December 11, 2017

Crisis in Dortmund: The Final Days of Peter Bosz?

It is officially panic time in the Ruhrgebiet. Not for Schalke, who are usually the victims of unfortunate circumstances around this time of year, but rather, Borussia Dortmund. Six weeks ago, Dortmund was on top of the football world. They were first place in the Bundesliga with a comfortable five point lead over struggling Bayern München. They had conceded a single goal while scoring nearly 20. The “Bosz effect” had proven to be, at least for the short-term, a success.

Suddenly, without warning, things went awry. After a 1:3 defeat in London to a dangerous Tottenham side in their Champions League opener, the first piece of the wall had been chipped away. For the first time, BVB looked vulnerable. The Spurs capitalized on many of Dortmund’s weaknesses, which their previous Bundesliga opponents had been unable to do. To be completely transparent, Dortmund had hardly played the league’s elite squads up to this point, another reason their 19 points out of seven matches may have called for only subtle celebration.

Peter Bosz had two problems which needed quick resolution: First, Dortmund lacks the ideal personnel to consistently perform well within Bosz’s 4-3-3 Ajax Amsterdam-influenced formation, and secondly, he refuses to play with anything other than an extremely high defensive line, which in the coming weeks, would get caught with its pants down time and time again. BVB’s back four by name are solid, however, when playing high up the pitch, can be easily outmaneuvered due to a combination of poor positioning and lack of speed. The lack of speed is most concerning because it prevents The Black and Yellow’s defenders from quickly closing down the opposing attack. This typically leads to a one v. one situation against keeper Roman Bürki.

Even during the “good times” when Dortmund looked like they could win the Champions League, (not realistically, purely based on their early results) much less the Bundesliga, those who paid close attention could see the cracks in BVB’s foundation. During a 6:1 win over Borussia Mönchengladbach, The Foals had numerous chances to score, especially one Thorgen Hazard. They simply could not convert. In future matches ,the opposition’s missed chances would soon become conversions though. To make matters worse, Dortmund’s own attack would begin to cool.

After another Champions League thrashing, this time at the hands of Real Madrid, a side which had previously never won a match at the Westfalenstadion in its illustrious history (winless in seven matches), Dortmund would taste their first home defeat in the league since April, 2015, when Jürgen Klopp was still manager. RB Leipzig would be the guests who finally crushed the home unbeaten record on which Borussia Dortmund had prided itself during the Thomas Tuchel era. It would also mark the first time this season where BVB scored the opening goal only to see the match result in defeat when the final whistle was blown.

Leipzig demonstrated a well-designed strategy, a strategy tailor-made to dissect a side like Dortmund, who plays with such recklessness in defence. Following this match, BVB played Eintracht Frankfurt and enjoyed a 2:0 lead entering the 64th minute. Within the next five minutes, Nico Kovac’s squad had equalized. Once again, Bosz’s tactics had been exposed. In addition to his side under-performing, Bosz himself was coming under some harsh criticism due to his perceived unwillingness to adjust his philosophy. If it is broken, it usually needs fixing, and Borussia Dortmund was clearly broken.

The misery continued for Die Schwarzgelben as the losses began to mount, this time a 2:4 road defeat in Hannover. It took Dortmund seven matches to build a five point lead as “Tabellenführer” (Table leaders) in the Bundesliga, it took them only two matches to lose it. The next opponents were Bayern München, who were enjoying a resurgence since the sacking of Carlo Ancelotti and subsequent hiring of treble-winning manager Jupp Heynckes. The Bayern match would either temporarily save, or definitively end Borussia Dortmund’s title hopes only eleven weeks into the Bundesliga campaign.

FCB made short work of Dortmund, winning easily 1:3, as Peter Bosz’s high press was further exposed. Andriy Yarmolenko is a fine example of Bosz tactics gone wrong. Yarmolenko is a good player without question, but is terrible at pressing his opponent and therefore, barely even tries. In order for pressing to work effectively, all ten players on the pitch must work together, almost to perfection. Bosz is not allowing Yarmolenko to play to his strengths. On the contrary in fact, he requests something of the player which is completely out of his comfort zone. Yarmolenko is a weak link in this aspect and as a result the whole team suffers.

For BVB supporters, this is already depressing enough, so I will forego the failures in the Champions League against minnows APOEL Nicosia, and a further defeat within the league to VfB Stuttgart. BVB CEO Hans-Joachim Watzke and Sporting Directing Michael Zorc need to start asking themselves the hard questions. How much longer can this historic collapse of a team with a roster full of exceptional talent continue? Is it Bosz’s fault, or is it the fault of the players? Sorry, the “Bos(z)s” always takes the blame in this scenario. This is 100% on Peter Bosz. If the players do not execute on the pitch, it is his responsibility to fix that.

Perhaps Dortmund do in fact lack the correct personnel to perform the way Bosz had envisioned. If that is the case, it is on him to switch to a 4-2-3-1,  4-3-2-1, or a 4-1-4-1 in the meantime, until the appropriate transfers can occur to provide him with the necessary players for his 4-3-3. That is coaching, plain and simple. Peter Bosz is proving to be a one-trick pony who has shown a complete lack of understanding of what it takes to win with this group of players. Every Tottenham attack in the 2nd leg Champions League fixture Tuesday led to a look of nervousness on his face. It was almost as if he was thinking: “With the next defeat, my job too goes with it.”  Bosz is holding on for dear life, and rightfully so. If Dortmund lose the Revierderby this weekend, his fate should be sealed. If Watzke or Zorc have any desire in them to save what is left of this season, they will do what is in my opinion, long overdue.

Borussia Dortmund form since September, 30th, 2017: 

Bundesliga: One point out of a possible 15 (5 matches), 8 goals for, 14 conceded. Dropped from 1st place to 5th in the table.

Champions League: Two draws against APOEL Nicosia and a loss against Tottenham.

DFB-Pokal: 5:0 win over third-tier side FC Magdeburg. Next opponents: FC Bayern München

Stat that will blow your mind:

In two seasons under Thomas Tuchel Dortmund never lost a Bundesliga match at home, and in fact, only lost twice at home period. One, a Champions League loss against Monaco, the day after their team bus was attacked. This was a 100% excusable loss in my opinion. The only other, a meaningless mid-December match against PAOK in the Europa League, after BVB had already comfortably advanced to the knockout stage.

In just over three months, Peter Bosz has doubled the amount of home defeats from the Tuchel era, with many of the same players at his disposal, and we are not even to the winter break yet. More impressively, Bosz already has two Bundesliga home defeats to his credit. Tuchel’s Dortmund never experienced this feeling once in his two years on the Dortmund bench.

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Christopher Smith

Christopher grew up in Amberg, Germany, but now resides in Charleston, South Carolina in the USA where he follows the Bundesliga and 2. Bundesliga on a weekly basis. He is an avid Borussia Dortmund fan, but enjoys all German football from top to bottom. His favorite players are "Super" Mario Götze and Christian Pulisic. You can follow him on twitter @crittysmith

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