Barely three months into the Borussia Dortmund job, Peter Bosz has invariably encountered the ups and downs of managing such a big club. When you take over at Germany’s second-best club, you will be showered with high praises when you come out on top and endure disproportionate criticism when you lose.
So it goes.
The Dutch man started his league campaign with 3 wins out of the initial 4 games with his team having scored 9 goals and conceding none and with that result came high expectations. Talks of BVB snatching the league trophy off of Bayern were being discussed among fans and pundits alike.
But this talk didn’t last long.
Dortmund faced their first loss of the season in the Champions League at the hands of high-flying premier league side Tottenham Hotspur. This game illustrated the shortcomings of Bosz’s side. Since then, his team was defeated by Real Madrid and RB Leipzig, while drawing against Apoel and Eintracht Frankfurt. Subsequently, the mood surrounding the Black and Yellows changed dramatically.
Hopes of making it to the UCL knockout rounds are almost gone, and with Bayern’s renaissance under Jupp Heynckes, the BVB-winning-the-league talk has been put on hold.
Although criticism of BVB’s defensive display and ability to convert chances have been right, the magnitude of some of the criticisms in the last couple of weeks has not been fair neither to the manager nor players.
First, let me ask this question: did anyone expect BVB to win the league before the season started? I’m pretty certain most people didn’t. Speaking for myself, I had them in 3rd place in my preseason prediction and, additionally, questioned whether there will be a genuine Bundesliga title race in the near future in a previous article. So the assumption that BVB are somehow “bottling” the league title is pretty absurd. If anything, being joint top of the league after 9 games is something to be applauded.
I mean, you can’t possibly expect BVB to have smooth sailing after the usual summer departures, can you? The club have not only made a managerial change, but also sold their best player last season in Ousmane Dembele. Bumps along the way are to be expected and the rebuilding process will take time.
Moreover, defensive problems are nothing new for Borussia Dortmund. The last time they had a robust defensive unit was in the 2012/13 season. Ath the time, the Mats Hummels-Neven Subotic partnership was one of Europe’s best. But since the champions league final, the team was struck by continuous injuries to its back line, which led to a chaotic 2013/14 season in which even Manuel Fredrich was called out of retirement.
Even after the departure of Kloppo, Thomas Tuchel had similar problems. He opted to use Seven Bender at CB, but this assignment didn’t really solve anything. New manager Peter Bosz has new players like Ömer Toprak, Dan-Axel Zagadou and Jeremy Toljan, but the defensive problems still persist.
One explanation, as mentioned earlier, is injuries to key players in defensive positions, which leads to discontinuity as a result of having to try out different formations and partnerships every week, inevitably leading to compounding problems. You know there is a problem when Julian Weigl is playing at CB, as saw on Saturday when BVB traveled to Eintracht.
The other issue, of course, is the style of play. When you have a team playing a high line, like Dortmund, you will be exposed to counter attacks. But BVB hasn’t come up with a solution to this problem yet, and don’t expect Bosz to change his style anytime soon, but balancing the two will be imperative.
Roman Bürki has been in good form last season and rarely had a bad game since the 5-1 loss against Bayern in 2015. However, the Swiss keeper has been under a lot of fire after the errors he has made this season. But the goalkeeper is hardly the main issue for Dortmund, and since there is no one on the bench who can do a better job or an ideal player in the market, Bürki will remain the man between the posts.
The only real and worrying problem of Dortmund’s very young season has been the results against the “big” teams. BVB has lost their games against Tottenham Hotspur,Real Madrid and RB Leipzig. More alarming than this bare fact is how similar the manner in which they lost those games was. Bosz, who has been unwavering in his approach to these games, needs to be tactically more flexible and try to get the best out of his squad.
Winning big games is doubly important, because, it not only enables the team to take points from a rivals, but also boosts the confidence and morale of the squad. Thus, the next couple of weeks will be important in shaping BVB’s season as they travel to a resurgent Hannover side before hosting Bayern Munich on Match Day 11. The return of Raphaël Guerreiro also will be a huge boost for the team, and Andre Schürrle, who is also coming back after a lengthy spell on the side lines, has an opportunity to impress his new manager and add further depth to the attack.
In the pre-match press conference before the DFB Pokal game vs Magdeburg, Peter Bosz explained that “at the start of the season, every half-chance was a goal. Right now, it isn’t. It’s all about margins,” thus emphasizing his team’s inability to make their chances and domination count has cost his side. Aubameyang is the leading scorer in the league with 10 goals and new signing Max Philipp has 5 to his name, but the front men haven’t been clinical of late and that’s another obstacle that needs to be dealt with in order to keep winning and put the lingering doubts aside.