Dortmund’s Der Klassiker Disappointment: Are they still Bayern’s biggest rivals in the Bundesliga?

Borussia Dortmund

For many years Dortmund have been considered the biggest rival to Bayern Munich in Germany, as the two clubs have won 20 out of the last 23 Bundesliga titles between them as of 2017.

However, their disappointing 6-0 defeat to Bayern Munich in the 118th meeting between the two sides suggests that perhaps tides are changing. With the likes of Revierderby rivals FC Schalke becoming more prominent recently and are actually ahead of them in the league, further showing Dortmund’s gradual decline.

But some fans may argue this has been a long time coming with Dortmund looking nowhere near as impressive and threatening then they have been in more successful seasons, such as back in 2011-12 when they beat Bayern comfortably 5-2 in a similar fashion to their latest Der Klassiker humiliation.

So how have things changed since then?

For Bayern, they’ve still got some of the players who played that day and performing to the same high level they have been for many years now such as Jerome Boateng, David Alaba, Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery.

The Bavarians have also replaced those they’ve lost in recent years with equal and if not better replacements such as:

Phillip Lahm (2012) – Joshua Kimmich (2018).

Holger Badstuber (2012) – Mats Hummels (2018).

Bastian Schweinsteiger (2012) – James Rodriguez (2018).

Luiz Gustavo (2012)  – Javi Martinez (2018).

Toni Kroos (2012) – Thomas Muller (2018).

Mario Gomez (2012) – Robert Lewandowski (2018).

Dortmund meanwhile have also had a lot of changes since their DFB Pokal victory almost 6 years ago and whilst some of their players have gone on to play and star for Bayern instead (Hummels and Lewandowski), the replacements they have on their books nowadays are arguably not at the same level they once were, signifying how poorly they played in the latest Bayern v Dortmund fixture.

In this piece, I will compare Dortmund’s starting 11 for yesterday’s game to their starting 11 from 2012 and see if there has been any progression/improvements after a hectic 6 years for the German side:

GK: (2016) – Roman Weidenfeller (2018) – Roman Burki

Considered a brick-wall to most Dortmund fans in his prime, Weidenfeller has been a true servant to Borussia Dortmund and helped the side to domestic success both in the league and in the cup back in the 2011/12 season.

But, it’s fair to say that age has caught up with the 37-year old who now plays second-fiddle to another Roman in between the sticks – Roman Burki.

Although Burki performances this season have been poor, it’s fair to say that the Swiss international was not helped by his defensive team-mates in front of him yesterday. The 27-year-old was merely a bystander for Bayern’s six goals and he, like many of his team-mates were disappointing tonight.

RB: (2016 & 2018) – Lukasz Piszczek 

Another one of Dortmund’s old boys, Piszczek is usually one of those consistent players in the side who never has a bad game and tonight was a dire performance from the typically reliable full-back. Defensively, he was not the same player he was back in 2012 and at the age of 32, showed his age against Bayern yesterday. Perhaps, it’s time for the Poland international to make room for some fresh legs on that Dortmund right-hand side to help them progress.

CB: (2012) – Neven Subotic (2018) – Manuel Akanji

Both were considered the defensive partner to an arguably better defender in now-Bayern defender Mats Hummels (2012) and Sokratis (2018) but whilst Subotic was able to help his side to DFB-Pokal 6 years ago, young Akanji couldn’t do the same.

A nervous showing from the 22-year-old yesterday left some questioning whether he could make the step up from playing with FC Basel in the Swiss League, to playing in one of the ‘bigger’ leagues like the Bundesliga.

But Akanji still has time to develop and has impressed in previous games for Dortmund with his modern ball-playing style of play so Dortmund should the youngster the time to readjust as if given confidence and guidance from coaches, then he has the potential to be anything he wants to be.

CB: (2012) – Mats Hummels (2018) – Sokratis

When he was at the club, Mats Hummels was considered and still is one of the top centre-backs in the league if not the world, so when he left Dortmund for yesterday’s opponents in 2016, it was clear that a big hole was going to be left.

Similarly to Weidenfeller and Piszczek, Sokratis has been at the club for a while now and although the Greek international has been a typically reliable defender for the German side, it’s a shame that he, along with his team-mates, played so poorly today.

Many fans will have been hoping that Sokratis could’ve had the similar sort of impact and difference that his predecessor Hummels had when he was here, but both he and the rest of the Dortmund side have struggled so far to replace some of the key players that they have had in the past.

LB: (2016 & 2018) – Marcel Schmelzer

Marcel Schmelzer is another player who is in a similar position to his full-back on the other wing Lukasz Piszczek after a poor showing in his side’s defeat to Bayern Munich last night.

He came up against an almost 35-year-old Arjen Robben who looked much sharper and determined to impress even though the Dutch international is 5 years older than his Dortmund opponent.

