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Digital Dortmund: Chapter One

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Alternative Reality

Borussia Dortmund Bus Explosion Injures One Photo by Lukas Schulze/Getty Images

Just like the start of the real life 2017-18 season, Borussia Dortmund had Dutch manager take over for the club after Thomas Tuchel was given the heave-ho. And just like real life, Dortmund was drawn into a Champions League group containing Real Madrid and Tottenham. And once again, just like in real life, we made good money selling Dembele while bringing in exciting talent to challenge for the Bundesliga title.

However, unlike the real world, Football Manager had something different in mind for our beloved BVB. That outstanding start to the season? It wasn’t exactly matched in FM. That transfer activity? Turns out Bosz wasn’t quite done according to the developers at Sports Interactive. The rest of Dortmund’s season until our most recent match? Well, you’ll see.

Apparently Watzke and Zorc gave Bosz some more leeway for transfer activity because while in real life there were only a few incoming players, Football Manager Bosz was more active in the transfer window. In July, Bosz splashed the cash to bring in Andrej Kramarić and Leander Dendoncker in July, and Willi Orban in August at the deadline. Kramarić was brought in from Bundesliga foe Hoffenheim for $18 million to be a backup striker to Pierre-Emerick Aubamayeng, while Dendoncker was snatched away from Anderlecht for $22.5 million to man the midfield, and Orban came from RB Leipzig to play defense for $14.25 million. They also brought in a couple of youth players that were randomly generated by the game, but that’s not all that important.

Dropping a cool $54.75 million on three players is a little shocking, but they sold some players too to offset the cost… sort of. Bosz offloaded long-time Dortmund defender Neven Subotic to Frankfurt. In real life, Subotic went to AS Saint-Étienne on a free, but in Football Manager he moved for $3.8 million. Bosz also got rid of Dortmund legend Park Joo-ho for some cash; $1.2 million to be exact from Huddersfield Town. The fact that Football Manager Bosz was able to get anything more than a bag of balls and a ham sandwich for Joo-ho, let alone money, is amazing. He also dumped Massimo Ornateli, an Italian-German playing for Dortmund II to Braunschweig for $110K and he loaned out Erik Durm to Scottish juggernaut Celtic for the remainder of the season.

So in total, Dortmund lost $49.64 million in the summer transfer window. That’s… not great.

But when’s the last time a team won the season during the transfer window? What really matters is how the team plays on the field, and Dortmund earned themselves a piece of silverware right off the bat with a 2-1 victory over Bayern Munich in the German Super Cup. New signing Ömer Toprak opened the scoring in the 20th minute before that bad man Robert Lewandowski equalized three minutes into the second half. The teams battled the rest of the way until André Schürrle banged in the winner in the 75th minute. Dortmund was able to hold on for the win, lifting the trophy for the fourth time in club history.

Unfortunately for Der BVB, I’d say with absolute certainty that it would be their highest moment of the season. Before the league schedule kicked off, Dortmund received an insanely similar draw to what they got in real life with Tottenham and Real Madrid. However, our third opponent is where things differed. In real life, Dortmund were drawn with Cypriot champion APOEL Nicosia, but in Football Manager they were drawn against twelve-time Danish Superliga champions FC Copenhagen. In my opinion, our draw just got that much harder because I rate the Danish league miles ahead of the Cypriot First Division. So thanks, Football Manager!

In Bundesliga action, Dortmund began the season with three consecutive 1-1 draws at home to Wolfsburg, at Leverkusen, and at Frankfurt. We all know how the league season started in real life for our club, so to see the Football Manager Dortmund start off so badly wasn’t very inspiring. Much like in real life, Bosz deployed his high-line 4-3-3 but with more mixed results. In two of the matches, Dortmund fell behind early and needed a goal in the final twenty minutes to salvage the draw, and in the match against Frankfurt a Pierre-Emerick Aubamayeng strike in the 27th minute was cancelled out by a goal from Ante Rebić in the 66th minute. Bad times continued into the Champions League when Dortmund traveled to Wembley Stadium and were thumped 2-0 by Tottenham.

Aubamayeng scored a double brace (Is that a thing? I honestly don’t know what the phrase for scoring four goals in a game is) against Werder Bremen in a 5-2 demolition for the first league win of the season, but consecutive losses to Bayern Munich and Stuttgart brought Dortmund back to earth and in a mid-table position. However, a 2-0 win at home against Copenhagen began a run of five consecutive wins, including a 2-1 win over Real Madrid and a 2-0 win over Freiburg in the DFB-Pokal got things back on track and helped BVB climb to fourth.

