Borussia Dortmund slipped again this weekend, fueling talk of a crisis. But what exactly is the problem with Dortmund?

ai???It is our most difficult time in years,ai??? said Borussia Dortmundai??i??s sporting director Michael Zorc after BVB fell to their fifth defeat of the season on Saturday. And he wasnai??i??t exaggerating. Dortmund are sitting in jaw-dropping 14th place, with only seven points from eight games, two points above the relegation zone and thirteen points behind Bayern Munich. This weekend, the return of long-injured stars Marco Reus, Ilkay GA?ndogan, and Henrikh Mkhitaryan had fans believing that the bad times were behind them, but even the reunion of that attacking trio could not stave off a shocking 2-1 defeat to newly promoted side FC KAi??ln.

Despite Dortmundai??i??s meager point tally, they have had shown moments of brilliance this season, particularly in the Champions League when they flattened Arsenal, 2-0. Players like Reus, Shinji Kagawa, GA?ndogan, and Mats Hummels remain world class, and the basic formula for Dortmundai??i??s success remains in place. So what exactly is the problem in Dortmund?

Itai??i??s become almost boring to talk about Dortmundai??i??s injury crisis, but there is no way around it. GA?ndogan, who returned against KAi??ln, hadnai??i??t played a game since August 2013ai??i??a 14-month hiatus. Reus, who also returned this weekend, hasnai??i??t really played since the end of last season, and it was the first time he was playing alongside Kagawa. These players need time to get accustomed to each other, to regain their old rhythm and form new partnerships. Though JA?rgen Klopp characterized his teamai??i??s performance on Saturday as ai???absolutely pointless,ai??? Kagawa and GA?ndogan both played beautiful passes, while Reus brought pace and vision back into the side. What was consistently missing was the final pass, for which the players need time to gel.

Dortmund have also not sufficiently replaced Robert Lewandowski. Though Ciro Immobile scored against KAi??ln, he has added little to the attack so far this season. He lacks Lewandowskiai??i??s strength in link-up play, has not added much in creating chances, and is either blocking another playerai??i??s path or disappears completely for long stretches of the match. Adrian Ramos, bought from Hertha Berlin to be Immobileai??i??s understudy, has been much more effective thus far, looking much livelier and in tune with the Dortmund attack. Though he only has two goals to his name thus far, Ramos improves the side not only through his goals but through his passing and his well-timed runs. Having splashed 19 million euros on Immobile, itai??i??s understandable that Klopp is sticking with the Italian striker, but Ramos is more than ready in the wings.

After the defeat at KAi??ln, a dejected Reus told the press: ai???We need to fight our way from the bottom as a team. I have been through it before enough times, and it will not be easy.ai??? But Dortmund only need a few good results to win back momentum, and the next few fixtures will help: Galatasaray are no pushovers, but Dortmund have performed best in the Champions League this season; Hannover are beatable, and a DfB-Pokal meeting with second-division St. Pauli should boost momentum. Then thereai??i??s the much-anticipated visit to Bayern, but Dortmund have always thrived in big games. By November, Dortmund could easily be much higher in the table, the dark mood over Signal Iduna Park dispelled.

What will also help is that the other big teams are also struggling for consistency. Even Bayern are remarkably erratic for their lofty standards; they drew against both Hamburg and Schalke and have been surprisingly goal-shy in the Champions League. Bayer Leverkusen, who got the season off to a flying start by thumping Dortmund, are currently in sixth place, plagued by inconsistent form. This weekend, they dropped points against a spirited VfB Stuttgart, who fought to a 3-3 draw after going down three goals to none. As a result, Leverkusen have managed only one win in their last six Bundesliga matches. To round out last yearai??i??s top four, Schalke are loitering in ninth place, losing to Hoffenheim and drawing against Frankfurt. They do have a new manager, Roberto di Matteo, who started with a win this past weekend, but it remains to be seen if the Royal Blues can pull it together.

Dortmund may be far adrift their rivals at the moment, but the gap could be much wider already. Time is on Kloppai??i??s side, and if he can turn the results around in the next three matches, things will look much better on the black-and-yellow horizon.

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