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Favre’s Naivety Has to End

Even when Reus comes back

Borussia Dortmund Training And Press Conference Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images

While, the quote goes - “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result”, insanity should at this point be interchangeable with stupidity.

During February, where Dortmund has not won one single game, Favre’s side has been victim to both an injury crisis and the flu leaving the team short of options on the team sheet and off of the bench. Dortmund hasn't won since the 5-1 drubbing of Hannover. Since then, without key players Reus and Akanji, die Schwarzgelben has drawn against Frankfurt, Werder (technically), Hoffenheim, and Nürnberg - all while looking suspect going forward and vulnerable behind the ball.

And despite the exceptional job Favre has done so far, as he should be applauded for the work he has done with this team so far, his insistence on sticking with a system once he’s found one that works is absurd. Unwilling to adapt to the various needs of players to fit them into this reworked, modern 4-2-3-1 is absurd. The longer his stubborn attempts to shoehorn players of lesser quality into positions or roles that they are not apt in playing go on, the more he looks like Mourinho with a mask on.

For example, Maximillian Phillip should not be playing in that 10 role that Reus played in. It was a worthy experiment for one game, two games, maybe even three. It is clear that he needs space to run into - preferably behind the back line of the opposition - to be at his best. Please put him back on the wing. Watching the last game against Nürnberg, it seemed like he didn't touch the ball during a 25 minute stretch during the first half. He is not given the space between the lines that Reus can create for himself, and because of that, he has nowhere to go but to drop into the midfield.

Club Brugge v Borussia Dortmund - UEFA Champions League Group A Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images

And people have blasted the loan of Kagawa to Beşiktaş for his ability to play in that position. Kagawa very well could have played in that position, but Favre was not ready to adjust the style of play so that Kagawa’s style could be facilitated in this side. Reus and Kagawa operate very differently in the hole, as Kagawa looks to connect passes to the runners in-front of him and Reus attempts to find pockets of space by making runs in order to take a shot or create space for others. It speaks volumes of Favre’s stubborn approach to the game that he could not adjust the shape or roles of the players in the side so that Kagawa could fit seamlessly into a match day squad. He had the quality to bring something to the table - certainly more than Maximillian Phillip. One could even say that the inclusion of Kagawa at the 10 position would allow for greater ball progression through the middle, and would aide Delaney.

Looking at Delaney’s pass map from the Nürnberg match, it certainly left room to be impressed, as their defensive shape kept him mainly passing to easy outlets, including Witsel, Zagadou, and Diallo.

Dortmund Pass Map vs Nürnberg

And as much as he does contribute defensively, his struggles against deeper or more defensive sides is certainly documented, as he is not the most comfortable midfielder on the ball and in terms of creating opportunities further up the pitch.

But Dortmund’s defensive struggles during this “crisis” were also fixable or addressable. Against Bremen, the center back pairing was Weigl and Toprak with Diallo as the fullback. That doesn't exactly inspire confidence. Arguably, what Favre should have done because of not having any center backs was revert to three center backs and use Wolf as a wingback - a position he played last week against Nürnberg, doing quite well by running to the space that was left open on the wing behind Sancho and offering some service to the forwards. Arguably the wrong service, as nobody in the team is large enough of a physical presence to fight for crosses, but service that created trouble for the opposition once or twice.

I’m not asking for Favre to be Tuchel - asking him to switch between a back three, a 4-3-3 and a 4-1-4-1 and many other tactical variations within a single match is unreasonable. But if Favre wants to get the most out of this team, he has to adapt to the strengths of this team, which includes the strengths of the players who are at his disposal.

The same was asked of Bosz last season and he showed how stubborn he was, playing an offside trap at half field, pitting Schmelzer and speed demon Gareth Bale into a sprinting match all game. Now we play a Bayer Leverkusen side that is clicking on all cylinders (except in Europe) under Bosz. Sound familiar? Under Bosz, Dortmund was firing on all cylinders except in Europe, and then went on a run of failing to win a game in over 6 weeks, bringing about the dawn of the Stöger-ball. Another similarity? Without Reus in the side, and without adjusting the tactics of this team, the match against Nürnberg was almost as boring as Stöger-ball. Not as boring, but close enough for me to rage quit before the final whistle.

I will just leave with one final thought. If Favre went out to create a system that is built around Reus, and Reus is injured for 3 weeks, then why would Favre not build a system that will work without him? Especially if it is proven to fall apart without him. That is simply apathetic and naive. It is frustrating to think that something so obvious could stump a loved and respected coach. Should these sticking points continue after Reus’s return, then Favre’s contract renewal will have to be questioned in the coming months.