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Two Observations From a Total Dumpster Fire

Ajax played Borussia Dortmund off the pitch.

AFC Ajax v Borussia Dortmund: Group C - UEFA Champions League Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images

Well, that was horrible.

If you were fortunate enough to have missed this game, whether because you were busy watching one of the other matches, reading a book, cooking dinner, shoveling manure, or any manner of more enjoyable activities, you can take comfort in knowing that you missed absolutely nothing. It was a total massacre. Ajax outplayed Borussia Dortmund for the full 90 minutes. Marco Rose was completely out-coached by Erik Ten Haag. Other than maybe Gregor Kobel, not a single player stood out. I can’t remember the last time a non-Bayern opponent so thoroughly dismantled BVB, especially in the Champions League.

So, I guess I technically have to offer some kind of specialized insight into the absolute dumpster fire a game that you all just witnessed. Here goes nothing:

Ajax were good

A few weeks ago, I was looking through the power rankings on fivethirtyeight.com and I noticed that Ajax were listed as the third favorites to win the Champions League. In a competition stacked with Europe’s elite clubs, I found this surprising. Following today’s performance, Fivethirtyeight has them as the fourth favorites to win the Champions League, and following today’s match, it’s not hard to see why.

Sebastian Haller was everything you want out of a complete center forward, holding up the ball, pressing, finding space, and winning headers. Anthony was a menace, terrorizing BVB’s back line with his dribbling, pace, and finishing abilities. Every Ajax player knew exactly when and where to press, and they did it as a cohesive unit. In other words, they were everything that Dortmund weren’t. I wouldn’t be surprised to see them go the distance in the Spring; they were that good.

Dortmund were... not

I don’t want to take any credit away from Ajax, but this is a Dortmund blog, and if this squad is going to accomplish anything this season, this cannot happen again. Today’s performance was the worst I’ve seen in a long time, especially in the Champions League. As I mentioned above, when Ajax pressed they did so as a unit. The front three always had a second line behind it so that none of BVB’s defenders could break the press with a dribble or a simple pass. They maintained their positioning.

Dortmund did none of these things. When they pressed, they did so at individuals. Jude Bellingham would sprint at the Ajax back line, who would easily pass it around him, and the young Englishman would look around at his teammates, each 40 yards away from him, and wave his arms in frustration. The next play, Marco Reus would do the same. In the buildup, the play was stagnant and disjointed. Players seemed unsure of whether to come close to their teammates or make runs, so often they did neither. Donyell Malen may as well have been a plastic bag floating around on the pitch, because none of his movements ever seemed to make any sense in the wider context of the game. Julian Brandt proved physically incapable of holding onto the ball under pressure.

Defensively, as the scoreline plainly suggests, it was a mess. BVB played very narrowly off the ball, surrendering wide areas all the way into the defensive third. The left side, consisting of Malen, Brandt, and Schulz, was a dumpster fire, with the first two providing no defensive support whatsoever for Schulz. Ajax would get around him every time with simple give-and-goes. The right side was marginally better, with Thomas Meunier occasionally driving forward with the ball, but the attacking band was way too disjointed to support him. Axel Witsel, ostensibly the defensive midfielder, was, to borrow a hockey term, a traffic cone.

Worst of all, Marco Rose seemed to miss this completely. His halftime switch, which was to switch off Nico Schulz for Emre Can, did nothing to fix the problem. Can couldn’t handle odd-number situations any better than Schulz; in fact he was absolutely posterized by Anthony. Can should have been subbed in for Witsel,

BVB’s best players, ironically, were the center backs and goalkeeper, the players you’d think would be blamed the most for a blowout. Nope. Hummels and Kobel in particular, but also Akanji, were the only players preventing the scoreline from being historically bad, as opposed to regular bad.

That’s about it

Sometimes, you just just get f—king bodied. Today was one of those days. I don’t have much more to add.

Your Thoughts

Reply with a GIF summarizing tonight’s performance.