Borussia Dortmund have had a season to forget so far as they are second from bottom after the first half of the season. Had bottom placed Freiburg won their game against Hannover in late December, Dortmund would have been bottom of the league for the first time in their history during the winter break.
After their Super Cup win over Bayern Munich in August, it was unthinkable that JA?rgen Kloppa s men would be where they are now in the Bundesliga. Ita s hard to believe that Dortmund, who were in the Champions League final not so long ago, have become a bad team in the span of five months. The Dortmund faithful have been amazing in their support and have cheered their team in truly desperate times and the only positive thought that they can have in their minds is it simply cana t get any worse than this!
Dortmund were in a similar situation last season as well when they were in mid-table obscurity but managed to turn it around after an inspired second half season showing. Combinations of different factors have led to Dortmunda s appalling showing this season and we take a look at them.
The sale of Robert Lewandowski and the poor form of new arrivals
Robert Lewandowskia s absence has hit Borussia Dortmund hard, there are now two ways about it. The Pole was the leaguea s top scorer last season with 20 goals and had played a hand in 31% of Dortmunda s goals. It was even worse that the 26-year old left for free and joined Dortmunda s rivals Bayern.
Although he hasna t blossomed at Bayern yet, his sale left Klopp in dire need of a striker. Julian Schiebera s sale to Hertha Berlin in the summer meant that Klopp had to sign not one, but two good strikers to replace the duo. The arrival Adrian Ramos and Ciro Immobile was much appreciated by the fans as the duo had good goal scoring records in the previous season. A combined total of a 29.1m was spent on the duo and they were expected to hit the ground running. However, they did anything but that. While both of them have impeccable work rates that Klopp likes his strikers to have, they simply havena t found the back of the net that often. With just five goals in a total of 26 appearances between them, Dortmund have been forced to look for goals from other areas of the team.
Despite the departure of Lewandowski to Bayern in the summer, there was some joy amongst the fans as Shinji Kagawa returned after a disastrous spell in England with Manchester United. However, Kagawa has failed to recapture his old form so far. The Japanese cannot be blamed entirely though as he played with Lewandowski and Mario Gotze the last time around and had good acquaintance with the doe which led to his good form. Currently, the poor form of Ramos and Immobile coupled with Henrikh Mkhitaryana s inconsistent displays have not helped Kagawa who has scored just one goal and is yet to record an assist.
Successive injuries to Marco Reus
Marco Reus missed the whole of the World Cup after rupturing his ankle ligament but was back just in time for the start of the league. The winger appeared in Dortmunda s opening two games and managed to score once in the away win over Augsburg. However, the 25-year old suffered an ankle injury in Germanya s European qualifier against Scotland and subsequently missed his sidea s next five games.
Reus returned to action against Koln in mid-October and played in the next five games before injuring himself against Frankfurt in the same fashion that had ruled him out of the World Cup. The torn ankle ligament in November all but ended his campaign until the winter break and Dortmund had to play in five more games without his services. With their misfiring frontline, Reusa injury was an even bigger blow for Dortmund and Klopp. Despite featuring in just seven games for Dortmund, Reus is the cluba s joint second highest goal getter, which pretty much sums up how poor their frontline has been.
Injuries and mistakes a plenty at the back
When Borussia Dortmund won two league titles in a row and made it to the UEFA Champions League final in the 2012-13 season, the team had a good backbone as they had defenders that any club would envy.
The back four of Marcel Schmelzer, Neven Subotic, Mats Hummels and Lukasz Piszczek had been ever present for Dortmund until the 2012-13 season. With injuries to Schmelzer, Subotic and Piszczek, the back four of Dortmund had to be reshuffled on more than one occasion which often led to costly mistakes as they simply did not have the understanding of the usual four who tend to play there. While Sokratis had a good second half to the season last time around, his partnership with Hummels (before the former got injured) has been a disaster this season.
New summer signing Matthias Ginter has had a season to forget so far as well. The 20-year old is still very inexperienced and hasna t handled the pressure of being thrown into a side like Dortmund well. Goalkeeper Roman Weidenfeller, who is usually vocal and steady at the back, has been mediocre this season. He was replaced by Australian Mitchell Langerak in the latter half of December who did a decent job in goal.
After the late September defeat against Schalke, Dortmund lost five games in a row and all of them were with a one goal margin. All of those defeats came due to defensive mistakes or lapses of concentration in the midfield, something that you generally dona t consider Dortmund with.
Absence of the ‘gegenpressing’
If one looks at the replays of the Borussia Dortmund games this season, then theya ll definitely notice that the Ruhr side have not played with the same pressing and counter-attacking style that they stuck to in the last few years. The absence of Nuri Sahin and Ilkay Gundogan (until he was injured) hasna t helped Klopp as the duo were instrumental in such a style of play. While Sven Bender hasna t played with the same dynamism, Dortmunda s other midfield marshal Sebastien Kehl simply doesna t have the legs to do so.
The only time that we could see the a heavy metala attacking football was probably in the super cup win over Bayern in August.
Cause for optimism
Despite a poor showing so far, the yellow wall of Borussia Dortmund can expect a good second half of the season. The return of Nuri Sahin, Jakub Blaszczykowski and Marco Reus will be a major boost for Dortmund as they will try to salvage their stuttering season.
Another key factor is that the backline of Marcel Schmelzer, Neven Subotic, Mats Hummels and Lukasz Piszczek played together for the first time this season against TSG Hoffenheim since the Champions League final defeat against Bayern. With that back four, Dortmund have picked up four points from three games and their fans will hope that they stay injury free for the rest of the season.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was their shining light in a dull season from the attacking point of view. The Gabon winger is Dortmunda s leading goal scorer and assist maker. After a bright start to the league last season, Aubameyang faded away in the second half of the season last year. This season however, hea ll want to keep his good form going once the league resumes on 31st January.
Despite a poor start, a total overhaul isna t what is needed at the moment. Dortmund have been terribly unlucky in terms of the injuries that they have had in the last few seasons, but Klopp will have a full squad to choose from come January end which will delight the fans. The addition Kevin Kampl will excite the fans as well. The Slovenian was signed for a 12m and has been a star performer for Salzburg in the last few years.
Dortmund return to action on the 31st of January against Leverkusen, the side against whom they conceded the fastest goal in Bundesliga history on the opening day. Kloppa s men are 12 points behind the Champions League places, which isna t completely out of their reach yet.