How has it got to this point? At the beginning of the season we were the team to beat. Top of the Bundesliga, unbeaten in our first six games, the measuring stick. Then it went pear shaped and, as far as Peter Bosz was concerned, the rest was history. Since then Peter Stoeger has come in and things have…changed. He’s had his positives, yes, but he has also had plenty of lows. The game on Saturday at the Allianz Arena was a new low for Stoeger and for Borussia Dortmund.
Since sacking Carlo Ancelotti in October and bringing in Jupp Heynckes, albeit temporarily, Bayern Munich have become the new measuring stick. It sticks in the craw to have to admit that, but it is true. Going to Munich at the weekend, I don’t think many people were looking forward to it. They have lost one league game since the turn of the year and were two wins away from claiming their twenty eighth Bundesliga title. Putting it politely, it was never going to be an easy game. Being completely honest, we were on a hiding to nothing given the way we have played this season.
This side is devoid of a plan. There is no clear direction or style of play. Yes, Stoeger has sured us up defensively but at what cost? He has not been able to fully instil his way of playing into this squad. He is hamstrung by the values and tradition of Borussia Dortmund. Peter Stoeger is a defensive manager and that is OK. Borussia Dortmund are an offensive team, which is fantastic and one of the main reasons I love this club. The two don’t mesh together well though and that has been evident since his arrival in December.
We now have a manager who misreads situations and cannot strike a balance between attack and defence. His decision to play Gonzalo Castro over Julian Weigl was one borne out of an ineptitude to effectively attack against an opposition who are clearly better than your side. His decision to hook Castro off after half an hour was an admission that this theory is correct. It was too late by then though. Bayern were already 3-0 up and were on their way to their fourth. The game was over, and it was lost in midfield.
I’d just like to take this opportunity now to acknowledge that this has been a pretty dreary piece, but there is an optimistic point to be made and here it is – this game is the final nail in Stoeger’s coffin.
Don’t get me wrong, I do not dislike Peter Stoeger. He did a remarkable job with Cologne up until the first six months of this season. He is undoubtedly successful with his style of play and deserves plaudits for what he has accomplished in his career. He should never have been given this job though for a number of reasons. Firstly, he was relieved of his position with his former employers a week before taking this job – he left them bottom of the league, practically relegated before Christmas. Secondly, he was a complete 180 from Peter Bosz. Bosz was uber-attack, Stoeger is uber-defence. Making the transition was unrealistic before the end of the season. Finally, he has never reached the heights that this clubs demands to be at. All was not lost when Stoeger was brought in. Asking him to turn our season around was unfair on his and the fans.
The bottom line here though is that this situation is not of Peter Stoeger’s making. Michael Zorc and Hans-Joakim Watzke must take the blame for this disappointing campaign and the Austrian’s appointment. So rarely have these two got anything wrong in their Dortmund career’s and much of the club’s successes over the years have been down to their foresight. Yet they have got this one so badly wrong. What did they expect when they brought Stoeger in? He was never going to be able to get this side playing his way and the fans wouldn’t have accepted it if he did. This was a poor decision on their behalf.
For all of Stoeger’s negatives this season though he has kept us in touch second place. He deserves credit for being able to salvage something when things looked bleak. He found us in sixth position and today we lie third. It is hardly exponential improvement, but it is because of Peter Stoeger. He won’t walk away from Signal Iduna Park with any shame but walk away he will at the end of his contract in June.
From a 6-0 thrashing, the realisation that the manager is not good enough was the only positive thing to take. The sad thing is that Stoeger is not a bad manager and has done a decent job. The result at the weekend showed his deficiencies though. We want to be at Bayern Munich’s level and that is not totally impossible. The right man has to be at the helm of the ship though. Sadly for him, that man isn’t Peter Stoeger. If a heavy defeat in Der Klassiker was what it took for the board to realise that, then that could be the only silver lining to this cloud.