December 17, 2017

2017-18 Season Preview: Borussia Dortmund — The Bosz Knows Best

Basics

Name: Ballspiel Verein Borussia Dortmund 1909.

Nicknames: Die Schwarzgelben, Die Borussen, BVB.

Founded: 1909.

Club colors: Black and Yellow.

Primary Rivals: FC Schalke 04 (Die Revierderby).

Fan friendships: 1. FC Köln and Celtic perhaps.

Westfalenstadion/Signal Iduna Park

Capacity: 81,360

Total 2016-17 attendance: 1,354,105 (Average attendance: 79,653)

Borussia Dortmund’s Signal Iduna Park.

Trophies

  • UEFA Champions League: (1) 1996-97.
  • German Champions: (7) 1955-56, 1956-57, 1962-63, 1994-95, 1995-96, 2001-02, 2010-11, 2011-12.
  • DFB Pokal Winners: (4) 1964-65, 1988-89, 2011-12, 2016-17.
  • Intercontinental Cup Winners: (1) 1997-98.
  • German Super Cup Winners: (4) 1989-90, 1995-96, 2013-14, 2014-15.

2016-17 Finishes

  • 1.Bundesliga: 3rd with 64 points. (72 goals scored, 40 allowed, +32 GD).
  • DFB Pokal: Champions! (Beating Eintracht Frankfurt 2:1 in the final).
  • UEFA Champions League: Quarter Finals (lost to AS Monaco on 6:3 aggregate).

“60 Second Dossier”

Number of matches won by 2 or more goals: 14

Number of matches won by one goal: 12

Number of matches drawn: 14

Number of matches lost by one goal: 6

Number of matches lost by 2 or more goals: 4

2016-17 Top Scorers

  • Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang: 31
  • Marco Reus: 7
  • Ousmane Dembele: 6
Aubameyang holding the Torjaegerkanone — the Bundesliga trophy for the league’s top goal scorer. Source: Sport Actuell.

Pre-season record so far

  • Record: 2-1-2
  • Goals Scored: 11
  • Goals Conceded: 8

Rot Weiss Essen 3:2 Borussia Dortmund

Urawa Reds 2:3 Borussia Dortmund

Borussia Dortmund 3:1 AC Milan

VfL Bochum 2:2 Borussia Dortmund

CD Espanyol 1:0 Borussia Dortmund

View from a Fan

If you are not following @ironicguerreiro on twitter, you’ve already made one hell of a mistake in your life. His trolls and memes have lit the Dortmund fandom in recent months. So much, that his recent Game of Thrones Bundesliga Editon – thread featured in 11 Freunde, OneFootball.de and was retweeted by several official Bundesliga handles such as Ingolstadt, Hamburg and Hertha. BundesligaFanatic’s Brook Genene even chose to write an article about the thread here.

I’ve managed to catch up with Bogdan Rogozianu, the face behind the @ironicguerreiro mask.

Being a Dortmund fan from Romania and an admirer of Raphael Guerriro, here’s how he sees things leading up to the new season.

Who to look out for?

I feel like Christian Pulisic is going to have his best season yet. With Marco Reus being out for so long, and the fact that he can play in both flanks, his chances of regular first team appearances will significantly increase. Peter Bosz himself, will certainly rotate his squad a lot and it can only benefit the American wunderkind.

Fan favorite? (Bogdan’s unaltered love for Guerreiro excluded!)

Well, definitely Julian Weigl. I believe he will become our midfield engine soon enough. He is focused, he is perfect in sticking our defense and midfield together. His passing accuracy is one that makes us remember the good old Ilkay Gündoĝan. He always gets fouled, which proves that he is indeed an important cog in midfield, but it could be bad as well, since one can take him out of play several months. Ousmane Dembele is also a very likeable player, but unfortunately, he will be on his way out of Dortmund within the next few years.

BVB’s supreme midfield wiz, Julian Weigl.

Player you want to get rid of?

Well, well, well, the obvious choice is Erik Durm, since he is horribly limited in both defense and creativity. I’d also want to get rid of Andre Schürrle too, but I guess he is too expensive to get rid of and Dortmund will probably end up in a net loss if they are to sell the German International. And Sebastian Rode, well yeah, I would like to get rid of Rode as well but Durm tops the list in my opinion.

Advice you would give to Peter Bosz?

Hmmmmm. Well, this is a hard one. I would advise him to always follow what the fans want. That’s an important thing in my opinion. Thomas Tuchel did many things, which didn’t bode well for the fans. (Breaking up with chief scout Sven Mislintat, or excluding Nuri Sahin from the DFB cup final team sheet). I hope Peter Bosz doesn’t follow suit.

