Everyone is going to have an opinion on this season. With it being four months of plenty ups and many, many downs, trying to keep people quiet about the trials and tribulations of Borussia Dortmund this campaign has been impossible. Bayern Munich, Schalke and Borussia Moenchengladbach fans, in particular, will be pleased with how Dortmund have fared unsurprisingly. There has been a lot of change to encounter so far as well. Things started promisingly for Peter Bosz but eventually tailed off dramatically to the point he was replaced. We are just starting to get back on track with Peter Stoeger but it remains to be seen whether he is the man to save our season.
With so much to consider this season it would be remiss of us here at Borussia Dortmund UK to not have our say on how the season has panned out so far. Hold on to your lederhosens, it might get a bit feisty…
So, yeah, been a funny old season hasn’t it? There was so much promise when you look at those opening seven games. Not only were we unbeaten until the Augsburg game, we were sweeping teams aside as well. There were warning signs defensively to be fair but who cares when you’re annihilating Gladbach 6-1 at home? Looking back now those results were just papering over the cracks. The benefit of hindsight is a beautiful thing and it has shown us that Bosz was committing footballing suicide with his tactics. It couldn’t go on and it didn’t. The loss to Red Bull Leipzig a week after we beat Augsburg signalled the beginning of a mighty crash down to earth. It was all downhill from there for Bosz and eventually, the board pulled the trigger. It was uncharacteristically early, which tells us that Hans-Joachim Watzke and Michael Zorc were certain he wasn’t the man. His replacement was very much a surprise.
Peter Stoeger had just been sacked by Cologne and his side was one which didn’t play football that was, shall we say, what we are used to. It seemed to be the football we really needed though as he only suffered his first defeat in the Dortmund dugout on 20th December, in the DFB Pokal against F.C Bayern. His has shown so far that he can solidify this previously flimsy defence and instil confidence into these downtrodden players.
It might be a bit too early to say whether Stoeger is the man or not for Dortmund given that he has only had three games in charge. Has this effect been that a new manager usually brings to a team low on confidence, or is he on the verge of bringing the good times back to Signal Iduna Park? So far he has found a balance between attack and defence which his predecessor could not. We are back on track to qualify for Europe, even if the title does now seem out of reach. It might not be ideal but he could just save our season.
Was the public separation with Thomas Tuchel the tip of an iceberg for this club? Dortmund had flown so high under Jurgen Klopp that an adjustment was inevitable, but the way Watke and Zorc handled Tuchel’s dismissal/departure/resignation was worrisome. Yes, there were issues in the locker room and Tuchel himself has flaws both tactically and PR-wise that made his position questionable even if he would have stayed. That stated, at the end of last season the tension between the Boardroom and manager’s office was public and embarrassing for both parties, with the club likely needing to go searching for a new long-term solution at the end of the season.
To pin all the club’s troubles on management, however, would be to overlook the play on the pitch and how lacklustre it has been at times. Bosz’s insane inability to adjust tactically gave cover to certain players but the lack of a consistent back four speaks to major talent issues or at a minimum performance issues that makes this area of the pitch one for a massive upgrade in January and the summer. Add to that list keeper, with Burki’s inconsistency driving many fans mad. On the other side, Auba has performed statistically well but his inconsistency and now clashes with management make his situation untenable. Despite the rumours of a new deal, it may be time to allow him to move like Dembele and the club try to purchase a replacement.
This brings me to the large issue hovering over the club. Dortmund are investing in players of a good calibre, but questions can still be asked if ownership has the intestinal fortitude to invest in the club in a way that matches its publicly-stated goals. The Bundesliga is unforgiving to sides who slip or fail to adapt to the newest trends, which is why we see clubs with great histories like Hamburg battling relegation. Management needs to determine who on this club they can build upon, hire a manager that can utilize those skills, and invest in the transfer market to build around them.
Over the course of a long season, every club experiences peaks and valleys. A football club depends on so many individuals contributing to the cause, it would be unreasonable to expect static results for nearly an entire calendar year. However, when we come to look back on the 2017/18 season, no club will hold a candle to the soaring heights and embarrassing troughs of Borussia Dortmund’s campaign. The chaotic way the previous season ended, with so much unrest between the club and its star manager, might have given fans a clue as to what was in store this season, but few could have predicted the bi-polarity of Peter Bosz’ time as the manager.
If there were doubts about Bosz’ hiring to open the season, many were feeling foolish by the end of September, when Bosz had his team firing on all cylinders, blowing the competition into the weeds on a weekly basis. The team looked unbeatable at times, combining a hyper-aggressive high line with a frantic attacking pace, leaving many people wondering if Hans-Joachim Watzke and Michael Zorc were the smartest men in football for hiring the Dutch coach to replace the well respected Tuchel. Combined with the struggles of Bayern Munich to open the season, it looked like another Kloppian era of “heavy metal football” was back!
Of course, there were signs that it wouldn’t last, but when finally the searing pace fell off, few expected it would be so bad. What followed was 2 and a half months of winless football, the reemergence of the hated Bayern Munich under Jupp Heynckes, and the end of Peter Bosz reign as manager. Under new manager Peter Stoeger, the former Cologne manager and defensive specialist, there have been positive signs once again. The defence has found its footing and already looks infinitely more organised than under the Dutchman. The attack is still one of Germany’s best, and as reinforcements return for the second half of the season it should only improve.
Can this season still be a success? To put simply, yes. Dortmund will continue their European campaign in the Europa League for the second half of the season, and despite its strongest field in years, Dortmund can still consider themselves among the competitions most talented teams. The conveyor belt carrying raw, young prospects into the club is still very much in operation, and their inclusion with the talented veteran core of the squad produces one of Europe’s most exciting teams every season. It is a strategy that has produced great players and great profits for the club, and despite possessing some world-class talent that could make it into most squads across the globe, Dortmund look poised to continue with this high turnover model. The Bundesliga title race may already be decided, but a strong showing in the second half of the season will go a long way into ensconcing the club firmly as the country’s second best once again. Consistent, this team is not, but exciting? Without question.