Borussia Dortmund lost their fifth Bundesliga home match of the season as visitors Eintracht Frankfurt took all three points in this Champions League qualification six-pointer, running out winners to the score of 1-2. While Dortmund had their chances, they were made to pay for not being clinical as an 87th minute goal from André Silva pushed the visitors in front. The make-shift back three for Frankfurt marshalled Erling Haaland well, and helped to lift their club one step closer to Europe’s premier club competition for next season. Here are four observations from the match:
Crosses into the box still an issue
Sean brought it up in the match preview that Eintracht Frankfurt are second in the Bundesliga at crossing into the box, behind only Bayern Munich. It should come as no surprise that both goals came as a result from crosses into the box, both from the side of Filip Kostic no less. Dortmund have struggled with set pieces and crosses for years and were made to pay for still failing to properly negotiate aerial clearances. While the first goal seemed an unlucky own goal by Nico Schulz, it just goes to show how important getting players in who can defend, position themselves correctly, and head away a ball out of the danger zone. A failure to do any of those things is why Dortmund lost the initiative early in the match, and have done so many times this season.
Raphael Guerreiro was a bright spot playing as a No. 10
I thought it was an interesting tactical decision by Edin Terzic to play Raphael Guerreiro just behind Erling Haaland in attack today. With Frankfurt sporting adventurous wing-backs on both sides, it was most likely in Terzic’s mind that the Portuguese would be stuck defending all day at left back and would not be able to use his ball skills further forward. While BVB lost the match, it must be said that Guerreiro was very creative and setup Haaland several times early in the match with good chances. I am not sure if this was a one off due to the matchup against Frankfurt, or if Terzic might continue to explore this tactic again but Guerreiro played very well at the tip of the midfield triangle.
Early on in his Dortmund career, the Portuguese utility man played left wing and left midfield for Thomas Tuchel and the first half of Lucien Favre’s maiden campaign as well. A huge hole at left-back forced Favre’s hand to place Guerreiro on the back line but the Portuguese still leads the Bundesliga in progressive passes and is crucial in Dortmund’s build up play. Perhaps the build up suffered today due to Rapha being further forward so it will be interesting to watch as the season winds down as to how he will be utilized.
The board took an L today
Champions League qualification is on the line, Frankfurt are the club above us in the table, a win brings us to within a point and puts the pressure on Adi Hütter’s men. Now, let’s go back to July 2019 when Dortmund were fresh off an excellent first year under Favre, two points short of the Bundesliga title. That summer saw BVB purchase Julian Brandt, Thorgan Hazard, and Nico Schulz to help put the club over the top in the quest for their first league title since 2012. 20 months on from those signings and in the biggest match of the season Hazard was wasteful, Schulz scored an own goal, and Brandt never left the bench. We were all very excited when we completed those transfers that summer, so we should not blame the board necessarily.
While Hazard was poor, we know he is still getting back to full fitness due to his injury riddled campaign and I expect him to come good before the season wraps up. However, Schulz has been disastrous for nearly two full seasons and looks nothing like the player he was with TSG Hoffenheim, which we should expect given his role was very different at the club which saw him become a regular for Die Mannschaft. While Brandt’s first season was good, he has fallen off a cliff and the fact that Terzic turned to Ansgar Knauff, Reinier Jesus, and Giovanni Reyna in attack before Brandt tells us everything about Brandt this season. Nearly two summers ago the club laid on just above €75M for this trio who offered nothing in the biggest match of the season.
Dortmund do not deserve Champions League
The club can make all the excuses they want: no supporters in stadiums, congested fixture list, injuries, poor refereeing, and unfair scheduling. The fact is this team has had every chance to finish in the top four just like any other club. Currently, Wolfsburg look bankers to dine at Europe’s top table after another win today, and Frankfurt now have a seven point lead with seven matches to play. Dortmund have no one to blame but themselves for being in this position. Poor tactics and naive defending have cost this team too many points this season. Inconsistent performances have plagued the side for years but have really cost BVB this season more than any other, and while I hope they still pull out a miracle and qualify, this team just does not deserve to be playing Champions League football next season.
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