Opposition player you despise?

I can’t seem to choose a Schalke player I despise, but I will choose someone from Bayern and that is definitely Rafinha. Followed shortly by the scary movie duo, Robbery!

What will opposition fans underestimate?

We haven’t yet lost any significant player in the summer transfer window and that may break the hearts of a lot of people. They certainly didn’t see that coming, did they?

What are the Dortmund fans overestimating?

Dortmund fans usually tend to underestimate their team or at least, that’s the sort of vibe I get from people around here. So not really sure what they could overestimate. Maybe they will overestimate the way we will get through these transitional periods. One shouldn’t expect it to be as swift as it was under Thomas Tuchel.

Where will Dortmund finish?

Top 4 is easily achievable in my opinion. Ideally, if they can pose a strong challenge to Bayern for the title but it’s definitely going to be tough, especially with players like Weigl, Guerreiro and Reus injured before the start of the season. But you know, one can only hope, so fingers crossed!

Your favorite moment from last season?

Two things come into my mind. The recovery after the bombings, meaning Bartra’s comeback. That was so emotional that I can’t believe anyone could resist and not shed a tear for him. And Weigl’s first goal in his senior career against Sporting in the Champions League was truly a wonderful moment.

A “weigling” shot into the bottom corner!

Aspiration

Title/Silverware. Although no one should be dreaming anything higher than a second placed finish. The constant job of rebuilding has put this club into a somewhat of a flustered state. I don’t really blame the fans if they are not sure of what to expect from Dortmund next season. However, BVB’s ever growing fan base coupled with seemingly increasing worldwide media attention will drive the club into a swarm of overly exaggerated expectations. See Mr. Watzke? Problem lies everywhere, even if you start to win titles. (with a *frowning face* emoji).

Okay maybe you can win titles. Unless of course, if it makes your fans to think that Gareth Bale could actually be a decent replacement for apparently injured Marco Reus (nay nay).

Reality

My personal opinion, contiguous to the reality, would be to finish second. As Stefan Buczko of ESPN specified, in last season’s preview by Dennis Liedschulte, that Dortmund are one of the most scrutinized teams in the league. It’s important for Der BVB to at least stamp their authority as the second-best team in the league. The narrative of Dortmund overtaking Bayern soon enough is a far-fetched analogy and needs to change.

RB Leipzig, TSG Hoffenheim and several other Bundesliga top dogs are the more realistic opponents for BVB and the team MUST overcome their challenge next season. That’s however, not to say, that BVB is no provocation to the mighty Bayern. Maybe the German champions aren’t as strong as they were under Pep Guardiola and maybe, just maybe, the Herculean aura of the team from Bavaria, is starting to dissipate. But the overall quality they possess, combined with power, fame and an impeccable management, is still on a higher level compared to other Bundesliga teams. So, loosening of this damned Bayern fixation seems very dubious. 

However, fans should least expect another silverware this season. After clinching the elusive DFB Pokal last season, the fans will definitely be hungry for more major titles in the coming years. A quarter-final berth in the Champions League will be a good way to start the Peter Bosz era and who knows, maybe the Black and Yellows can manage another cup success come the end of season. If a door gets closed, another opens, and expect the season to be merged around the cup crusades, since the door to winning the league is firmly locked by arrogance packed – dangerous looking – money grabbing – Bundesliga ruining – Paulaner swelling Bayern Munich.

 

The BOSZ

In case you’ve been living under a rock, the big news for you, is that Thomas Tuchel is sacked as a Dortmund manager, despite two successful years at the Ruhrpott. He is replaced by Peter Bosz, formerly the coach of Ajax. Pretty cheeky name for a trainer, I know.

The 53-year-old – ice cold, glamorous, bald, and Pep Guardiola lookalike — Dutchman will be the new Yellow coach. (Bet money all the bald men look the same).

We can expect Peter Bosz to be the yes-man for the board. As Bogdan strongly suggested, it will be important for the club to make sure, that the new coach doesn’t split up with the players, like Tuchel did.

Time certainly changes. The departure of Sven Bender created a large gaping hole in the hearts of the Dortmund fans while Neven Subotic is also on the brink of an inevitable departure from the Ruhrpott soon. But let’s just be honest for a second. Well yes, these players most certainly played a key role in the good ol’ glory days of Dortmund. However, as the game evolved and the much talked about Gegenpressing turned to be a liability, these players found it difficult to inhibit themselves in the ever-growing footballing culture. As Constantin Eckner, in the recent Yellow Wall Podcast suggested, that Subotic’s time at Dortmund is up and so was the case with Sven Bender (who moved to Leverkusen) as well.

