The end is near. There is no more hope in this dark world. We shouldn’t even watch the next season. We might as well just hop on the Bavarian hype train and forget about the pesky team in black and yellow. Or should we....
Much has been made about the impending disaster about to befell BVB. After selling three world class stars in H*mmels, Gundogan, and Mkhitaryan, fans and pundits alike have already condemned the Ruhr team to a rebuilding season.
Yet in soccer, things are rarely as straightforward as they seem. Just ask England’s Euro squad.
Even so, next season will be more than "we haven’t fallen that far". Rather I think next season could be better than our near record breaking 2015-2016.
Close your jaw, I’m still sound of mind.
In fact I think we’ll be in legitimate title competition until the final week if not finally regain the Bundesliga. And in the Champions League I think we have a chance to progress at least to the quarterfinals if not further. Let’s not forget, we’ll always be in contention for the Pokal as well.
Ultimately this summer has been an imperfect storm that’s opened an opportunity for Dortmund. Let’s begin with the domestic scene and Bayern Munich.
A New Manager
Before the summer began many thought that next season would be Dortmund’s best opportunity to win the Bundesliga in years. Many of the factors that informed those opinions are still in place, namely Bayern’s transition to a new manager. Ancelotti is surely a top class manager, but switching from the artistic tiki taka of Pep will require a transition period. The transition has actually been a troubling trend with Ancelotti managed teams. Most recently, at Real Madrid, he often had trouble accommodating his embarrassment of attacking talent early in seasons. Tinkering long after the preseason, his teams got off to slow starts and were vulnerable to the counter attack. Madridistas will surely shudder at the memory of Ronaldo playing in front of left back Marcelo who might as well be a winger with no midfield cover in front of the back four. If Ancelotti again struggles to balance his vast attacking options in Bavaria with offensive fullbacks like Alaba and Lahm, Bundesliga teams will surely counter down the vulnerable flanks. Slow starts, at the beginning of seasons has seen Carlo’s teams underachieve domestically. Even before Real, while at PSG, he was only barely able to win the one team Ligue One a single time. His first season, saw the Parisians quickly lose a few games after he took over ultimately losing the title to a Montpelier team led by Olivier Giroud of all people. Arsenal fans can surely attest to what it’s like to rely on Giroud. Even the next season saw PSG take the crown with only two games to spare. Examining the mind numbing domestic dominance of Laurent Blanc’s PSG, it really puts Ancelotti’s domestic underachievement into perspective. Thus, it becomes clear that the claim that the new Bayern Munich man’s history of domestic struggles is not unsubstantiated.
This summer is unique in that the Euros and the Copa America lined up and only then because there was a special Copa America Centenario. Players from top teams around the world will have virtually no preseason and enter the season poorly rested. In the Bundesliga this will be especially true of Bayern Munich. Bavarian cornerstones, Manuel Neuer, Jerome Boateng, Mats H*mmels, and Thomas Muller will play the maximum number of games at Euro 2016. Lewandowski played into the quarterfinals, Thiago played into the knockout rounds, Alaba bore the burden for Austria, and Vidal ran himself into the ground en route to Copa glory. Douglas Costa will be playing into late August right after recovering from an injury picked up while training for the Copa. Aside from the extra miles on their legs, all of those players will show up weeks late to summer training. That will leave them weeks behind learning the Ancelotti system and amplify the manager’s history of slow starts and lead to a lengthier period of positional tinkering into the regular season. Add this to an existing Bayern trend to struggle early after summers with major tournaments. For example, after the Brazil world cup they "limped" to 79 points compared to this past years 88. Of course, Dortmund fans will remember H*mmel’s atrocious form to begin Klopp’s last season. Run ragged that past summer, he often found himself too far up the field and unable to sniff out counter attacks. The international scene for Die Schwarzgelben on the other hand has been rather quiet. Other than Lukasz Piszczek, Raphael Guerrero and maybe Kuba Blaszczykowski, no BVB player has played significant minutes deep into a tournament. Weigl has watched from the bench under Joachim Low and Mor, Sahin, Burki, Bartra and Pulisic have barely featured off the bench for their countries. Dortmund will have their stars well rested and fresh for the new season while Bayern will be looking for physios able to massage some life back into their player’s legs.
Bayern’s core that’s carried them from Van Gaal to Heynckes to Guardiola is aging and with it comes the injuries. Franck Ribery and Arjen Robben are both coming off of long term injuries. Both were clearly a shell of their former selves late last season. They’ll surely push for a spot in the starting XI even if they’re no longer deserving. Being the man manager and ego soother he is, Ancelotti will attempt to mold a structure to incorporate his past prime stars. This is precisely the predicament that’s gotten his team's in trouble in the past.
While it is true that Marco Reus is also injured for Dortmund, he is expected back for training camp. Further, Dortmund have come to expect and anticipate him missing time.
The Champions League
Now let’s turn to the European stage. The top teams across the continent will be running with tired legs much like Bayern. Their players have been battling in the Euros, the Copa, and soon the Olympics. This may be just enough of an advantage for Dortmund to make it an extra round.
At worst, next season won’t be nearly as bad as fans fear. Worst case, we crash out of the Champions League in the round of 16 after being drawn against a true heavyweight. Still there’s no doubt we’ll qualify for another run through the Bundesliga. Bayer Leverkusen and the rest of the pack have not closed the gaping 18 point chasm between us and them. Zorc has been astute in identifying and securing the best young talent across the world. If we need an extra boost at the winter break, we’ll have the funds to do so. There’s so much to look forward too for Borussia Dortmund not only far in the future as develop a new generation of stars but also this upcoming season as well!