The squad alternated wins and losses for the rest of October and November, with wins coming against Hamburg and Hoffenheim while losses to Köln, Real Madrid, Tottenham again, and effing Schalke prevented them from finding any sense of consistency. Luckily, the 1-0 loss to Schalke was followed by a terrific December that helped Dortmund climb up to third in the table by the end of the Hinrunde. Wins over Hertha (2-0), Mainz (5-1), and Augsburg (2-1) and a draw against RB Leipzig (1-1) helped Dortmund finish with 31 points, placing them ahead of Mainz on goal difference and one point ahead of Leverkusen. Even with a loss to Copenhagen in the final Champions League fixture, Dortmund finished third on goal differential (hey, just like in real life!) and they advanced into the Europa League First Knockout Round, where they drew Napoli.

A loss on penalties against Stuttgart in the third round of the DFB-Pokal tempered the end of the half season, but a strong winter transfer window should see BVB remain in the Champions League spots.

I feel like the winter transfer window is where things fall apart for Bosz and Dortmund, especially with their sales. He sold Maximillian Philipp to Southampton for $12 million with incentives pushing it to potentially $16 million, and he sold Lukas Piszczek to Bordeaux for $4 million and Shinji Kagawa for $10.75 million to Atlanta United (my club). He also loaned out Dan-Axel Zagadou for the rest of the season to Marseille.

Philipp played all of four games for Dortmund, with three of them coming as a sub in league matches. He did score a goal and an assist in Pokal action, but that was against Duisburg. So an absolute waste of $23.5 million from this past summer, and the Piszczek sale was almost as egregious. How you could disrespect a long-time club servant like that is outrageous, even if you are bringing in one of the top right backs as his replacement. Kagawa was just as bad, playing him in only eight total games and basically forcing the attacking midfielder to hand in his transfer request, which Bosz thankfully obliged and allowed me to buy him.

But wait, we had to have brought someone in during the period, right? You’re correct, and that player was Belgian right back Thomas Meunier of Paris Saint-Germaine for $15.25 million, with incentives and bonuses pushing that total to possibly $21 million. Meunier had only played 12 games for PSG, so he was deemed expendable after PSG snatched up Corentin Tolisso from Lyon.

Even with the apparent upgrade at right back, the fans would have to be against Bosz now for his wild transfer sales and the amount of money he spent with little return. They’re also firmly in a hunt for simply remaining in third place, with Mainz and Leverkusen right on their tail while they trail league-leaders Bayern Munich (big shock) by 13 points and second-place Leipzig by eight.

Dortmund began their Ruckrunde with consecutive losses against Leverkusen and Wolfsburg before a 2-0 win over Frankfurt allowed Bosz to somewhat salvage January. However, if the winter transfer period was the beginning of the end, the month of February accelerated that. Losses against Bremen (2-3), Bayern (2-4), and Stuttgart (0-1) sent Dortmund tumbling down the table until they were out of the top five completely. They were also knocked out of Europa League 3-2 on aggregate, winning their first match 2-1 at home with Reus and Dendoncker scoring the goals, before having Thorgan Hazard run them ragged in the away leg in a disasterous 2-0 defeat to send them home. Only a 2-0 win against Borussia Mönchengladbach salvaged a horrendous February.

A 3-2 loss against Hannover was sandwiched between a 4-1 win over Freiburg and a 3-0 win over Köln in the month of March, allowing Dortmund to position themselves for a badly-needed April run if they wanted to qualify for European competition next season. They would have to catch Mainz for the Europa League spot, who were in the middle of a horrible stretch of form themselves with only two points since February 17. Wins against Hamburg (5-0) and Hertha (3-2) and a draw against Schalke (1-1) canceled out a 1-2 loss to Hoffenheim, setting up an April 28 clash against Mainz with Dortmund sitting on 50 points and Mainz on 52 points.

Things started off poorly for Dortmund, with Sokratis being sent off in the 42nd minute for yellow card accumulation and Adama Traoré bagging the go-ahead goal right before halftime inside the Opel Arena. Thankfully, Aubamayeng saved Bosz’s and Dortmund’s bacon when he headed in a Götze free kick in the 78th minute to secure the point and kept their Europa League hopes alive.

A massive 2-0 win against Augsburg the next week with Reus and Aubamayeng scoring the goals, coupled with Mainz losing 1-0 to Stuttgart, put the Black and Yellows ahead of Der Karnevalsverein. Both teams drawing on the final match day (Dortmund 2-2 v. Leipzig, Mainz 1-1 v. Gladbach) sealed Dortmund’s spot in the 2018-19 Europa League group stage. Man, if something like this happened in real life, I’d have been pooping bricks for months!