On the brighter side of things though, at least Peter Bosz is showing some faith in his team, by giving Nuri Sahin an opportunity to prove himself, with Julian Weigl out injured due to ankle injury. Sahin, who was largely ignored by Thomas Tuchel, even considered leaving the club at some point last season.

We can thus expect these off the pitch ego problems to be handled by our new coach.

Philosophy

Tactically, Peter Bosz can be deemed as a mixture of Pep Guardiola and Jürgen Klopp. As we know, bald men, beside from categorically being sexy as hell, are smart — and Peter Bosz is definitely smart. The mainstream narrative about his tactical ideology, is that he prefers the quick and aggressive, or to put it in a simple, eloquent way, die Vollgasveranstaltung scheme of Gegenpressing football, which Dortmund achieved under the tutelage of some random funky guy called Jürgen Klopp. It was clearly evident in the friendlies too as the players looked to be forming a leeway-oriented counter-pressing formation to quickly win back the ball. A form of counter pressing, which focuses on cutting off all the remaining options for the opposition with multiple bodies going after the ball carrier forming a ring like structure and completely deserting the corresponding player. You can find more info about this in the excellent Spielverlagerung.com.

Dortmund fell into this leeway-oriented pressing category under Jürgen Klopp.

For example, this is Borussia Dortmund playing against AC Milan in a friendly. The ball carrier looks for options to play a forward pass:

As soon as the ball is played forward, the Dortmund midfielders Mario Götze and Gonzalo Castro sense the opportunity of a ball being played towards the No. 46 for Milan. Defensive midfielder Nuri Sahin also predicts the outcome and advances forward:

 

Here, all three middle men for Dortmund presses the midfielder as soon as the ball is played towards him:

Even though this scenario did end up as a chance for Milan as the Dortmund defensive line were caught by a neat throughball, this type of pressing is a great example for how the Peter Bosz pressing system might work, as the new season beckons.

On the other hand, Bosz likes to implement a possession based football. Somewhat resembling the method of Pep Guardiola (No, it has nothing to with him being bald), the Dutchman likes his team to be disciplined in terms of positioning. At Barcelona, Guardiola had this three-second rule, where a player shouldn’t be in possession of the ball for more than three seconds. At Ajax, Bosz stated the same methodology, but with the tweak. “Barcelona had the three-second rule. We’re not Barcelona so I’ve introduced the two second rule” – he said.

Bosz also cited the influence of Johan Cryuff’s philosophy too. Sporting Director Michael Zorc seemed convinced that they have chosen the right one in the shape of Peter Bosz. Stating, “We’re convinced with Peter’s coaching philosophy, which is similar to the style we and our fans want to see. Peter’s philosophy is an attack minded one. A structured possession football coupled with Gegenpressing. It’s a good balance. We also like that Peter is not reluctant to play young players in big games”, as per ESPN.

Plan B

Peter Bosz will most likely opt for a 4-3-3 formation. Thus far, it has been proved to be quite difficult to put past the three-man backline used by Thomas Tuchel for most part of the Rückrunde. The most obvious choice will be to use the 4-2-3-1 lineup, as most of the current crop of players are fairly used to the very formation.

Transfer Market

Ins: Borussia Dortmund have done okay in the market so far. The acquisition of exciting talents such as Mahmoud Dahoud and Maximilian Philipp in particular will be important throughout the course of the season. Furthermore, they have secured the services of experienced Bundesliga center back Ömer Toprak for just 12m €. Toprak will replace the departing Sven Bender (who was bought for a 15m fee, so RIP Leverkusen). Dan Axel Zagadou is also an incredibly exciting prospect. It will be interesting to see how many first team appearances he will receive under his belt.

Net Expenditures: €44m

  • Maximilian Philipp (SC Freiburg – €20m)
  • Ömer Toprak (Bayer Leverkusen – €12m)
  • Mahmoud Dahoud (Borussia M’Gladbach – €12m)
  • Dan Axel Zagadou (Paris SG B – Free transfer)

Outs: Borussia Dortmund did an absolutely excellent job in letting go of unnecessary players. They offloaded two average defenders for a handsome combined fee of €32m. While Colombian forward Adrian Ramos left for China for €12m. Recently, Mikel Merino, one of the Spanish starlets arriving last season from Osasuna also moved to Newcastle on loan with an obligation to buy after a certain number of first team appearances. Good luck to Don Merino there!

