AFTER 10 rounds, the Western Bulldogs were arguably premiership favourites.

They had a 9-1 record and had regularly put teams to the sword with a ballistic gameplan and execution that was thrilling to watch, thanks largely to a glut of A-grade midfielders, tall forwards marking the ball inside 50 and a defensive unit playing beyond its reputation.

Then Melbourne got in the way.

The Demons inflicted just the second loss of the season on Luke Beveridge's men last Friday night at an empty Marvel Stadium.

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Highlights: Western Bulldogs v Melbourne

The Bulldogs and Demons clash in round 11

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So, is there anything to learn from that loss and the second-half Richmond tsunami a month earlier that also unravelled the Bulldogs?

Pick apart as much as you like, but the simple answer is pressure.

Let's put the caveat aside – like many other teams, the Bulldogs have injuries, headlined by Josh Dunkley and Adam Treloar.

If they're back at full health, this might change the equation, as it would for many other teams in the same boat.

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Teams simply have to apply more pressure than the Bulldogs to have a chance.

In their nine wins, the Bulldogs have won the contested possession count by an average of 20.8, compared to losing it by an average of 13 against the Dees and Tigers.

This also feeds into another statistic, provided by Champion Data, that shows in those losses the Dogs are poor in defensive one-on-one contests, losing a concerning 38.5 per cent.

Western Bulldogs

Avg. in Wins

Avg. in Losses

Contested Poss. Diff.

+20.8

-13.0

Inside 50 Diff.

+16.7

-4.0

Marks Inside 50

15.9

10.5

Goal per Inside 50 %

26.8%

15.8%

Pressure Factor Applied

1.84

1.74

Unforced Giveaways

10.8

14.5

Score from Turnover Diff.

25.0

-22.0

Score from Stoppage Diff.

23.0

-7.0

Def. 1on1 Win rate

34.0%

15.4%

Def. 1on1 Loss rate

26.0%

38.5%


This goes far beyond their key defensive stocks, but it's interesting to note Tom Lynch (12 marks) and Jack Riewoldt (seven marks) did well, as did Tom McDonald, Sam Weideman and medium-sized Bayley Fritsch, who combined for eight goals and 22 marks.

One post-match comment from Christian Petracca stood out last week, saying a focus for the Dees was to "trust the tackler", sending just one player to tackle a Bulldog and leaving his teammates to guard space outside the contest.

It worked. The Bulldogs love to rifle handballs in tight until they can find space and overlap run.

With this facet of the game denied, it leads to more difficult inside-50 entries. The Bulldogs have averaged just 10.5 marks inside 50 in their losses compared to almost 16 in victories.

Hayden Crozier kicks under pressure in the Bulldogs-Melbourne game in round 11, 2021. Picture: Getty Images

The Bulldogs have also partly brought defeat upon themselves, with their 'Pressure Factor' dropping from an average of 1.84 to 1.74 in losses.

They have coughed up the ball with more unforced giveaways and opponents have punished them.

Richmond and Melbourne have shown if you force a turnover, it's a good time to expose the Bulldogs' defence.

The differential from turnovers in wins is a plus-25, compared to a minus-22 in losses.

There's certainly no single way to upset the rampaging Dogs – and two games is a small sample – but out-pressuring them, forcing scrappy forward-50 entries, and punishing turnovers to put their defence under pressure gives you more of a chance.

Simple, right?