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Three Observations from a Frustrating Draw against FC Köln

Dortmund went ahead early, but doomed themselves with a bad mentality.

1. FC Koeln v Borussia Dortmund - Bundesliga Photo by Lars Baron/Getty Images

After 90 minutes in the Cathedral City, Borussia Dortmund walked away frustrated despite salvaging a point. Erling Haaland book-ended the game with goals in the 3rd and the 90th minutes. It was his fifth brace is eight games, a remarkable feat for the striker and an incredible run of form. His efforts were in vein, however, as the team around him could not muster the drive or the chemistry to secure a victory in what was a must-win game against a bottom table side.

After some aggressive play in the opening minutes, FC Köln found themselves overwhelmed by Dortmund’s attacking energy. In the 3rd minute, Emre Can played a peach of a through ball to Haaland, who showed world-class awareness to take the ball out of the air and smash it to the near post. From there Dortmund’s influence waned, as FC Köln pressed high and were allowed to work back into the game. A curling effort from the hosts drew a penalty from Jude Bellingham as it was adjudged that he had leaned his arm into the ball to redirect the shot. I’m struggling to find an image of the contact, but I would argue the ball hit the inside of Jude’s shoulder.

From then on it was FC Köln in the driver’s seat as an apathetic Dortmund allowed the ball to be passed around them and were lethargic in attack. Youssoufa Moukoko replaced Julian Brandt in the second half and things looked up, as the the energy of the 16-year-old spurred some life back into his teammates. Still, Dortmund failed to control the game and found themselves behind in the 65th minute after some schoolboy defending from “Thomas the Terrible” Meunier (as long as Sarah gets to make up nicknames, I’m going to try to get one to stick). Haaland saved 10 black and yellow behinds in the 90th minute, when he bullied home an excellent cross from substitute Ansgar Knauff, who came on after Edin Terzic threw everyone other than himself into the game to find an equalizer.

Here are my observations from the draw.

Just when it looked like we might be over the hill...

Our defenders reminded us why we have conceded 37 goals this season. Miscommunication, poor organization, and more miscommunication plagued Die Schwarzgelben today. After several clean sheets and some promising performances from the men at the back, the connection between the defense and midfield was once again shattered. Midfielders tracked poorly, expecting the back four to clean up all the messes, and when they failed, the gaps were enormous and the defending rushed.

When Emre Can and Mats Hummels are at the heart of the defense, you expect vocals. Two proven leaders on an off the pitch at the back should command their lines, direct the midfield, and help dictate the movement of the ball up the pitch. But in the empty RheinEnergie stadium, these two were barely heard. It is these types of games where our leaders are needed most, and you must wonder how the game would have played out with Marco Reus on the field. Former Dortmund striker Adrian Ramos was interviewed this past week, and he spoke extensively about the talisman. “Isn’t he a good captain because he’s less screaming than a prototype captain? Even a silent leader is a leader. This applies to Marco.” Though we may not have heard Marco Reus in the game today, his influence on the tempo, chemistry, and attitude of the team is very understated and it seems the other leaders on the field could not take up the slack.

Thomas the Terrible

Maybe I am just angry, and I will happily field criticism from you readers and my colleagues in the comments. But after error upon error, I am ready to say it. Thomas Meunier. Is. Terrible. In his first start since being replaced in the starting eleven by Mateu Morey, Thomas Meunier was absolutely, unequivocally dreadful. Sure, he hit ONE good cross to Haaland but that was, as far as I can remember, his first good cross of the season. Otherwise he was slow, poor on the ball, poor in space, poor defensively, and all around an 81 minute package of pure frustration. His error to allow Ismail Jakobs to score was atrocious, and it was not the first time the young winger had torched Meunier in the game.

Many would come back to me and say “you just want Hakimi back, they’re different players and Hakimi was poor on the defensive side.” Yes, Achraf Hakimi was poor on the defensive side. But Meunier offers neither the attacking threat of Hakimi NOR any additional defensive stability. Hakimi’s pace made him better fit to the profile of the modern fullback, who not only uses their pace to get forward but also to chase down wingers. Meunier is not capable of either of these tasks, meaning he is frankly not suited the modern game, and is an increasingly dangerous liability for Dortmund.

The Kids are... Alright

In an attempt to change the tempo of the game, Edin Terzic threw a lot of youngsters on the field, mostly because that was all he had. The introduction of Moukoko was useful, and given a better first half may have proven a masterstroke. The tempo of the game rode on Moukoko’s back after his introduction, and unforunately he was not able to drag the rest of the team up to his speed. As for Reinier and Ansgar Knauff, It was great to see them on the field, but the lack of chemistry between the three youngsters and the rest of the squad was apparent. If Terzic wants to be able to use them as a party trick, they need to develop more rapport with their colleagues. That said, Knauff deserves tremendous credit for notching an assist in his first Bundesliga game and providing a threat that had been SORELY lacking on the right side of attack.

All in all, it was a very frustrating game for both player and supporter. Dortmund needed three points in Köln, but only showed enough late resolve to find one. Let us know your thoughts on the match down below.

Bonus Observation

Unfortunately, this game was doomed from the start. If you read our match preview, my colleague Sean Marthis wrote the following:

Sean’s confidence angered the fates, who decided before the game that we at Fear The Wall must always be punished for being optimistic. Tough to take, but ultimately fair.