Net Earnings: €48 m

  • Matthias Ginter (Borussia M’Gladbach – €17m)
  • Sven Bender (Bayer Leverkusen – €15m)
  • Adrian Ramos (CQ Dangdai – €12m)
  • Pascal Stenzel (SC Freiburg – €4m)
  • Dzenis Burnic (VfB Stuttgart – loan)
  • Mikel Merino (Newcastle United – loan)

(Author’s note: All transfer figures have been taken from transfermarkt.com)

Strengths

Attacking flair: It’s just too bloody simple. Dortmund was transformed into an attacking blitzkrieg thanks to the arrival of Thomas Tuchel. Now, this identity is set to continue with Herr Bosz.

Attacking creativity is by far Dortmund’s biggest tool at their disposal. The attack oriented gameplay with a cutting-edge philosophy adopted by Thomas Tuchel is clearly evident after two years. The Black and Yellows created a staggering 388 chances last season, second best in the league. Thanks to their fluent attacking scheme, the Ruhr giants totaled an xG(expected goals) ratio of 62.72, which isn’t far behind of Bayern’s 68.75, per Alex Rathke’s xG model. Even though the Bavarians scored a stunning 89 actual goals last season, compared to Dortmund‘s 72.

Dortmund also lead the table in terms of square passes. They looked significantly dangerous when getting in behind the defense and delivering square balls to the feet of the attacker:

The tendency of square balls is clearly visible in the above Key Pass graphic by Alex Rathke. More chances mean more goalscoring opportunities but despite having 531 shots and 203 shots on target, bettered only by Bayern Munich, Dortmund only have a modest conversion rate of 12.6%, which is actually not bad, but is bettered by the super-efficient Köln (13%), the top two in Bayern and Leipzig (both 13.5%), while Werder Bremen tops the league with a staggering 14.8%! Die Grunweissen probably have the best offense in the Bundesliga, not naming the current league giants (too bad they have a Regionalliga level defense). Their SiB (shots inside the box) conversion rate is even more impressive with 20.7%, Dortmund stands fourth with 17.4%.

55 of Dortmund’s 72 goals have come from open play, as suggested by Instat’s Bundesliga end of season charts. That’s 76% of their overall goals scored for the season. Sensationally however, 51% of that amount have come from central positions, most in the league, not naming Hoffenheim. BVB’s shots/shots on goal ratio is also remarkable higher at 43% (13.7/5.9), second most in the league.

[Stat courtesy: Instat, Squawka, and footballintheclouds]

Depth: The current roster that Dortmund has is far superior to what they had some five-six years ago, in terms of depth. It’s just that Bayern have grown a lot stronger now. Back then, Neven Subotic’s injury would have meant a significant blow to the squad. Nowadays though, Peter Bosz will have a variety of different options to choose from and the large squadron will help the trainer be more flexible and implement different formation during his time at the club.

Just check out Borussia Dortmund’s depth chart for the upcoming season:

Youthful exuberance: Perhaps the thing that piqued Peter Bosz’s interest in Dortmund in the first place. Given the large assembly of up and coming youth talents Dortmund have, it seems to be a perfect match between the coach and the club itself. Considering, the 53-year-old also showed willingness to offer youngsters the opportunity to shine at the big stage in the Eredivisie. At the start of last campaign, Ajax had no less than six players eligible for the Under-21 football. So, it remains to see how Peter Bosz will utilize those new young guns at his disposal at Borussia Dortmund.

Ousmane Dembele, Christian Pulisic, Julian Weigl and Mahmoud Dahoud will no doubt play a considerably crucial role next season while Emre Mor, Felix Passlack, Dan Axel Zagadou and Maximillian Philipp, will have to prevail in early stages of the season in order to gain more first team minutes.

The Yellow Wall: If not anything, they will always have the backing of a seemingly incredible group of 80,000 fans in the Signal Iduna Park, 25,000 of which stand in the famous Südtribune. Over the years, the Dortmund fans proved to be 12th man for their team. Last season, the stadium erupted and started chanting about Marc Bartra following his injury from the bus attack in Dortmund. The season before, both Liverpool and Dortmund fans sang the famous You’ll Never Walk Alone chant when a BVB fan passed out inside the stadium. It just goes to show, the kind of rich bond the fans have with their team, something that will never ever be broken.

Weaknesses

Injuries: By far Dortmund’s biggest problem, well, for the past five years or so at least. For starters, we can look at the injury table for last season. Yikes:

Borussia Dortmund had the 2nd most time missed because of injuries in 2017-18.

