BVB Bulletin: from Cellar to Europe – Danke, Kloppo!

The remarkable Jürgen Klopp era at the Signal Iduna Park ended on Saturday, the final matchday of the 2014-15 Bundesliga season, with a 3-2 win for Borussia Dortmund over Werder Bremen. Although Klopp still has Saturday’s upcoming Pokal final match against VfL Wolfsburg in Berlin, Saturday’s home win marked the end of the revered coach’s eight year run with BVB in the Budnesliga.

Given Klopp’s two Bundesliga titles (2010-11 and 2011-12), Champions League final appearance in 2012-13, Pokal title in 2011-12 (and the chance for another on Saturday), the man leaves Dortmund as a serious candidate for the “GOAT” coach in club history – Ottmar Hitzfeld being the only other serious candidate for this title.

Klopp’s Bundesliga legacy with Dortmund is remarkable, especially considering the bankruptcy-fouled air still polluting BVB when he took over in July 2008. During Klopp’s 238 Bundesliga match tenure, BVB averaged an impressive 1.91 points per match.

Table of BVB's results since 2008
BVB’s results under Juergen Klopp: 2008-2015. (Courtesy of Statto.com)

In the bigger picture, amazingly, 2014-15 was Klopp’s statistically worst with BVB (although a Pokal title could positively change this picture!). *Only* 13 wins. And BVB-career high 14 losses – that’s right, more wins than losses this season for Klopp. This data should help us remember just how dramatic the season was for Dortmund. It’s hard to remember that, about five months ago, BVB sat in the Bundesliga cellar, squat on a relegation seat. For a short time, there was serious talk about a relegation battle.

How far away this desperate position seems as BVB *only* nabbed a Europa League play-in spot with their 7th place finish. Back in August, such a result would have seemed ludicrous. Now? It’s miraculous, given just how wretchedly the season was going. 2014-15 was a sort of miracle season for BVB. Don’t be fooled by that relatively gaudy roster littered with stars like Marco Reus, Mats Hummels, Ilkay Gündogan, Roman Weidenfeller, Pierre-Emrick Aubameyang, and Kevin Großkreutz (oops, Freudian slip / typo, folks!). Other sides with similarly shiny rosters haven’t fared so well during mid-season collapses.

Let this fact sink in as you stir your mourning hearts and reminisce on Klopp’s time at Dortmund. Kloppo did it all: climb to the top, win titles, climb to the summit of the UCL, and finish 2014-15 in miraculous style.

Danke, Kloppo. Danke schön!

Tifo of Juergen Kloppo
Kloppo was honored with the tifo he deserved by the Yellow Wall on Saturday.

About that Match on Saturday

Lest I forget, there was an actual match on Saturday. After all, football matches are why we all watch, right?

Fußball happened. Werder Bremen was in town. Besides the Klopp sendoff, the match had Europa League (EL) stakes attached. For added security, BVB needed the win to secure an EL play-in slot. On the other hand, Werder rolled into town as the Bundesliga’s 8th place team, even on points with Dortmund.

However, BVB made no mistake about securing Klopp a joyful send-off. Dortmund scored 2 goals in 2 minutes (first Kagawa at 15′, then Auba at 17′) to kick off the party. Gündogan assisted Kagawa’s goal and Kagawa assisted Auba’s goal. Yet Werder’s 19 year Turkish attacking midfielder, Levin Öztunali scored from the middle of the box, assisted by Zlatko Junuzovic at 26′ to tighten the match.

This nervy scoreline held for another 16 minutes until Kagawa assisted Henrikh Mkhitaryan on a fast break goal at 42′. Jubilation. And a 3-1 halftime lead, as Dortmund managed 15 shots during the first half, including one woodwork attempt.

The second half was more sedate as BVB cruise-controlled. However, a defensive lapse during a set piece allowed Gebre Selassie to score for Werder at 85′. Fortunately, BVB locked down the final minutes, bringing 2014-15 to close with a home win on Kloppo’s send off.

The match was vintage BVB during the Klopp era: lots of running, high positions up the pitch, and many many shots. BVB finished wih 22 shots (to Werder’s 7). The shot chart is delightful:

BVB's multi-colored shot chart against Werder Bremen on MD 34. (Courtesy of Squawka.com)
BVB’s multi-colored shot chart against Werder Bremen on MD 34. (Courtesy of Squawka.com)

More importantly, Werder gave BVB space to transition quickly from regained-possession into attack, as illustrated in the average positions of their starting XI:

Werder gave BVB space to execute dangerous attacks with speed. (Courtesy of Bundesliga.de)
Werder gave BVB space to execute dangerous attacks with speed. (Courtesy of Bundesliga.de)

Bremen’s high backline opened up dangerous space for BVB to exploit on speedy counters when Dortmund escaped the congested midfield. Haven’t learned in the past four years that this kind of defensive strategy is generally disastrous against Klopp’s BVB? And Dortmund was willing to run the hell out of this match.

Overall, almost everyone had great matches for Dortmund, especially Kagawa (1 goal 2 assists), Gündogan (1 assist), and Mkhitaryan, who may have played his best match to date garbed in schwarzgelb. The Armenian scored once and was robbed of another with a woodwork attempt. His passing work and sprinting work was sensational:

Mkhitaryan's impressive work covering the pitch. (Courtesy of Bundesliga.de)
Mkhitaryan’s impressive sprinting work covered the pitch against Werder Bremen on MD 34. (Courtesy of Bundesliga.de)

Never again should we hear that Mkhitaryan doesn’t track back or run like a BVBer. Moveover, Mkhitaryan was BVB’s most dangerous and prolific passer in the final 3rd, operating from the right flank.

Finally, “Illy G” just ever so slightly rubbed just a tiny bit of salt on our wounds by reminding us how he can sometimes single-handedly orchestrate a match from the central midfield. Gündogan was the conductor on Saturday, receiving and making passes as the central node in BVB’s network:

Ilkay Guendogan was the central passing node for BVB against Werder Bremen on MD 34. (Courtesy of Bundesliga.de)
Ilkay Guendogan was the central passing node for BVB against Werder Bremen on MD 34. (Courtesy of Bundesliga.de)

Illy G played 100 passes and received 94. From this passing network chart, you can see how Gündogan involved almost every BVB player in his wide-ranging passing network.

Gawd, I’m gonna miss Gündogan. At least we have one more match to appreciate the maestro.

Which brings us to this upcoming Saturday: the Pokal final against VfL Wolfsburg in Berlin. Considering the unlikely arc of BVB’s dramatic narrative this season, it’s incredible that securing one of the major trophies is possible.

If you’ve been following this season closely, you already know how strong the Wolves are. Kevin DeBruyne is clearly the Bundesliga’s player of the year. Naldo was one of the league’s best all-rounders. Ricardo Rodriguez is one of Europe’s best fullbacks. And Bas Dost woke up.

But it’s Kloppo’s final match with Dortmund. And, for the mystics among us, BVB’s narrative has inexorable power right now. Let’s see how it ends.

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Travis serves as an editor and regular columnist here. Born and groomed in Santa Fe, New Mexico, Travis is a college English instructor in Pittsburgh. Coffee, books, and sports are his passions. His writing has also appeared in Howler magazine, 11Freunde, America Magazine, The Short Pass, Bloomberg Sports, the Good Man Project, his former blog, Sportisourstory.tumblr.com, and elsewhere. He tweets at @tptimmons. Heja BVB!