The last time Borussia Dortmund travelled to Bochum’s VONOVIA Ruhrstadion (a lovely football stadium, by the way), it was late April, and they were incredibly close to a Bundesliga title, for the first time in over a decade. Bochum had been battling relegation all season, and the game looked like it should be a stroll, on paper. Of course, Dortmund did what they do best against relegation-threatened opposition and came away with a 1-1 draw (thanks to some shocking officiating from Sascha Stegemann). Today’s fixture with BVB’s local rivals gave us more of the same.
Bochum were coming off a 5-0 thumping by a very average Stuttgart side, and, while they were bolstered by a couple of returnees, they were up against an almost full-strength Dortmund side raring to go after a poor start to the campaign against Köln. So, of course we turned in an awful performance and drew 1-1. The game got off to a poor start, with Bochum causing all sorts of problems in the buildup with some smart pressing, and they took the lead out of the blue 13 minutes in, with an absolute rocket from Kevin Stöger. Dortmund spent the rest of the half making vain attempts to pry their tails from between their legs. It was only after a much brighter start to the second half that they levelled, with Donyell Malen perhaps a little lucky to see his shot creep past Manuel Riemann after being set up by some clever footwork from Julian Brandt.
The game wore on with little of note occurring until Dortmund had possibly the best chance of the game, deep into extra time, as the ball fell for Jamie Bynoe-Gittens inside the area. JBG was unable to collect himself and sent a tame effort straight at Riemann.
Here are my observations from a disappointing afternoon.
Let’s address the elephant in the room. Our midfield was garbage. Felix Nmecha and Emre Can were particularly bad, the former struggling to combine with his new teammates and the latter looking all over the place (as he has done in every game so far) and picking up a needless booking (as he has done in two of the three games so far). Our buildup suffered in the early phase, as Can didn’t drop into the space between the centre-backs to help progress the play often enough, which allowed Bochum to go almost man-for-man while pressing our backline. When he did do so, he looked unimaginative and a little hurried, perhaps thanks to a lack of support in the middle third of the pitch, where Nmecha looked slack and devoid of ideas. Only Malen and Sebastien Haller completed fewer passes than our Nmecha’s 20.
This made for a very isolated Brandt and Marcel Sabitzer, and, while Brandt still gave it a good go, racking up a game-high 5 key passes and making an assist, Sabitzer disappeared in a sea of jostling blue shirts. We really missed a player with Mahmoud Dahoud or Rapha Guerreiro’s skillset here, as one of the main reasons we looked so dreadful was this complete disconnect between our defensive and attacking lines.
Defensively this was felt as well, as it was all too easy for Bochum to bypass our defensive midfield on the way to goal. Each player in our back four had a pretty good game (Bens and Hummels in particular were very, very good), but they were given approximately the same amount of protection as a paper umbrella would offer in a hurricane.
When you have a fit Marco Reus on the bench, he plays. Simple as. Our off-the-ball movement in the middle of the pitch was dreadful, and, despite having one of the league’s most intelligent attacking players on the bench, Edin Terzic turned to two wingers and a defensive midfielder, in the hopes they’d make a difference. Bringing on Youssoufa Moukoko was a good idea, as his movement unsettled the compact Bochum defence, but waiting till the 81st to bring him on was beyond baffling. This pattern of very late substitutions is one we’ve seen for a while now, and, while I do believe that Edin Terzic is the right man for the job, he could probably do with rethinking how he approaches his substitutions.
He’s the best keeper in the league. Simple as.
Some Further Thoughts
- While it didn’t really affect the outcome, the officiating was pretty poor today. A very physical Bochum side took full advantage of Robert Schroder’s refusal to blow up for some obvious fouls.
- We always seem to concede absolute worldies against Bochum, from players who almost never score. The curse is real.
- Of the sixteen Bochum players to feature, three have played for Dortmund at some level.
- Seb did a pretty solid Lukaku impression today, inadvertently denying Donny a brace.
- To end on a happy note: Mateu Morey is back! After his horrific recent history with injuries, our young Spanish wing-back featured in a matchday squad for the first time since the 22nd of April, 2021. He has worked ever so hard to come back from repeated setbacks and is one of the few foreign players to have learned German in his first year at the club. Let’s show him some love!
Would “abject”, “shambolic”, or “straight-up depressing” be the best summation of today’s game? What do you make of the new boys’ performances so far? How glad are you that Mateu is back? Let us know!