December 11, 2017

BVB Bulletin: Stymied by HSV’s Black Box – Again

There’s something about traveling to Hamburg. Always. This time, the result was a not exactly dull 0-0 draw, snapping Dortmund’s 4 match Bundesliga winning streak.

Playing in Hamburg is akin to passing through some magical “black box” in which all outcomes do not favor your club; the input = your club playing away at Hamburg, and no matter how badly HSV are slumping, the output = your club losing or drawing, at best. The phenomenon is a constant in German fußball.

Imtech Arena: the Bundesliga's big "black box."
Imtech Arena: the Bundesliga’s big “black box.”

The “black box” effect in Hamburg is pretty amazing, especially for Dortmund. In general, Hamburg are a better home than road team this season. HSV’s home record is 13th best, while its road record is 18th (dead last!) best in the Bundesliga. At home, HSV has 4W-4D-4L and on the road has 2W-3D-7L. Meanwhile, on the road HSV has failed to score 8 times (!) and owns a GD of -15 (compared to -2 at home).

In what’s been a dismal 2014-15 season, Imtech Arena has been a bit of a home, sweet home. For example, the match in which HSV acted as Bayern’s toilet paper (the humiliating 0-8 loss) was sandwiched by a 2-1 home win over Hannover and a 1-1 home draw over Mönchengladbach. Solace.

Imtech arena, Duplo style. The totem behind HSV's black box? (To mix our metaphors in search of the truth.)
Imtech arena, Duplo style. The totem behind HSV’s black box? (Mixing our metaphors in search of the truth.)

Moreover, HSV is the certified bogey side for BVB in recent seasons. In their six matches prior to Saturday’s scoreless draw, Hamburg had won 4 and lost 2 to Dortmund, including a sweep of BVB in the 2014 calendar year. Furthermore, in these head-to-head battles, HSV outscored BVB 13 to 10 goals. And who can forget this match from last season?

After Saturday’s draw, Dortmund closes out a winless 2014-15 against the Bundesliga dinosaurs. Ah.

More importantly, BVB’s draw against the Bundesliga’s 15th place side brings die Schwarzgelben‘s 4 match Bundesliga winning streak to an end. For a week at least, Dortmund’s late assault on the Bundesliga table is paused, as BVB sit at 10th place, wedged between Eintracht Frankfurt and Köln.

So what about Saturday’s draw?

Well, the inputs looked fertile enough. Dortmund outshot HSV 12-4 and easily out-possessed the home side. Indeed, BVB’s completed something like 75% of its passes, while Hamburg only completed 48%, seemingly playing a “clear the ball out” strategy of lobbing long clearances or aerial balls up the pitch.

The heatmaps for both sides look similar to what we saw from the Revierderby last weekend:

During Saturday's draw, BVB mostly operated high up the pitch, while HSV played a defensive game akin to Schalke's from a week ago. (Courtesy of WhoScored.com)
During Saturday’s draw, BVB mostly operated high up the pitch, while HSV played a defensive game akin to Schalke’s from a week ago. (Courtesy of WhoScored.com)

Dortmund spent large swaths of time in HSV’s own half. The average position of all players resembles the above heatmap, as HSV stayed in their own half, while BVB constantly penetrated their opponents’ half:

BVB's average player position vs. HSV's is indicative of the match's dynamic. (Courtesy of WhoScored.com)
BVB’s average player position vs. HSV’s is indicative of the match’s dynamic. (Courtesy of WhoScored.com)

As if this dominance wasn’t enough, Dortmund displayed some dazzling touches of skill on Saturday. That’s right, super skills, kiddos:

Dazzling, yes. But these skills didn’t pay the bills on Saturday.  Although the inputs were fertile, the output was fallow, as BVB encountered HSV’s black box.

BVB’s shooting chart says it all, really. About 75% of Dortmund’s shots were off target or easily blocked (e.g. softy headers):

BVB's shooting gallery was sloppy at HSV. (Courtesy of Sqauwka.com)
BVB’s shooting gallery was sloppy at HSV. (Courtesy of Sqauwka.com)

Fallow, fallow. For all of Dortmund’s recent success, Saturday’s match felt so much like many of the futile matches we saw earlier in the season: lots of shooting, but empty results.

Look, I’m not going to signal some pattern emerging out of this frustrating result. Yes, Dortmund dropped points in Hamburg, but no this result doesn’t necessarily mean anything beyond being what it was: a draw in which BVB simply couldn’t find the netting. I can quibble about the little things – like Kirch doing his best to fill Piszczek’s injured boots, or Immobile still learning Bundesliga-style football – but at least Dortmund are playing their game of running and gunning. I’ll take it. The style is worth a frustrating draw here and there.

How could I not be happy?

Besides, Dortmund escape an Englische Woche-styled week, unlike Schalke and Bayern toil away in the Champion’s League. Instead, BVB have a week off before hosting the raging and rampaging Billy Goats of Köln, who are fresh off destroying Eintrach Frankfurt 4-2 on Sunday. I can already hear the bleating. Anyone up for some goat meat curry?

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Travis serves as an editor and regular columnist here. He writes for Howler magazine's website. Born and groomed in Santa Fe, New Mexico, Travis is a college English instructor in Pittsburgh. Coffee, books, and coaching the U8s are his passions. His writing has also appeared in Bloomberg Sports, the Good Man Project, and his former blog, Sportisourstory.tumblr.com, and elsewhere. He tweets at @tptimmons. Heja BVB!

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