I don’t want to overreact after one missed opportunity. Yes, Dortmund suffered a disappointing loss to Leverkusen when they could’ve made up ground on Bayern. Yes, we are still only four points behind Munich. And yes, the season is only six match days old.
But the international break is really boring. Now would be as good a time as ever to re-evaluate our expectations of what BVB will accomplish this season.
For me, this season is not about catching Bayern. It would have been more possible if our squad hadn’t dealt with so much upheaval this summer. We knew some players would be leaving, but losing all three of Mkhitaryan, Hummels, and Gundogan was tough.
Seven players arrived in the summer and have come into the senior team. And out of those seven players, five are already starters in our first choice squad. It’s a cliche at this point, but they really do each need to gel and become accustomed to playing in Dortmund and in the Bundesliga.
Marc Bartra has slotted in very well for Hummels at the back, but was unlucky to pick up this injury. The fault in our defense has not been with Bartra in the lineup, but it’s been when Matthias Ginter has had to deputize for an absent Bartra. Ginter has clearly been the weak-link of the defense when he has played.
The transfer rumors of Omer Toprak from Leverkusen will probably continue, as our depth at center-back is one of the main things that I see keeping us from overcoming Bayern this season.
Another obstacle to overtaking Bayern is our youth, especially on the wings. Ousmane Dembele, Christian Pulisic, and Emre Mor are all players with bright futures. Dembele and Pulisic particularly have shown well this season at times. But as is to be expected with young/new players, consistency is an issue. Without a healthy Marco Reus and Andre Schurrle, we have to rely on good young players to be great right now.
Compare this to what Bayern have. In their attack they have a mixture of experienced and new, but none of their really young players are being relied on as much as ours. Someone like 19-year-old Renato Sanches has a chance to make an impact on the side, but established players like Arjen Robben, Franck Ribery, Douglas Costa, Kingsley Coman and Thomas Muller are the players who show consistency and pick up most of the slack.
Then there is Mario Gotze. A lot of the title race this season was going to depend on how influential he could be to Dortmund after leaving Bayern. Understandably, he has been a bit rusty. He’s had moments that jog memories of the magic he used to create at BVB (see his incisive pass below), but he has certainly not been at his best.
After barely featuring for Bayern last year, this is to be expected . He’s not lost his talent or skill. He just has to play through some of these cobwebs in-order to re-discover his old form. If he’d come back this year and immediately returned to the world-beater he was at Dortmund, that would’ve been a big boost to our title efforts and would have taken some of the load off the youngsters in attack. Bold prediction, but I reckon that next year is the year we will see a consistent Gotze put together a POTY quality season
All this being said, I still like how our team stacks up against Bayern in a head-to-head! With Reus and Bartra healthy, we can beat them in a game or two. Unfortunately, the season usually doesn’t come down to one-game scenarios.
There have been talks of playoffs lately, and while they probably will never happen, it’s undeniable that this format would be kinder to Dortmund’s title chances. Bayern are better built for the long-haul that is the league season.
But this format is still available in cup competitions, and that’s where some of BVB’s primary goals this season should lie. In the league, I’d be satisfied with a second place finish. Remember, we finished seventh only two years ago!! Re-solidifying ourselves in the Champions League is very important after a season away.
Silverware in a cup is something that is realistic to expect. The DFB Pokal isn’t the most prestigious competition, but at least re-claiming one trophy from Bayern would be nice.
And I don’t think it’s unrealistic to expect a deep run in the Champions League. We were the most talented team in the Europa League last season, and the exit to Liverpool still leaves a bad taste in my mouth. Real Madrid have not been at their best this season, and a first place finish in our group is attainable. After that, anything is possible depending on your team’s form and draw.
So let’s enjoy the league for what it is this season. Let’s give Bayern our best shot in the games against them, let’s enjoy watching our young/new players develop, and let’s just keep winning as much as we can without focusing on how far away the leaders are.
Oh, and let’s enjoy a certain blue club stuck around the bottom of the table.
What are your expectations for the rest of the season?