It wasn’t the most thrilling of games, but it’s three points, and a vital three points at that! A Marco Reus goal and a hard-fought win against a decent Hoffenheim side that has, in recent years, had a habit of causing Dortmund a lot of problems. It’s hard to have too many complaints, especially given that BVB fielded a rotated 11, resting Erling Haaland, Jude Bellingham, and Rapha Guerreiro, and without Manuel Akanji (who is recovering from coronavirus), and Roman Burki (though he did make the bench).
These are the the kinds of games that champions have to win. So if Dortmund are to have any chance of challenging Bayern Munich for the title, it was important that BVB found a way to grind out the victory. They did exactly that.
The Thinking Man’s Tinker Man
Lucien Favre loves to mess about with things. Variety is the spice of life, he says, chuckling in daddy.
We’ve complained for the last two seasons that Favre runs his players into the ground, never giving them a break, and leaving the rest of the squad on the shelf to gather dust. So I guess we should be pleased with Favre’s recent willingness to change things up. Today’s game saw chances given to a couple of our reserves, like Julian Brandt, and while it wasn’t a flawless performance, it was okay. Dortmund were the better team, and outside of a few Hoffenheim breaks, they looked pretty comfortable. However, for the first 60 minutes of the game, BVB struggled to turn that control into significant attacking threat. Gio Reyna had a great chance blocked on the line, and Thomas Meunier hit the bar from a nice header, but it was only once the reinforcements arrived that Dortmund moved up a gear.
We Need a Backup Striker
The rotation is a positive sign for numerous reasons, but it also serves to demonstrate where this squad is really lacking. To some extent, today’s game showed that Dortmund could have done with another center back, given that we finished the game with two natural midfielders slotting in at the back, but it also proved that we’ve got a lot of versatile defensively-minded players that can fill in when necessary. Instead, the biggest gap appears to be leading the line for BVB.
Haaland was given a rest after a busy international break, and Brandt was started in his place, but Brandt has never really looked all that comfortable playing up front. He lacks the pace to get in behind the opposition defense, and he doesn’t seem to have the same instincts for dropping deep and dragging the opposition defense around like Mario Gotze did well when playing as a false 9. Favre has tried Brandt in this role a few times now, and I’m yet to see any proof that he is going to make it work.
We clearly need a genuine backup option to fill in when Haaland needs a rest. Right now, that may be Reus or Reinier, and in the very near future it may be Moukoko, but if Haaland was to pick up an injury and miss a significant amount of time, is any of these guys sufficient to step in and make it work?
Marco Reus is a Leader
Reus isn’t the most vocal player on the pitch. He isn’t a blood and guts leader that goes to war every time he steps on to the pitch. But he is a leader. Prior to Reus coming on, Dortmund had looked okay, but didn’t really present much of a goal threat. They needed someone that would push the tempo, get shots on goal, and take Hoffenheim’s defenders out of their comfort zone. Reus was the cat among the pigeons.
As soon as Haaland and Reus came on, BVB looked a lot better. Hoffenheim dropped a little deeper, fearing the threat both posed getting in behind them, and everything started to run through Reus. Every time he picked up the ball, he headed straight for goal, had three shots in just 24 minutes of football, and scored the winner with 15 minutes left. Our captain!
A Win to Put Pressure on Augsburg
This was a vital three points in the battle for the league, and it tastes even sweeter when you realize our main rivals, Augsburg, dropped points in a 2-0 loss to RB Leipzig, a game they were fully expected to win.
Winning games like this, against a difficult side like Hoffenheim, and with several key players unavailable, is of huge importance for a team looking to fight for the title. Augsburg are unlikely to leave many openings for Dortmund to get ahead of them through the season, so it’s good that we didn’t waste this opportunity.
What did you make of today’s win? Leave your thoughts below.