At their absolute best, Lucien Favre’s Borussia Dortmund team were pleasing on the eye and for the first time in almost a decade, the 2018-19 Bundesliga title race came down the final day. Despite being nine points clear at one point, Favre’s Dortmund that season was at times, breathtaking. The following season would see their dazzling attack produce a memorable night in the Champions League at the Westfalenstadion against French champions PSG but in the league, their true identity came to light.
Last season would see Favre’s Dortmund draw against Werder Bremen, Freiburg and Paderborn whilst losing from winning positions against Hoffenheim and Bayer Leverkusen – they would also pick up just three points from nine to finish the campaign, losing to Mainz and again vs Hoffenheim, failing to score in either. They would finish the Bundesliga campaign 13 points behind champions Bayern Munich.
Sporting director Michael Zorc and CEO Hans-Joachim Watzke publicly backed Favre in the summer and as usual, the start of the Bundesliga season filled Borussia Dortmund fans with false hope. Favre masterminded a 3-0 win against Borussia Mönchengladbach to start their campaign but despite losing the next game to Augsburg, Dortmund would win their next four – keeping four clean sheets and scoring ten in the process.
History though would repeat itself. Favre evidently achieved all he could with the resources at his disposal and his final five Bundesliga games in charge of Borussia Dortmund would yield just four points, a 5-1 home defeat to Stuttgart led to his eventual sacking. And now, they have a real problem.
Borussia Dortmund sacked Favre without a successor. Assistant coach Edin Terzić is in charge for the remainder of the season – or until they find a coach willing to leave their current job during a season – and although starting well, a 2-1 win at Werder Bremen, Terzić looks to be out of his depth. It must be said, through no fault of his own. Borussia Dortmund are languishing down in sixth, 16 points behind leaders Bayern Munich and on current form, qualification for next season’s Champions League looks doubtful.
Saturday’s defeat at Freiburg was a dire and laboured performance. Erling Braut Haaland barely touched the ball, pressing was non-existent, there was no movement in the final third and their transitions were sluggish. Something fans have grown accustomed to over the past 12-18 months. It was Christian Streich’s first win against Borussia Dortmund and Freiburg’s first win since 2010, a testament to the excellent work that Streich has achieved. With eight defeats already this season, their hopes of Champions League football are diminishing but qualification is absolutely necessary.
As Patrick Berger of Sport1 reported on Sunday, if Borussia Dortmund miss out on Champions League football they will have to sell another player in addition to Jadon Sancho, who is expected to leave the club in the summer. Borussia Dortmund are expecting losses of €75 million and may be forced to sell one of Raphaël Guerreiro, Julian Brandt or Gio Reyna alongside the Englishman. At this point, it’s important to note that BVB expect Erling Braut Haaland to remain at the club – his €75 million release clause comes into effect in 2022.
Unfortunately, there’s no quick fix to Borussia Dortmund’s problems. As Deutsche Welle journalist Jonathan Harding tweeted over the weekend, there’s more to it than just appointing an experienced coach – the boardroom is obsessed with the past and there’s no development structure for the club.
Under Jürgen Klopp, Borussia Dortmund’s philosophy was identifiable and even under Thomas Tuchel, they had a structure. A plan. The appointment of Peter Bosz and his gung-ho tactics was an odd one whilst Lucien Favre’s style was the complete opposite. Over the past two years, Dortmund have failed to progress whilst their incompetence in the transfer market is a recurring theme. They’ve failed to replace both Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Ousmane Dembele and not signing a back-up to then Paco Alcácer and now Erling Haaland is odd. Instead, Terzić is having to rely on 16-year-old Youssoufa Moukoko and BVB II striker Steffen Tigges to provide competition for Haaland.
But what next for Borussia Dortmund? Obvious candidates to replace Lucien Favre are Marco Rose (Borussia Mönchengladbach), Jesse Marsch (RB Salzburg) and Ralph Hasenhüttl (Southampton) but it’s difficult to see any of them leaving their current role until the summer.
It’s likely that Terzić will remain as the interim coach with Zorc and head of players’ department Sebastian Kehl both backing him despite Saturday’s defeat: “How meticulously he works and how clearly he addresses problem areas. Therefore, we have absolutely no criticism of his work,” Kehl told Kicker. “We will absolutely continue to show trust that he will reach the Champions League with the team.”
The next month is an important time for Borussia Dortmund. In their next six fixtures, they face Sevilla in the Champions League, a Revierderby vs Schalke, a Klassiker at Bayern Munich and a DFB Pokal quarter-final vs Borussia Mönchengladbach.
Qualifying for next season’s Champions League is the goal but with teams winning around them, they’re going to have to fight until the end.