We’re almost two weeks in to 2023. We’ve reached that point where people have stopped opening every interaction with “Happy New Year”, and the optimism that comes with the opening days of a new year has ebbed away. You’re not going to change your ways. Things aren’t going to be any better. This year isn’t going to be your year. This year is going to be the same disappointment that last year was, and that every single year is going to be until you finally pack it in. Which brings me to Borussia Dortmund...
BVB have made a habit of giving everyone hope that they’ve finally turned a corner and that they’re not going to be back on their bullshit immediately, only to concede two late goals from set-pieces against a team in the bottom half of the table, or some other dumb nonsense. Sure enough, that’s exactly what Dortmund did to kick off this season, and at the halfway point they are sat in 6th place, a total of nine points off Bayern Munich at the top of the table. But maybe 2023 is finally their year? Maybe everything is going to be different this time?
To get everyone ready (if not necessarily excited) for the Rückrunde, the Fear The Wall writers have put their heads together to answer some questions about their expectations for 2023. Heja BVB!
Where Will BVB Be in a Year’s Time?
Paul: A New Look Team Will Give us Reason to be Excited
I have long felt that being a Borussia Dortmund fan is a massive privilege, because they win many more games than they lose. For fans of many other teams, that is not the case. As a lifelong Southampton fan, I still think of wins as rare treats. The rest of the time it is just a case of hoping they don’t completely embarrass themselves. But that said, I also think that it is teams like BVB that produce the most unhinged fanbases. BVB are one of maybe two clubs in Germany that have the resources to make a run at Bayern Munich, given some smart moves and a little bit of luck. It is the existence of genuine hope, coupled with the relatively frequent disappointment, that turns people completely insane.
So with that in mind, my prediction is that we will go into 2024 with renewed hope that Dortmund can topple the evil empire.
Yash: Paul is (Probably) Right
The new-look team and management have obvious talent, but it will take time to gel. A year’s time should be enough for that to happen, so I’m optimistic for what the future holds. Do I think we have what it takes to knock those smug Bavarians off their perch? Probably not, if I’m being honest. However, the Bavarian giants have looked increasingly weak in recent years, and, with a (sizable) bit of luck, anything’s possible. We do have Julian Brandt, after all.
Anders: I honestly don’t know
I know... What a boring answer, but hear me out. I feel like there’s a lot of unknowns looming over the whole team at the moment, which means it’s even harder to predict a future scenario. Will any of Moukoko, Bellingham and Reus extend? Will Terzic still be our coach? Will Malen and Adeyemi start producing? There are a lot of loose ends currently, and hopefully our dear board will be able to sort it out as soon as possible.
Sarah: Probably about the same as things stand now
I like to keep my expectations super low so that they are also easy to exceed. It doesn’t necessarily follow that I think the team is rubbish or has no capacity to excel and win...in fact, BVB always possess those qualities. It’s just up to the unit as a whole (execs, front office, coaches, players) to leverage the talent available to them. A consistent trend is for a BVB player to breakout and then leave a gaping hole in the squad. I’d like to see this addressed directly so that the depth of options available to play make it difficult to decide the lineup each week. This would make injuries a relative non-issue and also resolve much of the “where is so and so going to wind up” off-pitch drama.
Who Will Be BVB’s Breakout Star in 2023?
Paul: Donyell Malen
Donyell Malen received my nomination for BVB’s biggest bust in 2022, but when I was putting together my writeup for his nomination I was surprised to find that his statistical profile is actually quite good. I couldn’t help but question if we might have missed something about Malen’s performances in the last year.
I stand by decision to nominate Malen for the Schürrlespieler, but I do think there are aspects of his game that might have gone unnoticed. He is a hard worker out of possession, he is a good ball carrier in the final third, and he produces a solid amount of chances. But given what his role is in this team, all of this gets a little buried under his lack of end product.
There’s a significant disparity between Malen’s expected goals and his actual goals, and while I think that this is mostly due to his poor finishing, I am choosing to remain optimistic (delusional) that the solid amount of shots he gets and the okay expected goals are a sign that he can eventually deliver a little more. If he could only score a few more, the rest of what he offers starts to look less like serving up scraps.
Yash: Karim Adeyemi
I was sceptical about us signing him, and so far my scepticism has been justified. However, despite his generally poor showings on the pitch, I have been impressed by his work ethic and attitude. He’s quick, moves well off the ball, and has shown in the past that he’s got technical ability and a decent shot on him. He just needs to put it together now, and I think Terzic might be the right man to unlock that potential.
Adeyemi is actually the second name (after Donny) that came to my mind when thinking about this. However, I’ve had a year and a half of hoping Malen might somehow “put it together” as I hope Karim will, with nothing to show for it, and Adeyemi looks a more intelligent footballer overall. Fingers crossed he proves me wrong, and Adeyemi proves me right!
Anders: Jamie Bynoe-Gittens
Before this season began I predicted that JBG would manage 10+ goals and assists. He was on his way there, until his shoulder seemingly started hurting out of nowhere.
I really like JBG. He has that opportunistic approach to football, and he can seemingly create something from nothing, which was Jadon Sancho’s trademark when he was tearing up the league back in the day. We have a 100% hit rate with English talent - may that streak continue.
Sarah: Someone we haven’t met yet
BVB has a penchant for developing players and discovering football darlings. Sure, any of the aforementioned lads could fill that role, but I’ve honestly not been taken by any of the newcomers since their debut.
Will BVB Win Anything?
I’m sorry. I’ve given too many hopeful answers. We’re not going to win anything this season. BVB’s 2023 is going to go trophyless.
The temptation to be realistic is strong, but, hey, I didn’t support Dortmund to be a realist! We’re still alive in the Pokal (where Bayern have slipped up embarrassingly a couple of times in recent memory), have a Champions League meeting with a faltering Chelsea, and are still not entirely out of the picture in the Bundesliga. I’d say we’ve got a reasonably strong shot at the Pokal, so we could feasibly see a trophy at the Westfalenstadion come the end of the season.
Anders: Nah - but we can beat Chelsea
Obviously our best bet is to snatch the DFB-Pokal, but there are still a lot of good teams left in the tournament (Leipzig, Frankfurt, Bayern and Freiburg just to name a few). Chelsea is a decent draw for us at the moment, but I don’t see us getting any further than the quarters. The league is dead - sorry to say guys.
Sarah: No chance (see above comment about how I manage my expectations)
As the sage George Costanza says...it’s all about the hand, and right now, BVB has no hand. Unless they can get the hand, which we know is hard to get and everyone wants it, other teams (read: Bayern) will continue to have the upper hand. Until then, I’ll consider it a winning season if Reus can manage to play at least half of the remaining matches this season.
What do you think? Is 2023 going to be as messy and disappointing as 2022? Or is this our year?