What is going wrong at Borussia Dortmund?
Played 20, Won 5, Drawn 4, Lost 11. The table makes for grim reading for a Borussia Dortmund side that currently sit third from bottom in the Bundesliga as we pass the halfway mark of the season. Prior to the start of the campaign it would have been almost inconceivable that the 2011 and 2012 champions top flight status would be in jeopardy. Despite the magnitude of the club, the Ruhr based outfit find themselves firmly embedded in a relegation battle and are running out of time to turn things around.
The aforementioned seasons drew almost uncanny comparisons to the club’s ‘golden era’ in the mid to late nineties. Dortmund secured successive Bundesliga titles in 1995 and 1996 and then went on to clinch the Champions League the following season. Although the club only managed to finish runners up to rivals Bayern Munich in the 2013 Champions League final, the achievements of the squad were regarded as on par with the success of 2 decades prior. Things were looking up for Dortmund.
Fast forward to the current day and things couldn’t be more different. Dortmund look like a team bereft of ideas and struggling for the faintest glimpse of consistency. Manager Jurgen Klopp is experiencing his first real period of pressure since taking over the club in 2008, however the world class players available for Klopp to choose from are undoubtedly underachieving and must take the bulk of the blame for the club’s dramatic decline in form.
There are a number of theories worth exploring that could relate to Dortmund’s astronomical yet somewhat inexplicable slump.
It’s fair to say that Dortmund have been immensely unfortunate on the injury front this term. Star man Marco Rues has missed several games due to ankle ligament damage; the same injury that prevented him from being part of Germany’s World Cup winning squad. Jakub Blaszczykowski has been sidelined for a number of weeks with a muscle tear and utility player Kevin Grosskreutz is currently out for around six weeks with a hamstring problem. Defender Mats Hummels and midfielders Ilkay Gundogan, Sven Bender and Sebastian Kehl have also been sidelined for notable portions of the season. Regardless, with a squad of such depth and talent, injuries can’t be to blame for the club’s woeful situation.
There has certainly been a shortage of goals this season and Dortmund fans will point the finger at one man. Not a current player however; but their ex-talisman, Robert Lewandowski. He was Dortmund’s leading goalscorer in 3 consecutive seasons before leaving for Bayern Munich ahead of the current campaign. The Polish international managed 74 goals in 131 games in his time with the club; better than a goal every other game on average.
Gabon international Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was signed from French side Saint-Etienne in an attempt to replace Lewandowski as the club’s go to man for goals. Although he is Dortmund’s top goalscorer in the league, he has proven to be nowhere near as prolific as his predecessor. It is worth noting that he has only managed 7 goals so far this campaign, a fair way off the Bundesliga’s top goalscorer, Eintracht Frankfurt’s Alexander Meier who has 13 goals to his name.
Despite losing their main source of goals, Lewandowski’s departure cannot be seen as the reason, or in any way used as an excuse, for Dortmund possessing the third lowest goals scored tally in the division.
You also can’t argue that the fans are not behind the team. The Westfalenstadion has a capacity of over 80,000 and Borussia Dortmund boasts the highest average attendance of any football club in the world. Home games are always a vibrant and noisy affair, with the terraces awash with the yellow and black of Dortmund. Despite being deservedly booed off after their last home game – a first ever defeat at the hands of high-flying Augsburg – the loyal supporters have, for the most part, continued to give their all for the club in this time of turmoil.
In the game against Augsburg, goalkeeper Roman Weidenfeller and club captain Mats Hummels scaled the fence separating the fans from the pitch as the crowd jeered and displayed their anger. They conversed with spectators and appeared to take criticism as well as trying to get their point across to the angry supporters. These are scenes you would never expect to see at any football ground, let alone one of the world’s top clubs.
Home and away form
If the table only reflected home games the club would be fourth from bottom. If the table took into consideration only away games they would sit only one place higher. Therefore there is no evidence to suggest that either the home or away form can be attributed to Dortmund’s wretched season.
It’s baffling that the club’s league form is not reflected in their Champions League efforts this season. Dortmund finished top of their group ahead of Arsenal, Anderlecht and Galatasaray; scoring 14 goals and only conceding 4 times in 6 games. They face Italian giants Juventus in the round of 16 later this month and nobody is really sure which Dortmund side will turn up.
Manager and style of play
Football fans across the world admired the way Klopp had his side playing in recent seasons. They lit up European football with their great passing game and what was once a free-flowing style and swagger has almost become ‘hit and hope’ football as the manager and the team alike, struggle to find the remedy to cure the club’s misfortunes.
Many believe the eccentric and comical nature of manager Jurgen Klopp has been missing as his team struggle for results. Although the club has recently moved to back Klopp’s position as manager, you can’t help but think that – barring a miraculous turn around – Klopp will be relieved of his duties. He could prove helpless to avoid this and may also resign from his post.
Dortmund won their last game with a comfortable 0-3 away victory against fellow strugglers SC Freiburg. The side looked to be back to their old ways in the relegation 6-pointer, but then again, you expect a club of Dortmund’s stature to always be dominating these kind of matches.
It looks as thought whatever happens to Dortmund this season, there will inevitably be a mass clear out of big names from the club. Mats Hummels and Marco Rues have persistently been linked with moves to the Premier League and Ilkay Gundogan is another player that could well be on his way out.
You would expect Dortmund to be playing Bundesliga football next season. However, with the club poised to loose a number of big name stars who will expect to be playing in the Champions League and Jurgen Klopp’s position under threat, it may take a number of seasons before Borussia Dortmund are back where they belong.
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