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Marco Rose 4-2-3-1 Tactic & What Dortmund Can Expect

After two successful years with Red Bull Salzburg, German coach Marco Rose made a return to his home country to take on the role as Borussia Monchgengladbach manager for the start of the 2019-20 season. Rose has continued his success with Gladbach so far since taking charge and has only enhanced his reputation as a manager, with 50% of his matches won and his team well within the hunt for the top for again. Rose has since changed Gladbach's formation to primarily a 4-2-3-1, focusing more on quick transitions and the importance of fullbacks in build-up phases. Now that Rose looks prepared to take over at Borussia Dortmund in time for next season, we take an in-depth look at the tactics he's deployed in 2020-21. Here's what Marco Rose can bring to Borussia Dortmund.



Although chopping and changing his formation around frequently in the past, Marco Rose has stuck very true to a 4-2-3-1 system this season. Like most 4-2-3-1’s, Rose urges his fullbacks to advance with the play and become focal points in attack. Luckily, Rose has three fantastic players for the role in Stefan Lainer, Ramy Bensebaini, and Oscar Wendt. Conveniently, Lainer was a key figurehead of Salzburg’s lineup throughout Rose’s time at the Austrian club and the player and manager have a great understanding. A future Dortmund player? Probably not, even despite how much Dortmund could do with a new right-back.

Monchengladbach have been associated with a quick transition mentality, as Marco Rose implemented during his time at Salzburg. But Gladbach still utilize methods of playing out from the back when possible, with only Sommer and Ginter attempting a significant amount of long passes per game. The fullbacks are particularly important in this methodology, as they attempt to play through wider channels rather than central ones when playing out from the back. In particular, Christoph Kramer and Stefan Lainer frequently link up to provide forward passes into the right-winger. Gladbach use the right side in their attack 39% of the time, while also adopting the third most vertical approach in the league (29%). This means that quick attacking transitions and playing through the middle are still important to Rose, but not as much as the manager might have tried to do at Salzburg.

During build-up phases, Ginter and Elvedi are also important to maintaining possession, stretching the field with reasonably wide positions as the fullbacks get higher and the central midfielders come deeper to pick up the ball and form a central square by which they can use to advance the ball into the wide areas. When the team operates in a back-three, the role of the wing-backs becomes even more important as the wide forwards (if any are in the team) will play more inverted and look to combine in central areas.



When Gladach are pressing from the front, the attacking midfielder and striker work in tandem to stop the opposition from being able to play out from the back, as the wingers come close together and attempt to shut down wide spaces. This can take the form of a 4-2-2-2 shape with Stindl joining alongside the striker, or more 4-2-3-1 as he remains withdrawn and tries to stop the opposition’s number six from receiving the ball.

The pressing system utilized also appears to be more man-oriented rather than space or ball-oriented. For example in moments where the opposition goalkeeper has the ball, the striker may press the keeper, the wingers may cover the center-backs and the number ten will cover the opposition’s defensive midfielder. But the press goes far beyond just the front four to include the midfield two and the fullbacks. The fullbacks will frequently line themselves up with the opposition fullbacks in order to eliminate the option for longer balls or forward passes in the wide areas, as the defensive midfielders will usually engage with opposition central midfielders.

Interestingly for Marco Rose, instead of forcing his opposition back toward their own goal or to the middle, Monchengladbach have a strong desire to force their opposition into wide areas, where they are set up well to win back possession and engage their fullbacks in the attack. Gladbach’s press is also particularly aggressive. Although they have kept the fifth most amount of possession in the league this season (52%), they’ve also made the fifth-most interceptions per game. This emphasizes that even when they don’t have the ball, they look to win it back and go on the attack right away. This is all part of their quickness in transition.



As seems to be customary of former and current Salzburg managers these days, Monchengladbach place a heavy emphasis on quick transitions in both attack and defense transitional moments. Immediately after winning the ball, they look to utilize short vertical passes or a capable ball carrier to bring the ball up the pitch.

Their dribbling power has diminished from last season, particularly with the likes of Thuram, Herrmann and Plea spending more time on the bench. They’ve continued their verticality instead with an even heavier emphasis on quick, short passes instead. The interchange of the front four can also become very important when Gladbach play on the counter. As the striker makes a run into a wide area to create space, the right-winger may simultaneously drift inside to create chaos for the opposition. Plea and Thuram are particularly comfortable with this kind of interchange, which again Gladbach haven’t seen as much of this season.

This type of approach also requires ball-winning central midfielders and fullbacks to allow the team the ability to constantly stop their opposition and go again. Although Kramer sits in the top twenty in the league for tackles per game (2.1), they’ve really missed Denis Zakaria this season. Neuhaus is more of a creative, possession-based midfielder who likes to take shots from distance, so he has his advantages to the side as well. But Zakaria is so key to the way they play in both carrying the ball forwards for greater distances, and winning the ball back through tackles and interceptions when they’re out of possession. Finally, despite this emphasis on quick transitions, counterattacking is not necessarily a method of many goals for Die Borussen. It is however a fundamental aspect of their play in quickly opening up space for their forward players to express themselves in attacking areas.



Although Borussia Monchengladbach have lost a bit of traction in the race for the top four, Marco Rose’s team are still playing some great, tactically intriguing football. The emphasis on transitional moments and pressing from the front have been mainstays in both of Rose’s two seasons at the club, and he now appears to be following Lucien Favre’s footsteps as another manager to leave Gladbach for Dortmund. How this will affect Die Borussen for the remainder of the season remains to be seen, but at the very least, Borussia Dortmund fans finally have something to be excited about again.

So there it is! A tactical analysis of Marco Rose’s 4-2-3-1 formation and tactics with Borussia Monchengladbach this season. Do you think Rose is the right man for Dortmund? Share your thoughts on Twitter @mastermindsite or in the comments below. Also be sure to check The Mastermind Tactical Analyses, and Bundesliga articles. Thanks for reading and see you soon!


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