Another Bundesliga season is upon us, and with it, a fresh feeling of optimism. All of Dortmund’s struggles last season have been wiped away, and BVB have a clean slate ready to make another run at the Bundesliga. A trophy always feels within reach at the beginning of the year, but almost a decade of optimistic seasons yielding nothing has made many BVB fans weary of optimism. Year after year, Borussia Dortmund have managed to come up just shy of the title, finding different ways to let glory slip away. By the end of the last few seasons, feelings of optimism have given way to cynicism and disappointment. In normal circumstances a close second finish is nothing to be ashamed of, but many years of finishing behind Bayern Munich and saying “next year is our year” has started to grow tiring. I’ve seen many conversations among BVB fans about what levels of success we should expect from our squad this season.
I want to make something clear: there’s a difference between “ambition” and “expectation”. The way I see it, “ambition” is something you *want* to achieve. Every club should theoretically have ambitions towards winning every competition they participate in. Even lowly Werder Bremen, for instance, should have ambition towards winning the Bundesliga title, even if that ambition is tampered by the reality that it’s very unlikely to happen. Expectation, on the other hand, is something that is, well, expected. It’s something that you’re disappointed if you don’t achieve. By that measure, it would obviously be ridiculous for a club like Werder Bremen to expect to win the Bundesliga, even if they have ambitions to that effect.
What does this mean for Borussia Dortmund? BVB, like every German club, should absolutely have ambitions to win the Bundesliga, Champions League, and DFB Pokal. All three trophies are, at the very least, within reach. Even as good as Bayern are, and as difficult a competition as the Champions League is, BVB have enough talent to win on any day, and therefore could conceivably have a shot at both.
Where it gets tough regards what expectations the fans, players, and front office should have for the squad this season. Generally speaking, expectations that are too unrealistic put unnecessary pressures on the players and push the front office into making decisions that are antithetical to the club’s long term success. Clubs that have unrealistic expectations frequently sacrifice long term stability for victories in the short term. Look at Manchester United after Sir Alex Ferguson left, or Barcelona over the last few years, as examples of clubs who have made poor decisions motivated by a constant unrelenting expectation of trophies.
Borussia Dortmund don’t exactly have the same expectations that mammoth clubs like Manchester United and Barcelona do, but BVB’s fans have been known to be demanding from time to time. The problem is that BVB constantly have to compete with Bayern Munich, who have been an absolute meat grinder of a club in the year 2020.
All-in-all, I don’t think it’s fair to expect a Bundesliga title from Borussia Dortmund. Bayern are too good and too much can go wrong over the course of a season for that to be the case. What I expect of BVB, instead, is to simply fight tooth and nail day in and day out, and force Bayern to play perfectly to win a title. This means no stupid 3-0 losses or 0-0 draws against bottom-dwellers, no blowing leads, and at least putting up a fight at the Allianz Arena. If they do that, the calls will fall as they will, and regardless of whether or not BVB end up winning the title, BVB fans will at least be able to recognize that their club gave it their all.