It’s now been a few days since Borussia Dortmund’s painful, nausea-inducing 5-0 loss at the hands of Bayern Munich. Hopefully, it’s been enough time for heads to cool such that some of the ultra-hot takes (#Favreout, #Unironicallysignthepigeon) have faded away. Even though the season may seem like it’s over, the fact remains that BVB are still in the title race, and that even if BVB ultimately don’t win the title, this season has been one of real progress. With that in mind, here are five observations from the bludgeoning that Dortmund suffered this weekend:
#1: Yes, Dan-Axel Zagadou Had a Howler
At this point, pointing out how Dan-Axel Zagadou had a shocking performance seems a bit like beating a dead horse. He knows it, Favre knows it, Watzke knows it, my dog knows it, etc. My purpose here isn’t to point out the various ways that Zagadou struggled against Bayern, but to come to his defense. I fully understand the urge to make him spend the rest of his BVB career on the bench or out on loan, and I don’t begrudge anybody who’s criticized him over the last couple days (outside of personal insults, obviously).
At the same time, I really do feel that he deserves some slack because of his age. At the end of the day he’s only 19. Many defenders with years upon years of experience have gone into the Allianz and been absolutely overwhelmed by Bayern Munich, so it’s not like Zagadou is alone. He’s still shown plenty of promise throughout the season, and will hopefully take this as a learning experience moving forward. He may need a bit more seasoning before he’s ready for prime time, but I still think that he has a future role at BVB.
#2: Mahmoud Dahoud is on Very Thin Ice
Dahoud hasn’t had many opportunities to make a case for himself this season. This was only his fifth start of the season, and he did little to justify him getting any more. He was once again a turnover machine, even more so than Delaney and Witsel, and was a non-factor defensively. While some of this can be credited to Thiago and Javi Martinez, who were excellent in midfield for Bayern Munich, it’s also the continuation of a pattern that has lasted far too long for Dahoud. On the off-chance that Ilkay Gündogan finds his way back to BVB over the summer, this may be one of Dahoud’s final performances in Dortmund.
#3: Bürki, JBL, and Weigl Can Hold Their Heads High
I single out these three not only because I thought they actually played decently (or at least showed some fight), but because all three have had shocking performances against Bayern Munich in the past, and partially redeemed themselves. JBL was by far the worst BVB player in the reverse fixture at the WFS, but against Bayern he seemed to be the only forward who was interested in pressing high or tracking back on defense. His back-heel and through-ball to Marco Reus that eventually created Dahoud’s shot off the post was basically the only positive moment from an otherwise dreary 90 minutes of football from BVB.
Even though BVB gave up five goals, it still could have been worse if it weren’t for Roman Bürki. He was completely hung out to dry on Bayern’s first two goals, but still kept his head. He did his best to hold back the waterfall, but ultimately the difference between the two sides was so great that there was nothing he could do.
Finally, Julian Weigl has struggled against Bayern Munich in the past, but I actually thought that he was BVB’s best outfield player when he came on. He actually displayed commitment to his marking, he flew into tackles like he meant it, and perhaps most importantly, he didn’t commit any boneheaded giveaways that led to goals. I know he wants to leave BVB over the summer (rightfully so, in my opinion), but I will be very sad to see him go, because I think he can be a very good CB for Dortmund in the future.
#4: Jadon Sancho Didn’t “Disappear”- he was Housed
... and there’s a difference. If Sancho was just trotting nonchalantly along the right flank all day, I might be inclined to agree that he disappeared and phoned it in. However, going back and watching the game, I think that his lack of production was less of a result of him giving up than it was a result of Bayern’s excellent job of keeping him off the ball, and keeping him isolated when he was on the ball. Virtually every time he found himself in possession, whether he was on the right or the left, he found himself being closed down by either Alaba, Kimmich, or both, who put on a defensive clinic.
#5: BVB can still win the Title, but There’s Now no Margin for Error
Having just witnessed a devastating 5-0 loss, it’s difficult to perceive the idea of this same squad winning a Bundesliga championship, but it’s still a distinct possibility. Both Bayern and Dortmund have roughly comparable schedules moving forward, with BVB and Bayern’s remaining opponents averaging 36.5 and 36.33 points respectively. Bayern’s schedule is a bit more variant, with upcoming fixtures against bottom-dwellers Nürnberg and Hannover as well as top-four rivals RB Leipzig and Eintracht Frankfurt, whereas BVB’s schedule is mostly clubs in the middle. There’s plenty of potential for both clubs to drop points.
If BVB are to win the title, they very well may have to run the table. While this weekend’s loss may make that prospect seem incredibly dubious, it could still happen. As devastating as a the defeat was, BVB might just have to put it behind them if they’re going to go on and win the title.