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Opinion: Watzke needs to act or he might be next

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Watzke’s comedy of errors in review

SpoBis 2017 - Day 1 Photo by Maja Hitij/Getty Images

It’s official, Peter Bosz will stay in charge as the head coach of Borussia Dortmund. Apparently 2 months without a Bundesliga or Champions League-victory are not enough to give the dutch coach the pink slip.

This is, quite frankly, a baffling decision and one that will possibly haunt Hans-Joachim Watzke and Michael Zorc in the coming weeks if Dortmund does not manage to turn things around.

Questionable decision-making has been a trend in Dortmund this year and it has turned a team that was pegged as “one of the most exciting projects in football”, into a club in turmoil in just the span of a few months. Watzke and Zorc are at the heart of those decisions and both of them run the risk of being in the cross-hairs if the Bosz-experiment fails.

Let’s revisit how we got to this point.

Doubts about Thomas Tuchel

It’s the gift that keeps on giving.

There are 0 doubts about Thomas Tuchel’s football acumen and his ability to coach a team. In two years in charge, he won the DFB Cup, got the team to the Champions League twice and never lost a Bundesliga home game.

From a sporting perspective his appointment was a success. However there were other concerns, his character was questioned after a dubious end to his Mainz-stint. People questioned if he was able to endure the pressure of coaching a club like Dortmund. How could the introverted tactic genius Tuchel be able to follow in the footsteps of the extroverted and charismatic Jürgen Klopp?

Even Watzke himself seemed to have doubts about him. There were reports of Watzke’s reservations about Tuchel even before the coach stepped a foot onto the BVB-training facilities. In April 2015, Watzke talked to Osthessen-Zeitung about the search for a new coach, saying “I warn everybody about thinking too one-dimensionally about Thomas Tuchel”.

Just days later Tuchel was appointed as BVB head coach.

The Tuchel-Mislintat conundrum

Jump ahead to one year later. The success on the pitch returned with Tuchel in charge and forgotten were all of Watzke’s supposed doubts and weird comments. However, cracks were beginning to show, reports surfaced about a falling out between head of scouting Sven Mislintat and Thomas Tuchel. The coach refused to speak to one of the most important officials within the club and didn’t want him close to the players. A decision was needed.

Watzke sided with Tuchel, kind of. Mislintat was banned from the training grounds but received a promotion just a few months later, supposedly to appease bruised egos and keep the star-scout happy.

We all know how that turned out, Mislintat is on his way to London and cited this entire ballyhoo as one of the reasons why. During the members meeting today, Watzke commented on the situation, apologized to Mislintat and took the blame, stating “It was my personal mistake, to permit Sven being treated like this for 1,5 years”.

Tuchel sacking and the dreaded search for a replacement

Months went by and the relationship between Watzke and Tuchel grew increasingly apart. At that point Tuchel had not only alienated Mislintat, Zorc and Watzke but also a significant part of the team. It was clear that he would be gone after the season, no matter the results on the pitch. The incredibly sad bus-bombing and the spat between the CEO and the coach in the following days did the rest.

On May 30th 2017, Dortmund terminated the contract with Thomas Tuchel.

It was the foreseeable result of a month-long feud that left Watzke no other choice,but there are still a few questions that need to be addressed.

For example why did they sack a coach without having an alternative ready at the time of the announcement? In the days following Tuchel’s departure, Dortmund seemed clueless. They went from having no candidate at all to Lucien Favre, who was interested but couldn’t get out of his contract with OGC Nice, immediately to Peter Bosz who had a completely different style of play than Tuchel or Favre. The entire search for a new coach, one of the most important positions at a football club, seemed misguided and unprepared.

Furthermore, if the relationship with Tuchel was really this bad, why did the club let Hannes Wolf leave just months earlier. Wolf was considered a young coaching prodigy at the time, in the mold of Julian Nagelsmann and Domenico Tedesco. Stuttgart picked him up, with the friendly assistance from Borussia Dortmund, and he led them back to the Bundesliga and is doing a solid job with a very young and inexperienced team. Just last week a Wolf-coached Stuttgart team beat Dortmund 2-1, in part because Wolf outcoached Bosz.

Peter Bosz - Square peg in a round hole

Meanwhile the reigns were given to Peter Bosz, a 54-year-old coach who has never won anything in his coaching career and who’s biggest accomplishments are finishing second in the Eredivisie and reaching a Europa League final.

The biggest red flag however, shouldn’t have been the lack of success but the different style of coaching. Bosz prefers a typical dutch 4-3-3 system with a high backline, an emphasis on high pressing and counter attacking,in other words a Klopp-like system. One that Dortmund ditched when they switched from Klopp to Tuchel, a change that in my opinion helped BVB evolve. The entire squad was tailor-made for a possession based system and sorely needed, and still needs, a coach that can take advantage of that.

Zorc and Watzke either underestimated this change or didn’t realize what kind of coach they were hiring, which would be way worse. Sadly the personnel choices that were made this past summer hint at the fact that the ladder is actually more realistic than we’d like.

In order for Bosz’s high pressing system to work, and the reason why it still works for Jürgen Klopp, is the fact that you need a defensive midfielder that can cover a lot of ground and erases the mistakes in the build-up if they occur. For Klopp those players were Sebastian Kehl or Sven Bender. Meanwhile Bosz tries to do the same thing with Julian Weigl and Nuri Sahin, both being better suited for a possession style game. The only players that could’ve suited that role were Sven Bender and Matthias Ginter and both were let go during the summer.

Where do we go from here?

Watzke needs to act, swallow his pride, admit he made a mistake and sack Peter Bosz.

The team is in disarray and desperately needs a fresh start. The argument that Bosz should be allowed to continue because “there are no better options” is mind-boggling and borders on the insane. This is still Borussia Dortmund, a team that won a trophy mere months ago and still has a squad that should be considered among the best in the Bundesliga.

Peter Bosz has won one game in two months and that lone victory came against a third tier side. If Dortmund can’t find a coach that can do a better job than that, then we might be in bigger trouble than we thought.

As of right now I still trust Hans-Joachim Watzke and Michael Zorc. They have done an amazing job for over a decade, they helped rebuild this club from the ground up and made it into what it is today. Both of them should get the benefit of the doubt and no matter what happens their accomplishments should never be forgotten or diminished. And yet both risk destroying their legacy because of an apparent inability to admit and act on mistakes.

Something needs to change, if it doesn’t people will come calling for their heads next.