Bosz’s high risk approach paying dividends at Borussia Dortmund

Peter Bosz wasn’t top of the Borussia Dortmund hierarchy’s list when it came to choosing a successor to Thomas Tuchel in the summer.

Indeed, he’d not have been a candidate the club’s fans would have called for either.

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By all accounts, OGC Nice’s Lucien Favre was the club’s pick. But a very firm “Non!” from the French Riviera club saw the German giants turn to the Dutchman in a move that surprised many people in the game.

When you’re not first choice, you have to work that bit harder to convince your doubters and make your mark. You have to hit the ground running. Bosz has done that and more.

Picking up 19 points from a possible 21, a record Bundesliga start for the club, has been an excellent way to silence any naysayers.

The 53-year-old admittedly had a fine first and only season in charge of Ajax last term – runners up in the Eredivisie and finalists in the Europa League with a squad that was more than a little wet behind the ears was no mean return.

But the overall picture of his managerial career at Heracles, Vitesse Arnhem and Maccabi Tel Aviv is one that has only ever suggested respectability rather than serious quality.

It certainly wouldn’t have suggested that he would get the Dortmund job – one of the more prestigious positions in the European game.

That said, the Dutchman’s work with the young players at Ajax last year and the style of play he espouses appear a good match for the German giants.

And it’s that style that is currently blowing away all comers in the Bundesliga.

The high intensity, high press, high defensive line are all familiar to Dortmund watchers – very much in tune with the work of Klopp and Tuchel before him – as is his focus on possession and ball circulation as both an attacking and defensive weapon.

The counter press remains key, but with a twist. The Dutch coach looks for his players to win back possession within five seconds of losing it.

But what happens from this point differs from some of his idols.

Whereas his predecessors at Signal Iduna Park and the likes of Pep Guardiola require their sides to retreat and regroup into a defensive shape if they can’t reclaim the ball quickly, Bosz demands his side hold their high defensive line and maintain a compact shape high up the pitch.

It’s brave, it’s exciting – but it’s also risky. However, the result has been an electrifying start to BVB’s Bundesliga campaign.

The Black and Yellow have scored 21 goals and conceded just 2 in winning 6 and drawing 1 of their opening 7 fixtures.

Interestingly, however, Bosz’s methods haven’t worked quite so well in the Champions League – where Dortmund have lost their opening two fixtures against Spurs and Real Madrid, conceding six times and scoring only two.

Conclusion? Perhaps quality football teams capable of withstanding and then bypassing the Dortmund press can exploit the wide open spaces Bosz’s side leave behind them.

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Certainly, the manner of goals conceded to Ronaldo and Son Heung-min in Europe provide at least some evidence to back that theory.

But while that may well prove to be the case at the highest level, on the evidence of their first seven domestic league games, there may not be enough sides in Germany capable of surviving Dortmund’s intensity.

And with champions Bayern Munich in disarray, hopes of a first BVB title since 2011/12 are sure to rise.

But it is still very much early days. Indeed, Dortmund’s display in their 2-1 win at Augsburg on Saturday was much less impressive than anything we’ve seen so far from Bosz’s men this term.

Perhaps the midweek exertions against Ronaldo and co took their toll.

That would be natural. But it also serves to highlight the other key doubt about Bosz’s methods – sustainability.

For the question may not in fact be whether opponents can repel the intensity of Dortmund’s play over the course of a long season, but whether the Black and Yellow players can sustain it.

Author Details

Paul Little

Freelance football columnist. European Football with the Irish Daily Star. Hold the Back Page podcast regular. Family and Renaissance Man. Dublin born, Wicklow resident.

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