With 1: 5 BVB went down against promoted Stuttgart. The bitter defeat cannot be explained simply by the absence of top striker Erling Haaland – the problems at Dortmund are deeper.
Lucien Favre and Borussia Dortmund suffered a bitter defeat on Saturday, which could potentially seal the end of the Swiss coach. Meanwhile, there are more voices on the team questioning the tactical approach.
Immediately after the 1: 5 against VfB Stuttgart, defense chief Mats Hummels said, for example: “We always try to play small and small through tight spaces and have a huge percentage of ball loss.” In fact, BVB lost the ball 22 times during the 90 minutes. Hummels added that his team’s play lacks depth. Game structure and game design have long been Dortmund’s overriding weaknesses.
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Hummels is certainly not innocent, as the build-up of the game starts at the very back of the defense, right in front of the 31-year-old’s feet. However, in recent weeks he and his fellows have rarely been able to initiate the attacks. The defense line is often too tight, the passes are not played wide. Many balls go straight into the foot, only a few players are sent for a long time.
Without Haaland there is no depth
The lack of depth mentioned by Hummels became an even more pressing point in the absence of regular striker Erling Haaland. The Norwegian provoked quite a few steep passes with his runs on the offside line. Without it, BVB becomes completely entangled in small-scale ball confirmations – for which the team lacks the confidence and ball security.
“Unfortunately, we play risk in areas where the returns are small, but the defensive consequences are very high,” Hummels further notes in his analysis. What he means is that the many passes increase the chance of losing the ball. Because Dortmund usually keeps the ball in the first or second third of the field, the road to your own goal is not that far. The opponent only has to overcome a few BVB defenders in the counter attack and is already in front of goalkeeper Roman Bürki.
Favre’s time is up
Those responsible for BVB should be concerned that these issues are not exceptional or have only recently appeared. In reality, they have been with the team for a long time. Favre has tried again and again to improve things with small staff and tactical changes. But especially the weaknesses in the player opening and the subsequent attack design remained.
The sometimes slow nature of Dortmund’s attacking game invites many opponents to defend more intensely and force the capture of the ball. This was last made clear against 1. FC Köln and Eintracht Frankfurt. If an opponent like Stuttgart comes along who is interested in game design, it could be embarrassing for BVB right now. Favre seemed more and more perplexed during yesterday’s game. His changes and realignments were rudimentary – for example, when switching from a three back to a back four. He didn’t act like a top coach who knows exactly how to crack an actually inferior opponent.
Dortmund now shakes enormously under Favre. The increasing uncertainty on the ball, the lack of depth and the attendant defensive hara-kiri are the perfect mix to jeopardize even the mandatory Champions League qualification.