Schmelzer did not look like the same defensive wall he was in his side’s cup victory back in 2012 and much like Piszczek on the other flank, maybe it’s time for Dortmund to reinvent in some fresh, hungry wide players who are able to keep up with the pace and persistence of players like Robben on the Bayern wing.

CDM (2012) Sebastian Kehl & Ilkay Gundogan (2018) Gonzalo Castro & Mahmoud Dahoud

In a big game such as this one against Bayern which is also arguably the biggest in the league, it’s important to have an experienced defensive head that can help out going both ways. Safe to say, Gonzalo Castro did not provide that for Dortmund yesterday.

Back in 2012, Sebastian Kehl is a player who is well-known in Germany for his defensive duties and is arguably why Dortmund were so successful and dominant in their 5-2 win over Bayern back then. Castro, (although technically a very gifted footballer), does not provide the same sort of defensive coverage as Kehl did.

One particular moment that signified this is when Castro picked up the ball just inside his own half and rather than playing a safe pass to his full-back Piszczek next time, he opted an audacious nutmeg on the onrushing Bayern forward. This then led to Bayern scoring their third goal of the game and Castro be embarrassingly substituted for Julian Weigl shortly after.

Prior to the game, fans were questioning manager Peter Stoger’s decision to start Castro instead of the more defensive midfielder Weigl, who many think definitely should’ve started after Castro’s performance.

Mahmoud Dahoud meanwhile, was in a very similar position to a young Ilkay Gundogan was back in 2012 but the final result was much different and disappointing for his Dortmund side.

Although he necessarily didn’t play as poorly as Castro, he didn’t play as exceptionally as Gundogan did back in Dortmund days but with the right training and guidance has shown in previous games, glimpses of being a real difference maker in this side should he be given the opportunity.

Forwards: (2012) – Kevin Großkreutz, Shinji Kagawa, Jakub Błaszczykowski & Robert Lewandowski (2018) – Andre Schurrle, Mario Gotze, Christian Pulisic & Michy Batshuayi

This is where I feel that Borussia Dortmund were the most disappointing in their game against Bayern Munich, with a lot of that attacking threat they showed in their 5-2 victory over Bayern back in 2012, just not there tonight.

Although recent talisman Michy Batshuayi played in the recent Bayern fixture, he had nowhere near the performance he has had in recent games for Dortmund, with the forward touching the ball the least number I’ve seen him so far in his career with the German side.

Former Dortmund go-to goal-scorer Robert Lewandowski was playing for the opposition yesterday and how Dortmund would’ve wished he was playing for them as the Pole scored a hat-trick against his previous club.

Lewandowski just further enhanced his reputation as one of Europe’s top strikers and although Batshuayi has been sensational since joining, his performance yesterday showed he still has some way to reach Lewandowski’s level.

Although young American Christian Pulisic impressed at the start of the game, his threat was quickly diminished by the Bayern defenders which would’ve disappointed Dortmund fans.

Andre Schurrle and Mario Gotze were also largely disappointing in yesterday’s game and in comparison to attacking threat they had in the past, perhaps further reinforcements will be needed in the summer to compete once again.

Manager: (2012) – Jurgen Klopp (2018) – Peter Stoger

After winning the Bundesliga the season before their 2012 victory against Bayern, Jurgen Klopp was becoming a manager who was becoming used to competing against the likes of the German giants both domestically and in European competition, it’s fair to say Stoger doesn’t have the same sort of record.

Stoger was previously managing relegation-threatened FC Koln before taking the Dortmund job and after yesterday’s performance, it’s fair to say that he’s used to playing with sides at that end of the table with his Dortmund side not playing the same kind of attacking football we’re used to seeing under Klopp in previous years.

It’s unlikely he’ll stay beyond this season with a lot of fans not giving him the same reception that Klopp had when he was manager, meaning a new face coming in the summer would be the breath of fresh air that both fans and player-alike have been looking for to reignite that once deadly spark.

Where does this leave Dortmund?

After this second-rate display, Dortmund look like they’ll be ending the season with no silverware this season which will frustrate fans who have seen they their side play poorly almost all season. Bayern however, have looked impressive all season and showed why they are largely considered the strongest side in Germany as well as one of the biggest in Europe.

They’ll be looking to their next game against Spanish side Sevilla in the quarter-final of the Champions League as they look to complete a possible treble.

The Bavarians remain in both the DFB-Pokal and can also mathematically wrap up the Bundesliga title for the 58th time in their history with victory over FC Augsburg on Saturday.

But Dortmund ultimately have to forget about both this loss and their season as a whole as they look ahead to their next game in the Bundesliga against mid-table VfB Stuttgart on Sunday.

With the summer transfer window coming up soon, I would suggest that a complete makeover of some disappointing players and management staff to bring this club back where they used to and ultimately deserve to be, given the stature of a club like Borussia Dortmund.