Things haven’t gone to plan this season for Borussia Dortmund, that goes without saying. There have been injury setbacks, defensive debacles and managerial upheaval. It was never supposed to be like this though. The arrival of Peter Bosz was supposed to be the dawning of another new era, Dortmund giving another bright, young manager a big opportunity to prove himself among Europe’s elite. When it didn’t work out and Bosz was replaced by Peter Stoeger, sacked by Cologne just seven days earlier with his former club bottom of the Bundesliga, eyebrows were understandably raised.
That wasn’t to say Stoeger is a bad manager, that would be a fallacy. His record at Cologne before this season speaks for itself. He guided the club back into the top flight a couple of seasons ago and led them into Europe for the first time in thirty years last year. It was just that, well, they were bottom when he left. And not like, bottom but it’s early in the season and anything could happen – they were rock bottom. He didn’t play ‘our’ way, he wasn’t notorious for attacking football. On the contrary, he is quite a rigid manager and relied heavily on Anthony Modeste last campaign to get his side’s goals. His appointment was interesting, to say the least.
So far he has adapted well but you can tell that it just isn’t the same. In some ways, it is exactly what was needed. We were leaking goals under Bosz and Stoeger has stemmed the flow. But he sort of looked like he didn’t know whether to stick to his old ways or twist to the Dortmund way. On Sunday, it all came together.
For forty-five minutes Dortmund were back to being the old Dortmund. Frankfurt couldn’t live with the high press and we attacking in waves. Winning the ball in midfield and giving it to Pulisic was a simple but effective tactic. The lad has magic in his feet and had Timothy Chandler on toast down our left. He got at him three times in the opening eleven minutes, with the last time paying the ultimate dividends. It was clear Marco Russ’s head had gone within minutes of the kick-off. His own goal supported that claim.
It continued throughout the remainder of the half. Win the ball, give to Pulisic, cross, clear to midfield, repeat. In the second period though it just…stopped. There was no reason for it, there was rationale behind it – there was just no more press. In fact, we looked tired. Never had a team seemed to have found a fifteen-minute break in play so detrimental. It was like they had worked so hard during the first half that when they sat down for a minute, they couldn’t be arsed getting back up again. Frankfurt smelled blood and their equaliser was deserved. The marking from Jonathan De Guzman’s free-kick summed up our approach to the opening stages of the second half, lazy and lack-lustre.
But we had a secret weapon. I don’t think BVB have had a better striker in their ranks thank Michy Batshuayi since Robert Lewandowski. The Belgian looks like a born goalscorer, if a little raw. He links up well with the midfield and rarely misses the target when through on goal. His finish to put us ahead was sublime. He showed composure and skills. Again though, it was the pressure which won the ball back.
However, it subsided again inexplicably. Stamina has been an issue this season and it no doubt led to Eintracht Frankfurt’s leveller a minute into stoppage time. Heart has never been questioned though and that ultimately led to our winner. Again the ball fell to Batshuayi in the box and, well, you know the rest.
This game was probably Peter Stoeger’s Borussia Dortmund reign so far in ninety minutes. Fly out the blocks, become lazy, get the resulted just when things could be going south. He has done it time and time again since taking charge. He needs consistency if he is to stake to serious claim for this job full time. I think he can do it though. I think he has the sheer grit to instill consistency into this side. He is a gnarly manager and that is the one thing this Borussia Dortmund side has missed this season. If anyone can force these players to be bastards while getting the absolute best out of them technically, then Peter Stoeger might just be the best man for the job. Once again on Sunday they came through for their manager and strengthened his position in the dugout of Signal Iduna Park. Many sneered at his appointment. Maybe he might just be the man we needed after all. Maybe there is another new era on the horizon for Borussia Dortmund.