Over in Germany, the predictable is happening. On top of their immortal perch sit Bayern Munich on 27 points. 11 games into the campaign, and you have to keep scrolling and scrolling until you find their competitors. Staggering scenes have hit the nation, as last season’s runners-up and ever-evolving Borussia Dortmund sit 15th in their 18-team league. It’s usually not a fair assumption to announce a team ‘finished’ so early in a season, but a wall has forced its way to Dortmund, and has placed itself firmly in the way of progression. 3 wins, 1 draw and 7 losses; not the prettiest report card to have in mid-November. Plummeting firmly to the foot of German football, what could it be that is making Klopp’s men perform so poorly?
It was the summer of 2008 in which Jurgen Klopp took over Der BVB. A passion-felt manager with an extremist view on the game, his creativity and personality were eradicated from his first game. With his young and vibrant roster of players, he led them to Europe, and to be eventual double winners in 2011-12. Winners of the Bundesliga the season before, and then runners up in the Champions League final in 2013, Klopp’s accolades were racking up quite nicely. Dubbed as the world’s hungriest and most-successful coach that season, surely nothing could stop the eccentric German?
It’s fair to say that injuries have. Forming regularly from 2013 onwards, an injury-plagued Dortmund have left them trailing Bayern ever since. Now, if you think being an Arsenal fan is bad, try supporting Dortmund. Often with 5 first team regulars out, Dortmund have yet lined-up with statistically their strongest team for two years. Blows to Ilkay Gundogan, a hot prospect of world football, Marco Reus, another German to add to the list, and Mats Hummels. Three players, completing the spine of such a well-structured team have all been absent this season, causing a huge blow to Klopp’s initial season aims. It’s then an interesting spectacle to review what could be causing these injuries. His certain style of play; ‘gengenpressing’ is a famous term known to European football, the energetic, high-pressure game plan he always sets out to play. The high-intensity these players play at in the modern, rigorous game can be dealt with for one year, coincidentally the year they won the double, but the constant work-rate at this level is screaming for muscle tears and pulls. A decaying squad that is now without Reus for two more weeks. Injuries certainly are part of the equation.
Klopp’s current men aren’t a bad side. In fact, containing some young stars, world-beaters and good quality squad players, many would argue it is a squad to fear. Anyone travelling to Dortmund know the support they give, the Signal Iduna Park is a volcano full of football fans, waiting to erupt at the perfect moment. A traumatising experience for any opposition, but this year it seems the opposite. They have a capable side containing Adrian Ramos, Pierre Aubameyang and Marco Reus, with additions such as Ciro Immobile, Matthias Ginter and Shinji Kagawa, a cult-hero at Dortmund. When injury stricken however – they just seem like a bunch of average players, with low-self esteem and no game-plan, confused at to what’s going wrong themselves. Even Klopp added furiously that Dortmund looked ‘pointless’ the other week after another defeat.
Dortmund are widely considered a feeder club to rivals Bayern Munich. The departure of their main stars Mario Gotze and Robert Lewandowski has seen the side struggle to retain their German championship two years in a row. Once one becomes good enough, they’re scouted and picked upon by the giants of European football and it’s farewell as soon as Bayern come knocking. Two years continually, the methods and dealings can be blamed in the name of Klopp surely? No manager wants their stars to go, but to give in with little fight, it seems odd to me, especially when a club is excelling and on the up. The departure of these elite players has seen morale drop and drop, with friendships broken along the way. It’s not particularly pleasing for the Dortmund faithful either, but what can they do about it in this absurd situation.
The greed and dominance of Bayern Munich factors the change in Dortmund’s downfall as much as any. Aforementioned, Gotze and Lewandowski have changed allegiances for the better, will it be Marco Reus next? Or Mats Hummels? Don’t put it past the Champions for sure. The Bundesliga is no competition anymore. In fact, it’s much more of a Capitalist society. The riches, in this case the prized players, are consumed by the financial giants whilst the rest of the society feed upon the scraps. Financial Fair Play proves no help either, but there’s no say for Dortmund, who appear to decline with each window that passes.
It’s a tough time for the Signal Iduna regulars, but they haven’t given up hope just yet. In England, if a team’s not performing well it’s ‘MANAGER OUT’ before the full-time whistle has even blown. Boo’s ring around the Emirates, White Hart Lane and the Sports Direct Arena – but not here. The immense support carried by these fans goes a long way in talking up the support of foreign clubs. Holding 81,264, the yellow seats are filled for each game that comes, with full support from the fans who know times won’t get much easier. Outside the Signal Park, a Dortmund fan quoted: “Klopp brought the club out of our crisis, now we will stick by him in his.” A moving quote by a fan who knows what struggle means, and there are thousands more who preach the same.
It’s not been all doom and gloom for Dortmund this year. Top of their Champions League group and second top scorers in the competition so far, they’re exciting the world with their brand of football. Slumping Arsenal, Anderlecht and Galatasaray, it would take a miracle for them not to top their group having already qualified. So why is it so different? In the bigger picture, Bundesliga sides will be more tactically adapted to their opponents, familiar to their playing style. Is the bigger stage causing Dortmund to play for nothing to lose? Who knows, but it’s a positive all Dortmund fans can take from this season’s dismal start.
Klopp is the man to turn things around. I’m sure of it. He has too much of a personality not too, and his love for BVB speaks volumes about his time in charge. He won’t quit just yet, and don’t blink too fast, because I’m sure their on a ladder up, granted a very long ladder, but it’s progression nonetheless. After this weekend’s victory, the push is on. The push to become the elite force this fierce team once were. Can they do it? We’ll see.
Thanks for reading,