Borussia Dortmund’s left-sided specialist Raphael Guerreiro says he prefers playing in a team with three in defence, rather than four, following a successful 2019/20 season at wing-back for the Black-and-Yellows.
That they were able to push the champions all the way in the title race was in large part down to head coach Lucien Favre switching formations part-way through the campaign. Dortmund began 2019/20 using a 4-2-3-1, with Favre telling kicker magazine that a four-man backline is something “all big teams play with”.
However, with his side down in sixth after Matchday 12 with just 20 points on the board (at an average of 1.66 points per game), the BVB supremo switched to a three-man defence and a 3-4-3 line-up.
It paid off straight away. Dortmund won their next three league outings, beating Hertha Berlin, Fortuna Düsseldorf and Mainz and conceding just one goal in the process. By the end of the season they had taken a further 49 points from their remaining 22 matches at an average of 2.23 per game.
Guerreiro was one of the beneficiaries of the tactical switch, pushing up from left-back to make 23 of his Bundesliga appearances on the left wing. He only scored twice before Matchday 12, but ended the season with eight goals and three assists from his more advanced position.
Watch: Guerreiro Dortmund's humble hero
"Rapha keeps it simple,” said Favre of the Portugal international. “He’s got a very good feel for the game. He’s very savvy in front of goal and he’s got a really good shot.”
While Guerreiro, who joined Dortmund in 2016, says he “will play wherever the coach wants me to,” he nevertheless clearly enjoys getting involved in the final third: “I prefer playing with a back three. That gives me room to get forward and there’s always someone behind me to provide cover.”
Last season that was usually Mats Hummels, Manuel Akanji and Lukas Piszczek in defence, with Axel Witsel and Emre Can offering an extra shield in defensive midfield.
Dortmund are currently preparing for the new campaign at a training camp in Switzerland, and having retained the vast core of their squad, while adding Thomas Meunier as a replacement for Achraf Hakimi, they once again have the luxury of being able to experiment with personnel and formations as they look to lift the Bundesliga title for the first time since 2012.