What should have been a storybook moment for Borussia Dortmund turned into an afternoon to forget. In their first match in front of a full Westfalenstadion since 2020, BVB were absolutely throttled 4-1 by RB Leipzig. BVB’s title chances are in tatters, and there’s nothing left now, but for Sebastian Kehl and Co. to pick up the pieces and determine where to go from here.
Here are my thoughts:
RB Leipzig got it right
For the first 20 minutes, I thought Dortmund had Leipzig on the ropes. BVB held the lion’s share of the possession and the shots. Unfortunately, Dortmund couldn’t convert a single chance they created, even those right in front of goal. Leipzig managed to absorb the pressure for those first 20 minutes, until the Red Bulls capitalized on a grave error by Emre Can, something they surely planned for.
Marco Rose was actually able to field a pretty strong squad today, but it clearly featured the same vulnerabilities that have plagued the club all season. Marius Wolf and Raphael Guerreiro were getting themselves very involved in BVB’s attack, but this naturally put them out of position to defend counterattacks. The same went for Jude Bellingham, one of BVB’s two starting central midfielders. This left Emre Can, Manuel Akanji, Mats Hummels, and Axel Witsel to pass amongst themselves and try to play out of pressure, and perhaps no one is worse in possession under pressure than Emre Can.
When Emre Can received a pass in this position, with both of his fellow center backs threatened by pressure, in a space where he easily could have passed back to Kobel, he chose to do what Emre Can always does: something incredibly risky. He tried to dribble around Conrad Laimer, who muscled him off the ball and started the movement that ended with Leipzig’s first goal.
Once BVB were down 1-0, it felt like Pandora’s box was open. As BVB pressed further for an equalizer, they only became more vulnerable. Leipzig’s second goal may have come off a fortunate deflection, but it only happened because Leipzig were able to unlock BVB’s midfield with two simple passes.
In this single screenshot, you can see how the disaster happened. Dani Olmo received one pass from the back line, and every BVB midfielder abandoned all caution to try to press the ball off of him. Instead he was able to bounce a simple pass to Kevin Kampl, who picked out another easy pass to a now wide-open Laimer, who spun and started the movement that led to Leipzig’s second goal.
It’s the same problem that BVB have suffered all season. The back line, which is already shaky in its own right, has been left too open and too vulnerable on numerous occasions. Hazard and Bellingham need to know in this situation that if they both dive in, there is nobody behind them to shield the back line. I’m also not sure why Witsel, the squad’s lone #6, is so far out of position.
Questions need to be asked about Marco Rose
I’ve defended Marco Rose a lot this season. I think he’s far from the club’s biggest problem. There are a few real weaknesses with this squad. However, that excuse is starting to run dry. There may be some holes in the squad, but there are also some really talented players. For a squad featuring Marco Reus, Erling Haaland, Jude Bellingham, Manuel Akanji, and others to be outplayed so often is very damning of the approach the coaching staff is taken. I understand that Rose may not have the exact players he wants for his system to work the way it’s supposed to, but at a certain point he needs to accept that fate and make some adjustments.
He switched to a back three today, but it did nothing to solve the same issues that I addressed in my first point. The back line was still vulnerable, midfield was too open, and the full backs were committed too far forward.
The squad let the fans down
Today was the squad’s first game in front of a packed Westfalenstadion in more than two years. You’d think, then, that the players would put in an especially passionate performance. Players like Haaland and Bellingham have been very vocal about how they’ve looked forward to playing in front of the yellow wall. The fans were in full voice from beginning to end, and even considering the result, I enjoyed witnessing the crowd rock the stands of the stadium.
So when BVB fell down 2-0 and the whistles started echoing around the park, it was a huge disappointment. I felt bad for all the fans who came to witness their favorite club play, only to put up such a poor performance. I’m sure the players tried hard, but they made too many basic mistakes that no professional has any business making, from getting caught in possession to botching routine passes in the attacking third.
BVB players should be held to a higher standard than this. My biggest fear is that the coaching staff and upper management have lost their ability to make that fact clear to them.
What did you think of today’s game? Let me know your thoughts below.