The first half of the season is over and the holiday season has come and gone. With nothing to do but wait until the season resumes, now seems like the perfect time to take a look at how Borussia Dortmund has performed during the season, and grade the club overall for its efforts.
Until about a month ago, I would have had nothing but positive things to say about BVB’s season. Despite a plethora of injuries and a few really bad results (cough, Ajax), the club was only a single point behind Bayern Munich in the Bundesliga on November 24th and only needed a draw against Sporting Lisbon to effectively seal qualification for the Champions League Knockout Round.
What was amazing was that it really only took a handful of games for BVB’s season to completely unravel. Losing to Sporting would singlehandedly cripple Dortmund’s chances of making it to the next round. It also only took three results in the Bundesliga, including a razor-thin Der Klassiker loss and a good performance beaten by a stellar goalkeeper against Bochum, to have the disparity between BVB and Bayern go from a very doable tally of one point to a seemingly impossible nine-point gap.
The season isn’t completely lost. There’s still the DFB Pokal and Europa League to be won. Unfortunately, the two big prizes, the Champions League and the Bundesliga are lost. What’s most disappointing is that a lot of the good work that BVB did over the first few months of the season is now moot. Dortmund will need to really put their noses to the grind to turn this season into something to be proud of.
It really is something to marvel at when you reflect on the way BVB mismanaged their final month of football before the break. As Sean explained, the Champions League round of 32 was attainable, Bayern was wounded, and Erling Haaland had miraculously returned from what should have been another month in the injury table. Leave it to all this good news to be the catalyst for yet another black and yellow capitulation. Four points out of a possible twelve is a horror outcome that has wiped away a legitimate chance at the league title and done a massive disservice to the effort made by the backup brigade when players like Haaland, Hummels, Guerreiro, and others were injured. If anyone out there is a Baltimore Ravens fan, you are really getting this from both angles right now, a moment of silence for our playoff hopes.
This is a grade for the first half of the season though, not the month of December. When considering the shortened summer due to international competition, the change in the coaching staff, and the loss of one of the best players to grace our field in Jadon Sancho, this Hindrunde cannot be called a total failure. Yes, a lot has been lost in a few short weeks, but to find this battered team in a comfortable second place is something many Dortmund fans would have dreamed of this time last season. The team is outperforming their xG, summer signing Donyell Malen is finding the back of the net, and the team seems to have adjusted well to the tactics of the new coaching staff. As Sean mentioned, there are still two, maybe three chances for silverware this season, and it is really up to the players now if they want to bring those trophies home.
It’s difficult to grade the first half of the season because it has all been pretty messy. Dortmund have been dealing with a pretty impressive injury record over the course of the season, and that has to be taken into consideration when trying to judge how Marco Rose’s team has done. But BVB failed to make it out of their Champions League group, and their shot at the league is effectively over. They’ve still got a chance to win the DFB-Pokal and the Europa League, but there’s no denying that this being the best we could reasonably expect, at this point in the season, is a failure.
All things considered, I think Rose has done a pretty good job. He has been dealt a rough hand and he’s done about as well as you could have hoped from that. I’m just not sure how much that should impact any grade of the team’s performances so far this season. I think we have to acknowledge that the season hasn’t turned out as expected, but there have been factors that were out of the control of the team that contributed to that.
What grade would you give BVB for the Hinrunde? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.