep them together even if I have to move away from the 4-4-2. I’m getting ridiculous numbers out of the system, such as 8 Clear Cut Chances in one half. Here’s an example of the ridiculous shot quality created by the system.
An example of the type of chances the 4-4-2 creates as Isak goes one on one with the keeper to put us 2-0 up against Augsburg. This all came from a Dolberg through ball.
Well that’s all well and good, but how are we actually doing? Well, here’s an exhaustive list of our results. I’m not going to bore you by going through all of those, but as you can see things are going very well in the Bundesliga, with only losses to Freiburg and Hertha to our name. Conversely, we’ve beaten Bayern (with the 3-4-3), Schalke (with the 3-4-3) and Leipzig (with the 4-4-2). Realistically, only Leipzig and Bayern stand a chance against us at the moment, and they’re the two teams I’m going to be focusing on for the rest of the season, but more on that later.
Unfortunately we were dumped out of the DFB-Pokal in the 3rd round away to Wolfsburg, but although I’m disappointed by that because it marked the end of our fantastic run with the 4-4-2 that began against Leipzig, I’m not entirely gutted because it now means we can focus on the Bundesliga.
Speaking of the Bundesliga, things are going very, very nicely. We sit 6 points clear at the top of the table at the winter break, with Leipzig as our main rivals.
Don’t even ask me what’s happened to Bayern. They’ve been rubbish. We’re 9 points ahead of them, and we would have been even further ahead had we not thrown away a 2 goal lead in our final game before the winter break against Hoffenheim – who have sacked Nagelsmann – by conceding a 97th minute equaliser. We’ve been top of the table since match day 7, and at the moment we show no sign of letting it slip. The closest the lead has come was 2 points before we faced Leipzig, and we destroyed them 4-2 – they were lucky to even score – to push it back up to 5.
Here’s our top contributors, but honestly I’d say our key players so far have been Alexander Isak, Kasper Dolberg, Jadon Sancho and Julian Weigl. Isak and Dolberg have combined to wreak havoc with opposition defences, Sancho’s torn left back’s to shreds from the right wing, and Weigl’s controlled absolutely everything since he returned from injury, shown by his 7.22 average rating.
We’ve also been doing extremely well in the Champions League, finishing first in a group that included Spurs, Spartak Moscow and Olympiakos. How have we been rewarded? A First Knockout Round against Messi et al. at the Nou Camp. Hopefully the 4-4-2 is still in full flow by that point, and we can pull of somewhat of a shock.
Thanks FM, thanks a bunch.
So what next? Well, with the handy transfer budget I’ve managed to accrue, I can be very proactive in the transfer market. I may do this as a standalone squad building article, but there are several positions that I feel I need to look at, but only for depth. I’m very happy with the starting lineup, apart from perhaps one key position. This is the current first choice starting lineup:
Bürki; Piszczek, De Ligt, Akanji, Lato; Sancho, Weigl, Dahoud, Pulisic; Dolberg, Isak
I’d be interested to read/hear what many of you think should be the next transfer focus with that as my starting lineup. I intend to do a standalone squad building article before hopefully doing a special focus on the 4-4-2 if it continues to work as it has been. I’m still genuinely really enjoying this save, and I’d honestly forgotten how much I love playing in Germany. So, until the next update, thank you very much for reading, and should you have any questions regarding this save, the 4-4-2 or just Football Manager in general, then please don’t hesitate to ask either in the comments section of this blog, or on Twitter (@JLAspey). Thank you once again for reading.