Borrusia Dortmund are top of the Bundesliga, playing beautiful football with a team full of young exciting players. Most of the credit for the team’s success has gone to Nuri Sahin and Shinji Kagawa (two excellent players) but an equally important part of the team that is not getting much attention is Sven Bender, the defensive midfielder. Since this blog is about celebrating the players doing the dirty work I could not let this travesty continue.
The German Version of a Defensive Midfielder.
Sven Bender is the 21 year old central midfielder who keeps the Dortmund midfield together and allows the front five to terrorize defenders. Sven and his twin brother Lars played in the victorious German under 19 team of 2008 and he has continued to represent Germany at under 21 level. Germany play an attacking 4231 at all levels (even the women’s teams) and Sven is part of crop of young excellent central midfielders who grew up playing in this system. He is not a “destroyer” in the classic sense and focuses more on intercepting the ball rather than going in for crunching tackles. He has started 8 games this season but has not been booked once, which is very impressive because he is the ball winner in a very aggressive Dortmund midfield. His reading of the game is excellent and he understands his role in the team, being content to plug the gaps while everyone else pours forward(Dortmund often attack with seven players). The Bundesliga is filled with quick technical attacking midfielders playing in “the hole” and it is usually Bender’s job to mark these players out of the game. He has done a great job so far and Dortmund have the best defensive record in the league.
Zonal Marking has already pointed out that the role of central midfielders is changing and Bender is part of this new breed. He is not just an excellent defensive player but comfortable in possession too. Dortmund play a quick one touch passing game and Bender complements this perfectly as he has a great touch and awareness of space, usually preferring to play the short simple pass rather than trying something high risk. Some people may criticize him for “sideways passing” but a good possession team needs this kind of player to keep things ticking along. Some commentators thought that the team would struggle when team captain Sebastain Kehl went down with injury but Bender has come in as a more than adequate replacement.
Borrussia Dortmund’s Pressing Game and Bender’s Role In It.
Borrusia Dortmund use an all action pressing game to win the ball back high up the pitch and not let the opposition settle. This defensive approach needs young tireless players with lungs of steel and tactically astute players who will plug the gaps that naturally occur when a team plays a full press the way Dortmund do. The team plays a high line to squeeze the space in midfield and prevent the opposition from passing through them. Bender is crucial in his role as he has to patrol the dangerous gap between midfield and defence. With his more attacking team-mates closing down intensely there could be the danger of the team being “broken” and vulnerable to counter-attacks but Bender is there to ensure this does not happen. His pace and stamina allow him to cover the whole midfield, always looking to anticipate where the danger could be. His height (over 6 feet tall) and strength make him a very intimidating figure in that Dortmund field and takes some pressure off the centerbacks when it comes to dealing with longballs.
Sven Bender is an integral part of an excellent Dortmund team and would already be in the German national team if Germany were not already deep at his position. If he maintains his form then Lowe will not be able to ignore him any longer, especially if Dortmund qualify for the Champion’s League. He is the epitome of the modern central midfielder, one to watch for the future.