During the winter break, Fear The Wall ran a survey to gauge fans’ feelings about Borussia Dortmund, focusing on four key areas: the BVB identity, Borussia Dortmund’s performances so far this season, the quality of the squad right now, and the club’s future prospects. Using the results from this survey, I have been able to produce a snapshot of Fear The Wall readers’ views about BVB as a team, a club, a fanbase, and an identity. While this won’t be representative of the wider BVB fanbase, this is an interesting look at the views of the FTW subset of Dortmund fans. Here are the results.
The first part of the survey asked respondents to describe their relationship with the club, the importance of Borussia Dortmund to them, and the degree to which BVB is a part of their own identity. 90% of fans feel strong attachments to Borussia Dortmund, with 56% describing the club as very important and 34% describing it as important. In turn, 75% of people said that they consider BVB a part of their own identity.
In terms of the relationship between fans and the club, the following wordcloud depicts the most frequently used words to describe respondents’ relationship and experience with the club.
Though the Dortmund fanbase, and in particular the FTW readership , is very globalized, there are still clearly some strong attachments between the club and the fans.
The Season So Far
When it comes to assessments of the season so far, things begin to look a little more mixed. In total, 46% of respondents gave negative assessments of Dortmund’s Hinrunde, with 42% saying they thought it has been poor, and 4% viewing it as very poor. On the other hand, 49% felt things were going okay, and 5% even felt that things have been good!
Digging a little deeper, the following wordcloud depicts how fans feel about Dortmund’s performances so far this season.
There is clearly a sense that Dortmund are underperforming, and many fans clearly feel disappointed at the inconsistency, and the missed opportunities.
Fans were also asked what they expected Dortmund to achieve in the Bundesliga at the beginning of the season, followed by a question asking where they expect the club to finish at this point in the season. Figure 1 presents the results.
While the majority of fans started the season believing Dortmund would win the league, expectations are now a little less ambitious, with the majority of fans expecting Dortmund to finish in the top four. There are a number of fans for whom the expectations are the same, including some rather optimistic souls that started the season thinking BVB would win the league, and sticking to their expectations at the halfway mark.
The majority of expectations are worse at the halfway point than going into the season, but spare a thought for the poor people that started the season thinking Dortmund would win the league, and have now downgraded their hopes to the Europa League.
Finally, and perhaps most amazingly of all, is the few fans for whom the expectations have actually improved. While some fans went from expecting a top four spot to a runners up medal, there are some fans that started the season thinking Dortmund would finish in 2nd place, and now expect them to win the league. I genuinely admire the steadfast optimism of those respondents. I hope you are right!
Having considered the overall team performance, fans were also asked to evaluate the players and the manager. First, they were asked which of Dortmund’s players has been the best so far this season. Figure 2 presents the results.
So Sancho was the clear winner, with over 30% of the vote, and almost triple his closest rival, Mats Hummels. The most popular players were Sancho, Hummels, Burki, Brandt, and Witsel, which has made up the core of this team so far this season. Having studied the individual records so far this season, I think Sancho is the rightful winner at the halfway mark. If he manages to maintain his current form through until the end of the season, he will have had a remarkable year.
Following this, fans were also asked about the less glamorous award for the worst Dortmund player so far this season. Figure 3 presents the results.
There were two front-runners, but once again, there is one player well out in front: Manuel Akanji. Akanji received almost 40% of the votes, compared to Nico Schulz who received over 20% of the votes. After those two, Weigl and Bruun Larsen received a lot of negative judgments too. Amazingly, despite finishing in second place for the vote for the best player of the Hinrunde, Hummels also places on the list for the worst player so far. However, I think that may have a little more to do with his past than his performances this season. But to illustrate just how divided football fans can be, there were also votes for Sancho as Dortmund’s worst player, as well as several negative remarks about his performances so far this season. Clearly not everyone is totally enamored with him.
Moving on to the management, there was a surprisingly split view here too. Figure 4 presents the results of the question asking fans to assess Lucien Favre’s performance as manager, and whether they would like him to be sacked during the winter break.
As demonstrated here, the assessment has been mostly negative, but there are also plenty of fans that think he is either doing an okay job, or a good job. Unsurprisingly, those that held negative views of his performance this season were also more likely to support sacking him. Among those that think he is doing a good job, no one wanted him to be sacked, and among those that felt he is doing an okay job, the majority preferred he stays in the job for now.
With the transfer window open, now is the opportunity for Dortmund to plug some gaps and strengthen the squad for a push for silverware in the second half of the season. Fans were asked what positions they wanted the club to strengthen. Figure 5 presents the results.
The overwhelming preference was for a new forward, which is good, because those wishes were swiftly addressed in the break, with the new arrival of Erling Haaland. He has got off to a flying start, with a hattrick in his debut, so the fans that wanted a new forward should be pretty pleased.
Beyond the frontline, fans were also keen to see additions made to the defense. This is unsurprising, as Akanji and Schulz have both been poor, and Hummels, though good, is deeply unpopular with the fanbase. Add to these issues the seniority of Piszczek (and Hummels, though his age is a less pressing concern), there are some holes that need plugging.
There were also one or two votes for a new goalkeeper, though these were a small minority, as were those that felt Dortmund don’t need to make any changes to the squad. Finally, there were also some requests for midfield reinforcements, and having just lost Weigl to Benfica, I imagine this concern has become even more pressing now.
Given that there were some relatively negative assessments of the team’s performances so far this season, I expected that fans would be a little down on the club’s future prospects too. However, that wasn’t really the case. Figure 6 presents the fans’ assessment of the club’s future, and how their view has changed since the beginning of the season.
The majority of fans remain optimistic about the future, and most of those fans say that their view hasn’t changed as a result of the performances this season. Around 30% of fans are optimistic and have not changed their attitude in response to the season so far, while around 15% of fans feel more pessimistic about the future, but remain optimistic nonetheless. The same proportion of fans feel a little more pessimistic, and feel relatively neutral about the club’s future.
Finally, fans were asked what would help improve their assessment of the club’s future prospects. The following wordcloud plots the common responses by fans.
It is clear that fans want the club to make some changes in personnel. There are a lot of references to Favre and his management, suggesting that while fans don’t want to sack him immediately, they’d like to see him replaced in the summer. There are also a number of references to changes in playing style, including a more attacking mentality, and the need for transfers that will lead to a more potent offense.
Despite the relatively disappointing start to the season, fans are still pretty optimistic about the future, and they even see reasons for optimism in the Ruckrunde. I found this a little surprising. The results from this survey seem to demonstrate the well known idea that the most extreme views are the loudest. This creates a distorted view of the median fan. I expected more negativity, especially aimed at Lucien Favre.
The reality is that fans are a little disappointed at this stage of the season, complaining about some of the players’ performances, and expressing concern about Favre’s management. However, there are still reasons to be excited about Dortmund, both this season and in the near future. Hopefully the optimistic view of the rest of the season proves to be the most accurate!