The Christmas Crash-Out: Talking Points From Borussia Dortmund v Bayern Munich

The Christmas Crash-Out: Talking Points From Borussia Dortmund v Bayern Munich

They couldn’t have possibly turned things around that quickly, could they? Despite the encouraging signs the team have shown since Peter Stoger took over at the Westfalenstadion, he could not achieve his 3rd consecutive victory in charge, falling 2-1 to Bayern Munich in the 3rd round of the DFB Pokal on Wednesday night. The absence of leading scorer Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang complicated matters further, but by the end of the match Dortmund had enough chances to tie the score even without their most clinical player. The loss eliminates Dortmund from the competition just before the Bundesliga’s winter break begins, and leaves them running out of viable paths to finish the season with a trophy.

A Dose Of Reality

In the two matches that followed Peter Stoger’s appointment as Dortmund manager, fans were encouraged by the increased effort and organisation from their club, especially in defence. However, they could not escape into the winter break without first succumbing to a red hot Bayern Munich side. It seems like a year ago when die Borussen fired out of the gates this season, on a scorching path to the top of the league while their Bavarian rivals struggled for results early on. Since Bayern replaced the struggling Carlo Ancelotti with the man responsible for their treble winning season in 2013, Jupp Heynckes, their season has completely turned around. The manager’s effect was immediate, helping to recover the best form of important players like Franck Ribery and Thomas Mueller.

Even with the obvious boost that Stoger’s hiring gave the team, Dortmund still learned the difficult way that the path to Bundesliga glory still travels through Bavaria. In the second half, Stoger’s men looked every bit the equal of their dominating counterparts, and there were certainly moments that could have swung Wednesday’s match, especially late when Shinji Kagawa and Alexander Isak had opportunities to knot the score. The loss means one less competition to worry about in the second half of the season, but given the Bavarians’ superior form at present, it might have presented the best opportunity for silverware this season for the Ruhr club.

Showing Up to Play….After 45 Minutes

After the match, Peter Stoger was understandably upset with the way his team performed from the opening whistle. Bayern fired out of the blocks, practically beating die Schwarzgelben into submission with their near constant threats to score for the first 10 minutes of the match. Finally, in the 12th minute, the hosts’ persistence paid off as Jerome Boetang nodded a goal past Roman Burki to take the lead. Dortmund found their feet at that point, starting to get into attacking areas, but they would end up going into the half down by 2 after Thomas Mueller chipped Burki in the 40th minute. Andriy Yarmolenko had a chance to pull one back before the half time whistle, but David Alaba got in the way of his strike and Dortmund would go into the half with too much of a deficit to overcome, eventually succumbing to defeat after a more spirited effort in the second half.

Peppering The Area

Given Dortmund’s struggle all season with organisation at the back, it was clear what Bayern Munich’s plan of attack was going to be. Alaba and Ribery were finding huge swathes of space down the left flank, and as soon as Bayern got into a good position to do so, they peppered balls into the penalty area, looking for Robert Lewandowski. The Polish striker is one of the most well-rounded number 9s in the game, and he came close on multiple occasions in the first half to increasing the lead. The confusion in and around the box led to many near misses from Bayern attackers, but also exposed the freshly organised defence in ways that showed how much work is left to do by Stoger after the winter break.

Favorites Emerge

To start the game, Stoger obviously thought that defensive stability would be important if Dortmund were to come away with the victory, so for the first time as manager of the club, he dabbled with a back 3 to open the match. He must have liked the solidity of the group on paper, but it quickly became evident that it was not the right decision, as Bayern totally dominated the ball to open the match. Without Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang leading the line, the attacking duo of Christian Pulisic and Andriy Yarmolenko were not given much purchase until Stoger took off his extra defender, Marc Bartra, to add another midfielder and switch to a back 4, at which point the visitors began to claw back into the game.

Despite the change in formation, Bartra’s subbing off for Mahmoud Dahoud provided additional confirmation on which players the new manager favours to help claw back into the title race in the second half of the season . He has preferred Toprak and Sokratis at the heart of his defence, flanked by Marcel Schmelzer and Jermemy Toljan (at least while Lukasz Piszczek is recovering from injury), with Julian Weigl anchoring the base of a 3 man midfield. Raphael Guerreiro has been given license to go forward along with Shinji Kagawa from their central midfield roles, and Yarmolenko is clearly the favoured right wing opposite Christian Pulisic, Aubameyang up front when available, And Mahmoud Dahoud and Andre Schurrle (again, in his case more likely to do with injuries to Marco Reus and Max Philipp) are his first choice impact substitutes. Set up this way, most of his players are aligned in positions for which they are well suited, and without the overly aggressive, one-dimensional tactics of Peter Bosz, perhaps even thrive in the second half of the season.

A Pause In The Action

With the Bundesliga wrapping up over the weekend for their winter break, the DFB Pokal match with Bayern was Dortmund’s last of 2017. It has been an eventful one for the Black and Yellows, with a frightful terrorist attack on their team bus, rollercoaster results, and 3 different managers at the helm. The loss of Head Scout Sven Mislintat to Arsenal also contributed to a year that felt a lot less orderly and united than what the club has projected in the past. However, even with the total collapse of form, confidence and league position under Bosz, the club still find themselves right in the mix behind Bayern for a European place next season, poised to strike should Bayern waver from their front-runner position and start to drop points. Hated rivals Schalke are just 2 points in front of Dortmund, and with several key players either on expiring contracts or poised to make the next step, January could seriously weaken the Konigsblauen for the home stretch. With any luck (and a month hopefully devoid of any important departures), the team could find themselves back in their rightful place as the Bundesliga’s second best club.