The domestic 2022/23 season has officially ended and it offered one of the most exciting seasons to date for Borussia Dortmund fans. Over the last year we have seen Marco Rose’s shock firing, the signing and cancer diagnosis of Sébastien Haller, a brutal start to the season, an unprecedented World Cup break, and a blistering title race that ended one goal short of Dortmund’s glory. Over several roundtable articles, the Fear The Wall staff will be looking back at the 2022/23 season. Today, we put together our report card for how the squad performed!
This season was Sebastian Kehl’s first as Dortmund’s general manager and it has quickly become apparent that he is very competent at his job. This year’s signings include Nico Schlotterbeck, Sébastien Haller, Niklas Süle, Karim Adeyemi, Salih Özcan, Anthony Modeste, Alexander Meyer, Julian Ryerson, and of course, Edin Terzic. Of these signings, Sébastien Haller and Karim Adeyemi have been sensational over the second half of the season while Ryerson added much-needed competition and depth to Dortmund’s fullback areas. Both center-backs have been great and I am confident they can start any game. The only two misses have been Modeste, who was signed on short notice and scored Dortmund’s most important goal of the season, and Salih Özcan. Özcan had all the trademarks to be a fantastic player and hasn’t shown up yet. I’ll give him time, much like Malen, but for now he’s the only thing keeping this from being an A+.
Dortmund hit on virtually every single player they brought in in the last two transfer windows, with two exceptions, one of which I’m willing to forgive. I think it’s fair to say that Salih Özcan has disappointed, and Anthony Modeste has really, really struggled, but the latter was a panic buy under very difficult circumstances. I think there’s a chance Özcan can still grow into his role at BVB, so I’m not ready to give up on him just yet, but when every single other incoming transfer has been a smash hit, I’m not going to complain too much.
I love that we brought four German players into our squad this year — five if you count Özcan. If I don’t let Modeste influence the grade, it’s clearly an A. I would say that Kehl hit all but one of his signings this year, and I still believe that signing (Özcan) can turn things round. Good job!
The goal of any club when it comes to recruitment is to hit more than you miss, and boy did BVB hit on a ton of signings. The club knocked it out of the park with the signings of Karim Adeyemi, Niklas Süle, and Sébastien Haller, while Nico Schlotterbeck was also a terrific addition, and Ryerson helped solidify the backline. Özcan was an okay signing and hopefully he can improve in 2023/24, and Modeste was clearly the worst of the bunch but I’ll give leniency on that one due to circumstances beyond BVB’s control. Overall, awesome transfer business.
Looking at Dortmund’s defensive line rather than the whole defensive product of the team, it’s hard to argue the team didn’t struggle in key moments. There were several moments where the team’s defense ‘shut off’ and slipped vital leads in key moments with the late goal conceded against Stuttgart and the final 10 minutes against Werder Bremen on matchday three coming to mind. I think the biggest area of concern was in the wide areas for Dortmund, and we’re set to see massive change as Meunier, Passlack, and Guerreiro are set to leave. Outside of those problems, the team had the joint fourth-best defense in the league and kept 12 clean sheets which was third-best in the league behind Union Berlin and Freiburg (both 13). For me, it’s a B+!
I guess it depends how you define the defense in this case. Is this category limited to the defensive line, or does it represent the entire team’s defensive efforts? If it’s the latter, my grade would be a bit lower, because BVB’s approach to games continues to see them shipping more goals than a team of their stature should. They play very offensive football and that leaves the team pretty vulnerable out of possession. Assuming, however, that this grade reflects the performance of the defensive line, I’m willing to give them a high grade for an admirable effort in a team that often leaves its defense pretty exposed.
I think the defense is... Better. Do I think it’s good enough? God no. To me, what seems to be the case is, that it’s mainly because we just have better players that we’re defending better — not because they’re well organized within a tactical system. I don’t know about you guys, but I’ve heard that there’s a hard-hitting, versatile, defensive-oriented Mexican runnin’ around in Amsterdam. Maybe we should get him?
Could’ve been a lot better at parts of the season, but when you run a fast-paced, attack-heavy style of offense that Dortmund does, you’re going to allow a goal here and there. While I think Dortmund still has some room for improvement in the defending department, they’ve definitely appeared to improve over the previous season. Not where a lot of us want or think the defense should be, but the situation is nowhere near as bad or dire as we think it is.
I came into this season touting Dortmund’s midfield trio of Jude Bellingham, Mahmoud Dahoud, and Salih Özcan as the greatest midfield the team has seen since the Jurgen Klopp. Instead, we saw a midfield of Jude Bellingham, Julian Brandt, and Emre Can that was still the greatest midfield the team has seen since Jurgen Klopp. Each of the trio could make their case for Borussia Dortmund’s player of the season and when fully fit, they were dominant. The problem in Dortmund’s midfield came from their bench. With Dahoud failing to return to his 2020 form and Salih Özcan struggling, there was no depth. When Can was underperforming at the start of the season, Brandt became injured, or Bellingham was tired, there was no solution. Now Dortmund is set for a massive overhaul of the midfield and hopefully this is one concern they can address.
