OPINION | Borussia Dortmund II are firing blanks and it could cost Christian Preußer his job

Borussia Dortmund II are in a crisis after the side’s sixth loss of the season, a 1-2 against newly promoted VfB Oldenburg on Saturday, and now find themselves struggling to find a ground share until the end of the year.

With the building works to install a new pitch and under soil heating still subject to delays, the 81,000-capacity Signal-Iduna-Park was once more the backdrop for the second team’s match. Despite putting in a more spirited fight, BVB II came off the lesser side against the newly promoted North German side, going down 2-1 through a 90th minute winner scored by former Poland U17 international Robert Zietarski in front of an audience of just 2256. 

The second season, as they say, after a promotion is always the hardest, but the ‘Black and Yellows’ have now lost four games in a row and are currently one point from bottom in the third tier. With just four points from eight games so far, they have a goal deficit of -11.

Christian Preußer’s team have genuinely looked out of place in the third tier this season, in particular in the 4-0 home loss to Ingolstadt and the 3-0 defeat at Dynamo Dresden, the U23s simply looked too harmless. The attack have scored just four goals and the defence is porous with 15 goals being conceded so far.

The team won their home match against RW Essen, however newly promoted ‘RWE’ are two places above the BVB U23 team in 16th place and have been one of the worst-performing sides in the third tier this season.

The reasons for the crisis are multiple but they mostly lie in the recruitment strategy. At the start of the season there were real grounds for optimism. Some good signings were made like winger Jayden Braaf who joined from Manchester City, the highly talented left back Prince Aning from Ajax and ‘keeper Marcel Lotka who was one of the few revelations at Hertha Berlin in 21/22.

Bradley Fink was not replaced

Worryingly however, the weaknesses predominantly in attack that arose in the 21/22 season where only 51 goals were scored were not addressed. In fact the situation has been made worse with sporting director Ingo Preuß allowing the offensive heart of the team, strikers Bradley Fink (FC Basel), Richmond Tachie (SC Paderborn), Immanuel Pherai (Eintracht Braunschweig) and Berkan Taz (Waldhof Mannheim), who scored 24 goals out of the total of just 51 goals scored between them in the past season to leave the club. 

The return of former Bayern Munich II forward Michael Eberwein, who returned from Hallescher SC, seemed like a logical move. Eberwein scored 11 goals with Hallescher SC last season. He played for BVB U23s between 2015-18 and the 26-year-old is BVB II’s eighth best all-time leading scorer with 28 goals overall. However, Eberwein is yet to score this season.

A further pattern which caused additional problems for the second-string Dortmund side, who finished ninth last season, has arisen again this year. Due to the injury crisis in the first team which currently includes Donyell Malen, Mahmoud Dahoud, Jamie Bynoe-Gittens, Karim Adeyemi, Mateu Morey, Gregor Kobel, Thorgan Hazard and of course Sebastien Haller, Preußer has had to cede key players. On Saturday, BVB II’s strike force were weakened having to make do without the team’s most promising striker, Justin Njinmah, who joined last season from Werder Bremen II and has scored an impressive 24 goals in 53 professional matches in his career to date. Poland U21 Goalkeeper Lotka was also on duty for the first team’s game at RB Leipzig on Saturday.

Enrico Maaßen’s departure caught the club by surprise:

The appointment of Preußer was a last-minute decision and came in the wake of the departure of the highly talented Enrico Enrico Maaßen to Augsburg. Maaßen led BVB II to the fourth-tier Regionalliga-West title in 2021 and his departure is a big loss to the reserve set-up. For new coach Preußer however, the opportunity with the BVB U23s represents a career defining second chance. The 38-year-old coach had anything other than a successful period with Fortuna Düsseldorf, getting fired after less than one year with the club in a relegation spot.

On paper Preußer seemed like a logical choice, he was highly successful with Freiburg II where he spent five years, leading the team to promotion to the 3. Liga in 2021. However, this season, BVB II, in the form they have shown so far are starting to look more like a fourth-tier side than a title contender. Injuries are not the issue. Only midfielder Dennis Lütke-Frie and forward Lukas Bornemann are currently injured, although centre-back Mario Suver was unavailable for the Oldenburg game due to suspension.

The issues appear to be an under investment in the squad and tactical issues. The team have simply been outplayed and something drastic will have to change if ‘Die Amas’ are to avoid relegation. It’s early days, nine games into the season, however that something might be coach Preußer. As coaches like former Norwich City and current ‘Gladbach coach Daniel Farke has shown BVB II can be a strong calling card. One candidate who could be a strong contender would be former BVB II coach David Wagner. The 50-year-old is currently available having been sacked from his position with BSC Young Boys Bern in March. Wagner led the U23s between 2011 and 2015 when Jürgen Klopp was coach of the first team and he maintains a good relationship with sporting director Sebastian Kehl, who was captain of the team at the time.

Marcel Schmelzer is interested in becoming a coach

Another candidate could be the recently retired defender, Marcel Schmelzer. The 34-year-old spoke about wanting to follow in the steps of former teammate Nuri Sahin, who is currently coach of Turkish top tier side Antalayspor, in an interview with Sport1 in May. Schmelzer enjoyed 17 years at BVB, progressing through the youth and the second team and going on to win several titles and play in the Champions League final. The former left-back remains close to the club, he is currently a club ambassador and an organiser of the legends team. “Schmelle” gained a reputation for being a leader as a player and appears to be a former player the club has earmarked for a coaching role at the club in the future, however the lack of a coaching badge remains an issue.

For now, the club appear to be supporting the coach and there has been little speculation regarding a successor in the media. 

One thing is for sure, whether there is a change at the helm of BVB II or not, sporting director Ingo Preuß will need to be given a transfer budget in the January window. Even with striker Timo Bornemann back, the side need to replace Swiss Striker Bradley Fink who left for FC Basel in August, more options at centre-forward are needed. BVB II have only scored four goals so far this season, a tally second only to bottom-placed Erzgebirge Aue.

The Signal-Iduna-Park is no longer available and finding an alternative is time-critical:

Curiously, a further concern for the management is finding a venue for the team’s home matches. Due to the tight schedule of the first team in the DFB Pokal, league and European competition and need to manage the pitch in between games, BVB are currently looking for an alternative venue for the BVB II team to play their matches.

According to Ruhr Nachrichten, there are ongoing delays which are likely to result in Stadion Rote Erde the second side’s home stadium, and former ground of the first team until 1974, not being available for at least ‘a further three months.’

A solution conveniently located just 35km from Dortmund was originally designated however the temporary ground share in Essen with local team Rot-Weiss has been turned down by the city authorities, who own the Stadion Essen, which is also used by women’s Bundesliga team SGS Essen as well as a training ground for fellow third-tier side Rot-Weiss.

A decision on where the remaining home matches this year, against 1860 München, MSV Duisburg, SC Verl, Viktoria Köln and Erzgebirge Aue, will be held is expected this coming week.

Ben McFadyean

 

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