By Teo Icliyurek
Last year at this time, Borussia Dortmund were second only to Bayern Munich in Germany’s Bundesliga. This year, in a turn of events that has shocked everyone, they sit 16th of 18, in clear threat of relegation. This is a side that last year reached the Champions League final and were back to back Bundesliga champions three seasons ago. After Bayern, Borussia were the last team to be expected to make such a drop. So, what went wrong?
One might focus on transfers to pinpoint the issues. Nevertheless, despite losing a few key starts, Borussia had always managed to bounce back with both its own players (such as Reus, who seems to be the only one somewhat loyal to the club), and new additions (such as Armenian midfielder Henrikh Mkhitaryan who scored 13 in 45 appearances). This summer, after losing Robert Lewandowski, they splurged on Serie A’s leading goalscorer Ciro Immobile, a nice player to fill the #9 role. The attack was further reinforced with the addition of Adrian Ramos, Hertha Berlin’s prolific striker during the 2013/14 season. The return of fan-favorite Shinji Kagawa would only improve, seemingly, the Borussia offensive.
Unfortunately for Jurgen Klopp’s side, things have not gone as planned. A dearth in offense, a defense with as many holes as a colander, a long list of injuries, and a consequent decrease in morale has seen this dortmund side hit a slump.
With 21 goals for and 27 goals against, Dortmund are at a deficit of 6 goals. However, the players, not Klopp, is to blame for the poor form in front of goal. With an attacking force consisting of proven scorers such as Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Ciro Immobile, Marco Reus (though perpetually injured), Henrikh Mkhitaryan, and Adrian Ramos, this tally is extremely disappointing. Though Reus’ return of 7 goals in 14 games seems acceptable, Mkhitaryan’s one goal in all competitions so far this season does not. Dortmund’s poor offensive form is only emphasized by Ciro Immobile’s lack of composure, making him seem like no more than a hardworking reserve striker. Ramos has also been a disappointment, bearing fruit to only 2 successful strikes in 13 appearances in the league. The entire team’s poor form has only contributed more to the team’s grievances in front of goal.
As I mentioned before, the defense is as leaky as an untied water balloon. Everything that can possibly going wrong is. Starting with Neven Subotic’s penalty concession earlier in the season to Bayern in what had been, until that point, a closely contested match, individual errors have played a major role in most of the team’s one goal losses. Furthermore, Roman Weidenfeller’s removal from the starting position by Mitchell Langernak, the inexperienced Australian, has led to a lack of form between the sticks, a clear example being Langernak’s mistake in second place Wolfsburg’s first goal in a 2-2 draw. Germany anchor Mats Hummels’ injuries for most of September and almost all of November haven’t helped, either.
As of now, Dortmund’s fate will not change by luck. In order to survive, the once feared club need some serious change. First and foremost, Klopp must find a system that suits his available personnel. The constant change in Dortmund’s lineup and starting XI is not only confusing, but also a detriment for moral (he could learn a thing or two from Brendan Rodgers’ Liverpool resurgence). To solve this problem, one needs stability. Beginning with defensive stability, accumulating points, and thus increasing morale, Klopp should revise his now-defunct, then-impeccable counter-attacking game. At least there is one silver lining, though: Marco Reus signed a new contract until 2019.