Despite three of BVB’s best players this season being midfielders (Bellingham, Brandt, and Can), I think the Dortmund midfield deserves the lowest overall grade. At their best, they were playing teams off the park, both in and out of possession, but they also went missing on occasion, and that hurt Dortmund over the course of the season. Bellingham had a couple stretches where he looked absolutely knackered, and his performances dropped as a result; Brandt had a very good season that was punctured by short runs of form reminiscent of his more lackluster efforts in previous seasons; and Can was an absolute monster, but only after the winter break.
If Terzic had used Dahoud as a rotation player, this surely would have been an A- at least. I feel kinda bad for our midfield, because they were honestly run into the ground for large stretches of the season. It’s not like anyone in our midfield core has been downright bad — they’ve just been overused. Nonetheless, there’s a lot of positives to take, as both Brandt and Can have developed quite a bit.
Very few times this season did I think our midfield would be an issue, while the rise of Brandt and the improvement of Can throughout the season were both welcomed surprises. Still, I think had Terzic been more willing to rotate, or if we had a few more depth pieces in central midfield, some injuries or fatigue could’ve been avoided.
Borussia Dortmund’s offense was absolutely abysmal across the entirety of 2022. Halfway through the season, Adeyemi had one goal and Malen had none in the Bundesliga. In fact, there were clips of Adeyemi’s national teammates laughing at him being selected for the World Cup. 2023, however, brought an entirely different look to the team’s attack even before Haller’s return to the lineup. Both Malen and Adeyemi become two of the most lethal players in the Bundesliga. The return of Haller, who understandably had a slow start to his return, marked a complete change in the team’s attack. It’s hard to look past the first half of the season, however, where goals were difficult to come by for this Dortmund team. For that, it’s a B-.
If I was only grading the second half of the season I would have bumped this up to an A/A+, but the first half of the season did happen, and at times it was pretty tough to watch! Without Haller leading the line, BVB struggled to put the ball in the back of the net, averaging just 1.67 goals per 90 in the Hinrunde. In the Rückrunde, however, that average jumped to a whopping 3.0 per 90, scoring a total of 58 goals (15 more than any other team in the league).
It feels a little harsh to downgrade the offense given the circumstances of Haller’s absence, but I think it’s important to note the significant difference between the first and second halves of the season.
Kinda hard to rate this one, as we played half a season without our primary striker. But what I saw in the Rückrunde was some of the best attacking football I’ve seen from this team in forever. And for that, you get a good grade.
I’m with Anders on this one. Playing without our first-string striker for half a season because of cancer means this needs to be graded with that in mind. When Haller came back, the offense looked lightyears better than when he was recovering from cancer treatment. I’m very excited to see what this offense can do with new additions and a (hopefully) full season of Haller as the starter.
It is so hard to grade this season for Borussia Dortmund for several reasons. The club failed to win any trophies with disappointing losses in the DFB Pokal, Champions League, and Bundesliga. Prior to the World Cup Break, the club looked to be in abysmal form and was likely the worst stretch for the club since Peter Bosz was in charge. Apart from those lows, however, was the club’s greatest stretch of games where they looked to be one of the most dominant teams in Europe. There is so much promise for this squad if they can maintain the form they had in 2023 and, if they can manage the turnover of the midfield, I don't see any reasons for expectations to subside next season. Despite the lows of this season, it’s a very exciting time to be a Dortmund fan and it’s impossible not to be proud of this team with looking at the adversity they faced this season.
As Patrick says, this season is really hard to grade. I started out with an overall grade of A-, but I’ve dropped it down to a B+ because I think a rating any higher would be a product of recency bias. BVB were lights out in the second half of the season, but the first half of the season was at times pretty turgid. At the very least, it does give us reason to feel pretty optimistic about next season, despite some key players moving on.
What a paradox this season has been. It started out absolutely terrible and ended on a much better note (apart from the very last game). I would not label it as a total disaster, but there have been quite some disappointments. In principle, there’s nothing wrong with going out in the Pokal to Leipzig, but I think we can all agree that the manner in which it happened was beyond unacceptable. I think Dortmund should also have been able to overcome a very dysfunctional Chelsea-side in the Champions League — especially with being 1-0 up after the first game. Despite all the disappointments, the second half of the season as a whole evens it out quite a bit. Overall I see progress within the team. May it long continue!
I’m torn on this grade because, in the grand scheme of things, Dortmund came away from all competitions empty handed. BVB crashed out of the Pokal in the quarterfinals to eventual champions RB Leipzig ( ), they crashed out of Champions League in the Round of 16 to a VERY beatable Chelsea squad, and they failed to win the Bundesliga on the final day of the season. And yes, Dortmund will be Bellingham-less next season, but I do think there was a lot to be proud of with how the second half of the seasons went about. A full season of Haller should get everyone excited, as should continued development of our younger players, and new reinforcements should push the team to compete with Bayern for the Meisterschale.