Bundesliga matchday 2 is done and dusted with nine fascinating games producing goals, excitement, drama, controversy and everything you would expect from the best league in the world. But now the dust has settled, let’s take the opportunity to dig a little deeper and analyse one particular stand-out performance from the weekend. Step forward Julian Brandt.
The big question prior to Borussia Dortmund’s clash with Köln at the Rhein-Energie Stadion on Friday concerned Lucien Favre’s starting line-up. For both the DFB Pokal first round and last week’s opening win over Augsburg he had sent out the same starting XI. Aside from the returning Roman Bürki in goal, it was open as to whether the likes of Julian Brandt would get their first start.
The impact maker
As it happened the Schwarzgelben coach opted to keep faith with the ten outfield players from the previous games leaving Brandt on the bench along with the likes of Achraf Hakimi, Jacob Bruun-Larsen, Mario Götze, Dan-Axel Zagadou, Thomas Delaney and Mahmoud Dahoud.
BVB were taken aback slightly by a highly combative Köln side that pressed them all over and went in at the break 1-0 down thanks to Dominick Drexler’s headed goal on 29 minutes. Dortmund were below-par in the first 45 minutes and lacked the intensity needed to compete with an energised home side.
By the hour mark Lucien Favre had seen enough and sensed that a fresh impulse was needed to take advantage of a tiring Köln side. ‘Cometh the hour and cometh the man’ as they say with Julian Brandt sent on to replace a disappointing Julian Weigl and Achraf Hakimi also coming on for Nico Schulz. The substitutions saw Dortmund switch from their 4-2-3-1 formation to leaving Alex Witsel as the sole defensive midfielder and pushing Brandt further forward in a 4-1-4-1 line-up. The 23-year-old had excelled in the number 10 role for Bayer Leverkusen last season and was about to show just what he could do.
Brandt’s impact was immediate. With only his fourth touch of the game, he sent a superb though ball to Marco Reus, who was denied first by Timo Horn and then by a headed clearance off the line.
A clever tactical foul on Schindler followed as Köln looked to break from a Dortmund corner. The 67th minute saw Brandt open space up centrally for a shot on goal from distance, but it went high over the bar. Three minutes later and Dortmund were level with Jadon Sancho firing in a superb curling shot. Brandt was involved in the move over on the right hand side, which saw Sancho’s shot deflected for the corner, which ultimately led to the goal.
In the 77th minute he then provided a great ball played into Paco Alcacer, but the Spaniard inexplicably mis-controlled the ball and the excellent chance was spurned. Achim Beierlorzer reacted to by sending on Marco Höger as an extra midfielder in a 4-5-1 formation to try and negate the impact of Brandt. It didn’t work as Dortmund smelt blood. The 86th minute saw Brandt involved again and his ball that sent Lukas Piszczek away down the right was crossed to the far post for Hakimi to head in.
The only real blot on Brandt’s display was in the 89th minute when a a three-on-one counter attack from BVB fizzled into nothing with the former Leverkusen man picking the wrong pass with Alcacer and Reus both in support. Nevertheless, he came on in the 62nd minute with Dortmund 1-0 down and left the pitch 28 minutes later with the 3-1 up. Coincidence? I think not.
The tale of the tape
Jadon Sancho may have stolen the headlines with his goal and assist, but the impact of substitute Brandt was impressive too. He was only on the pitch for 28 minutes, but had 48 touches in that time. He made 35 accurate passes giving him a pass accuracy of 85.4%. He didn’t provide an assist, but he did deliver the key penultimate pass to Lukas Piszczek who crossed for Hakimi to score BVB’s second.
He had one shot that was off target, and won three out of four of his ground duels, and both of his aerial duels. His heat map shows that although deployed centrally, Brandt clearly went looking for the ball in order to influence the game. Despite his short time on the field, he produced 17 attacking third passes (15 successful) which was fourth amongst all players- Sancho led with 22 from 28. His two chances created put him level with Sancho, Schulz and Piszczek and only one behind Thorgan Hazard.
Borussia Dortmund are away at Union Berlin next weekend and Julian Brandt is certainly making it very difficult for trainer Lucien Favre to leave him out of the starting line-up for the trip to the capital.
In his own words
“The purpose of substitutions is to inject new momentum. Achraf contributed a goal and I tried to bring more tempo to the play. You could see how important it was in the end that we had quality players to bring on. Victories like this do a team good.”
“It was very, very difficult today. Cologne were on good form and they played a superb first half. They had a good atmosphere behind them which constantly spurred them on. You could see how difficult that was for us. At the beginning of the second period, we got that under better control, had a greater share of possession and thankfully scored the three goals.
“For me, it was a release to finally get back on the pitch. I gave my best and it’s good to know that the lads on the bench can provide the fresh legs we need.”
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