To the surprise of no one, Bayern coasted to the Bundesliga title with 89 points, well ahead of second-place Leipzig (71), third place Leverkusen (65) and Wolfsburg in fourth (64). In the DFB-Pokal Final, Hertha Berlin upset Bayern Munich to prevent the Bavarians from completing the double. Bayern pulled ahead early with goals by Kingsley Coman in the 15th minute and Thomas Müller in the 37th minute, but Die Alte Dame answered back by way of goals by Pedro Leon in the 71st minute and Davie Selke in the 86th minute. The final eventually went to penalties, where Hertha prevailed 5-4 over Bayern.

Augsburg and Hannover were relegated, finishing with 20 and 23 points respectively, while Hertha Berlin finished in 16th with 33 points, placing them in the play-off against 1. FC Union Berlin. Hertha won this Berlin Derby with ease, trouncing Union 4-0 in the first leg and 1-0 in the second, to stay in the top flight. Heidenheim won the 2. Bundesliga with 65 points and Bielefeld would join them in the Bundesliga with 63 points.

Hamburg narrowly escaped the relegation zone again, with a Lewis Holtby goal in extra time earning the club a 3-2 win over Hannover on the last match-day to keep their run of continuous top-flight competition alive for another season.

Aubamayeng finished the season with 24 goals, good enough to finish a distant second from Lewandowski (31 goals), while Andriy Yarmolenko (!) was the team’s second-best finisher with nine league goals, and Mario Götze tallied 14 assists. Christian Pulisic scored only four goals but assisted nine times, and Marco Reus scored five goals in an injury-riddled season.

How did our new signings do? It was a mixed bag; Kramaric only played in six games as a substitute and didn’t record a single goal and only made two assists, while Leander Dendoncker made 18 appearances and tallied three goals and five assists total, Willi Orban started 22 games and kept an average rating of 6.92, and Meunier made 14 appearances and scored one goal with four assists.

Not even a week after the final whistle against Leipzig sounded, Bosz was given his walking papers despite clinching a spot in Europa League. The job hunt was quickly underway, with Carlo Ancelotti as the odds-on favorite over Julian Nagelsmann and Sandro Schwarz of Mainz. However, Ancelotti retired and Nagelsmann went on to become the next Germany manager after the 2018 World Cup, so the next Dortmund manager would turn out to be Marcelino García Toral of Valencia. The former Villarreal manager had only won 40% of his Football Manager games and crashed out in the quarterfinals of the Copa Del Rey before Los Murciélagos sacked him, and BVB scooped him up with a three-year contract.

AROUND THE WORLD

Manchester United did the domestic treble by winning the Premier League, the FA Cup, and the Carabao Cup. Manchester United won the Premier League with 83 points, finishing ahead of Chelsea (77), Manchester City (74), Tottenham (70), and Arsenal (65). The Red Devils defeated arch-rival Liverpool 2-1 in both cup competitions, winning 2-1 in extra time of the FA Cup, and 2-0 in the Carabao Cup.

Barcelona won La Liga with 92 points, narrowly edging out Atletíco Madrid (91) and finishing well ahead of Real Madrid (84) and Villareal (74). Real would have the last laugh, however, as they beat Barcelona 2-1 on aggregate in the Champions League semi-final before demolishing Juventus 3-0 in the final. In the Copa Del Rey, it was Real Madrid winning 2-1 over Villareal, giving them a double of sorts.

AS Monaco did the treble by winning Ligue 1, the Coupe de la Ligue, and Europa League. Los Monégasques comfortably won Ligue 1 with 95 points, losing only once all season to Amiens SC in November. They finished ahead of PSG (84), Marseille (70), and Lyon (66), and they won 2-0 over PSG in the Coupe de la Ligue final. In the Europa League final at the Groupama Stadium against Arsenal, Guido Carillo snuck one past Petr Cech in the 27th minute and their defense held the Gunners scoreless as they won 1-0.

In Italy, Juventus won Serie A after tying with Inter Milan on points but finishing ahead on goal differential (46 for Juventus, 26 for Inter). AC Milan finished third (68) and Napoli fourth (67). In the Coppa Italia final, AC Milan won on a late André Silva goal to finish 1-0 over Napoli.

Brazil won 2-0 over Chile to claim their sixth World Cup trophy. Germany finished fourth after losing to Chile 1-0 and falling 2-1 to France, while the USA made it to the quarterfinals after knocking out England 1-0 before losing 2-0 to Chile. Also, Qatar were stripped of their right to host the 2022 World Cup over “concerns regarding incomplete infrastructure” and Australia were named replacement hosts.

Can Marcelino lead Dortmund to domestic and European glory? Or will he go the way of our recent managerial hires and last a year, two max at the Westfalenstadion?

Tune in next week maybe for the next installment of Digital Dortmund!