As always, Dortmund are in the bottom mix in the injury table. A player has missed an average of 65 days due to injury, second worst in the league last season. The coach can’t even test his actual first team thanks to the amount of key players injured. Bosz is set to miss three of his most important players in Marco Reus, Raphael Guerreiro and Julian Weigl. Marcel Schmelzer has also suffered an injury last week, ultimately, forcing new signing Zagadou to play as a fullback.

Tactical difficulties: Injuries aside, players are also having difficulties syncing under new coach Peter Bosz. It is reflected on their pre-season shambles as they were clutched to defeat against third division Essen and Spanish outfit Espanyol while drawing against VfL Bochum. As Firstpost reports, Xinhua news agency claim that the players are being unable to perform at the same level under Peter Bosz. According to the same article, Dortmund goalkeeper Roman Bürki has admitted that the team still needs time to adopt the new coach’s tactical approach. Things are not working well with the new system – added the club captain Marcel Schmelzer. So, it’s definitely a cause for concern for the fans and the transition might take even longer than expected. Let’s hope it doesn’t end up like Markus Weinzierl at Schalke last season.

Horrific defense: The defense is a serious issue for BVB. While the BVB-ers seem entitled to believe that the defensive liability will finally come to an end under Bosz. However, considering their pre-season performance, it has only gotten worse. From what I’ve noticed, the problem doesn’t only lie in Dortmund’s midfield or pressing schemes but with the defensive back line itself. In the friendlies, we can easily see the positioning of the defenders, and how they are so fragile with long through balls. The gap between the two center backs seems too big or sometimes, the fullbacks leave acres of space in behind, eventually splitting the defensive line or sometimes, they’re just too slow to deal with the opposition counter attacks.

In this clip, Bochum found space in behind the right back Lukasz Piszczek who was unaware of the run, at the first place. In another friendly against Espanyol, a similar problem occurred when the back line basically delivered a gift to Espanyol attacker Pablo Piatti.

Additionally, the team looked extremely vulnerable from set pieces. In the eight goals conceded in the pre-season friendlies so far, three of them (37.5%) have come from a set piece.

Second fiddle shortcomings: Despite their amazing depth in the squad, most of the second team players have proven to be quite useless so far. And it doesn’t really help on BVB’s part. We all saw how Real Madrid’s second team helped Los Blancos to win the Liga title last season. Or maybe they’re just too good cause after all, their first team reject, is making a strong case for Bayern this summer (not a troll).

With Peter Bosz not being able to test his first team regulars’ due to injury. Many of the reserves were unable to perform at the same table and this just goes to show how much Dortmund rely on their star players. Superstars Pierre Emerick Aubameyang, Ousmane Dembele, Julian Weigl etc. are constantly linked with a move elsewhere and it comes down to the rest of the team, to make a strong case and perform at the same level. But the likes of Nuri Sahin, Neven Subotic, Gonzalo Castro or even Andre Schürrle has so far failed to live up to the billing. And frankly, this is what differentiates Dortmund from Bayern Munich. Both teams possess almost same quality in terms of their first team credibility but when it comes down to depth, Bayern’s second team always manages to get their team over the line (Sorry Mr. Thomas Muller, apparently you are a reserve team player too). Therefore, players, who are starting to deteriorate, needs to re-emerge themselves as a strong first team candidate.

Crucial stretch in schedule

The season starts on 5th of August, in the big DFL Supercup clash against Bayern Munich. After that, the stretch of schedule seems pretty okay. It will give Peter Bosz some extra time to implement his tactics into the team. Sure, Wolfsburg possess a very good team but a club struggling to find its identity nonetheless. It will be interesting to see how this Dortmund team performs after the Wolfsburg game, as the string of tough matches follows suit. Hertha, Freiburg and Köln, three Europe league representatives from the Bundesliga is sure to hand Peter Bosz a hard time of it.

Verdict

Bundesliga: 3rd place.

Champions League: Quarter Finals.

DFB Pokal: Semi Finals

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Bundesliga connoisseur and writer at Bundesliga Fanatic. Also a Bundesliga correspondent for The4thOfficial. In love with the Bundesliga since birth. Big fan of TwentyOnePilots and basically every other teen stuff(Star Wars not included). Still waiting for my man Milos Raonic to win a Grand Slam. Come to my house and we will watch Netflix and eat Nutella. lol just kidding. Follow me on Twitter @CoverShadow09

5 Comments

  1. Just was reading this while looking for a BVB depth chart. After the 3-1 loss to Spurs due to injuries (a marked up depth chart after transfers is pretty ugly), too much space on defense by Piszczek et al., and lack of second team players stepping up and it makes this preview seem prescient.

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