The final nail in Borussia Dortmund’s season was hammered home today, as the result of a 3-1 defeat to Bayern Munich at the Allianz Arena. Bayern Munich’s win mathematically guaranteed them the Bundesliga title, a disappointing end to a season filled to the brim with disappointments.
Unlike previous years at the Allianz Arena, this was not a vicious beatdown. BVB did fall behind 2-0 in the first half, thanks to a very pretty volley from Serge Gnabry off a corner and a poor turnover from Zagadou that led to an easy goal by Robert Lewandowski. Despite looking beat at the halfway mark, they actually came out fighting in the second half and managed to make it a game again. Marco Reus drew a penalty from Joshua Kimmich, which Emre Can promptly converted with the most stress-inducing run-up in history. While BVB had a few chances to draw level, they couldn’t convert any of them, and a defensive comedy errors handed Jamal Musiala a goal moments later to put the game, and the Bundesliga title, officially out of reach.
Here are the full highlights:
... and here are my thoughts:
You can’t call them gutless
Over the last five years or so, BVB have gained a reputation for playing gutless football at the Allianz Arena. They show up and get dominated from start to finish. They never show any fight. When Bayern score, their heads go down and never recover. They panic and make boneheaded mistakes. These are all narratives that we’ve heard over and over again after numerous lopsided results with score lines that seem closer to NFL scores.
You can’t say that today, though. I thought BVB showed plenty of fight today, even if the gulf in quality was too much to overcome. They played well for the first 20 minutes, and fell behind not because of a major collapse or defensive error, but because of a well-taken shot from a quality player. Bayern’s second goal was definitely the result of a typical boneheaded error, but it was by Zagadou, who hopefully won’t see any time for BVB after this season ever again. Moreover, instead of shying away, Dortmund came out during the second half and took the fight to Bayern. They fought hard and won a penalty, made the game 2-1, and even had Bayern on the ropes for about 20 minutes before Bayern scored another goal to ice the game.
Sure, there were plenty of mistakes. You can complain about the quality all you want, but you shouldn’t complain about the level of effort.
This is going to sound like some hardcore coping from a salty BVB fan, but please just hear me out for a second.
I obviously wanted BVB to win. Losing to Bayern is never fun, and losing to give them the title is even worse. It will hurt for a few hours, maybe even a few days, but seriously, what are the long term ramifications of this result? We were never going to win the league anyway, so any other result would’ve just delayed the inevitable. The result tells us that Bayern are still far ahead of Dortmund, but we all knew that already. It’s not like today’s starting XI is representative of what BVB will look like next season.
There were nine players missing from the squad due to injury, including some key pieces like Thorgan Hazard, Donyell Malen, Thomas Meunier, Gregor Kobel, and Mahmoud Dahoud. If things go according to plan over the summer, only 2-3 of the 11 players who started the match will even be with the club next season. Not a single defender who impotently failed to clear the ball from the feet of Musiala, or who played a soft turnover straight to Leon Goretzka, will be here next season, so in a sense we don’t have to care about them or their fuck ups at all. Honestly, it’s kind of liberating!
All this game did was tell us what we already know: this current BVB squad doesn’t have what it takes to compete for the title, and Sebastian Kehl has his job cut out for him this summer.
A diagnosis, if you will
We already know some of the major flaws plaguing this club, but this game did a brilliant job spotlighting them for the entire world to see.
First and foremost, Dortmund need a new back line. This is not the first time that Dan-Axel Zagadou has committed an unforgivable error to hand Bayern Munich a goal, or that Raphael Guerreiro has failed to make a clearance. Thankfully, Sebastian Kehl and the rest of the front office seem acutely aware of this, which is why they’ve made efforts to improve with the additions of both Niklas Süle and Nico Schlotterbeck. BVB have also been linked to numerous potential left backs, such as Ramy Bensebaini, who would be more defensively-minded than Guerreiro.
The squad in its current state is mightily reliant on Erling Haaland to score goals. They demonstrated this sad fact multiple times today. The vast majority of the chances that they created came from through balls from midfield to Haaland. While the tall Norwegian has had successes in the past against Dayot Upamecano, today the Frenchman kept him in check, and the few shots he did manage to fire went wide.
This needs to change. Dortmund have promised to spend quite a bit of money on Red Bull Salzburg’s Karim Adeyemi, so the expectations on him will be high. Furthermore, there’s also the notion of the mystery striker candidate that BVB are supposedly after. I’ve heard the names Sasa Kalajdzic and Luka Jovic thrown around. Either way, if BVB can add a solid striker in addition to Adeyemi and reinforcements on the backline, it would be a massive improvement.
There are other areas where BVB could improve, like in defensive midfield, but the problems above are the weaknesses that were most exposed today.
Do you share my general apathy about today’s result? Let me know your thoughts below.