When BVB decided to rehire Edin Terzic back on the 23rd May 2022, it marked a shift in approach for Borussia Dortmund in many ways. The Black and Yellows had not been led by a homegrown manager since Michael Skibbe was installed as head coach back in the 1998/99 season. The appointment of Marco Rose at the beginning of the 2021/22 season was another in Dortmund’s bleak history with manager appointments since the Jürgen Klopp era, and the fanbase had rightfully grown increasingly frustrated with the manager merry go round. It was time for a plan — and no, not a Stöger plan. An actual, thought-out, long-term plan (if such a thing exists in modern football). In Edin Terzic, it seemed like Hans-Joachim Watzke and Sebastien Kehl had found the man to bring the title celebrations back to the Borsigplatz, and coupled with Kehl’s more direct approach to player transfers, a slight optimism began to brew within the club and among the fans.
It’s safe to say that Terzic’s first year in charge was a mixed bag. The first half of the 2022/23 season had people calling for his head, and the 10-game winning streak in the second half of the season had people branding him the best young manager in the world. After the heartbreak against Mainz on matchday 34 back in May, Terzic has now had the chance to wipe the slate clean and go into a new season solely on his own terms. He has had a chance to prime the squad during the pre-season and USA tour, and as per reports, he also seems to have a significant say in Kehl’s transfer activities.
Picking Players and Piling Pressure
Sean has already made a case that letting the head coach have an oversized influence on your transfer decisions can have harmful repercussions. In principle, I agree that a head coach should not be in charge of a team’s transfers, but I also think that letting a coach have a say in transfer business can help a team — especially if said coach has a developed playing system and an idea of how to use a certain player. We’ve seen examples of this with Pep Guardiola at Manchester City, Jürgen Klopp at Liverpool, and Mikael Arteta at Arsenal. In the Bundesliga, we’ve seen examples of this with our good friends over at Bayern Munich, where I expect there to soon be an arranged fistfight between Thomas Tuchel and Uli Hoeneß to settle who is really in charge of transfers.
We’ve all heard the stories about how the Edson Álvarez transfer fell through due to Terzic wanting to keep Emre Can as his preferred number six. While I dislike the decision to make Can the BVB captain and the team’s primary number six, I can also see how it can be justified, to an extent. Judging from reports, it also seems like Terzic spearheaded the signing of Felix Nmecha, while everyone (Terzic, Kehl, Sammer and Watzke) agreed that Marcel Sabitzer and Ramy Bensebaini were both good additions to the squad. I’ll reserve judgement of these players until they have played more than two games, but given BVB’s transfer window so far, it is unsurprising that an exponentially larger share of the blame will be directed towards Terzic with every point that the team loses this season.
Recent reports have suggested that Edin Terzic (and not Sebastian Kehl) is now looking for a tall striker to play in Sebastién Haller’s place when he heads off for the African Cup of Nations this winter. Kehl seems to have accepted that Terzic is looking for a certain type of striker to fit his system (see Zac’s article about BVB’s hunt for a striker for some of the names mentioned). Whether it has been a deliberate decision to let Terzic weigh in on transfers as much as he has is unknown, but it has been reported that there have been disagreements from within the club regarding transfer activities.
Hitting the Performance Limit
A good football team is made up of good recruitment and a coaching staff’s ability to make the recruited players play well together. Simple in theory, difficult in practice. Terzic has now spent one whole year with the squad, and he has had the chance to present his ideas during preseason.
Edin Terzic avoided a lot of pressure last season, for several reasons. First, his main striker was not available for half of the season. Second, it was his first year in charge. Rarely do you expect much from a somewhat unproven coach in his first year in charge. It was also the first season at the club for several new players as well, and finally, if you add to that the significant number of injuries that plagued the team throughout the season, you have one, hearty excuse cocktail. Some of these factors obviously weigh more than others, but it’s safe to say that no one realistically expected Terzic to challenge for the Bundesliga title last year.
Against Köln (and later against Bochum), we already saw that BVB’s old struggles are back. This team simply has a very hard time breaking down low block oppositions, while simultaneously being very prone to counter-attacks. Oppositions that can successfully close down the middle of the park have been a nightmare for BVB to play against under Terzic. I think we have seen Dortmund’s best performances under Terzic against teams who are similar to BVB in terms of level. RB Leipzig, Bayer Leverkusen and even Bayern Munich play a much more open game, which has allowed The Black and Yellows to play transitional football themselves.
I don’t have a PhD in football tactics, but you don’t have to be a genius to notice that BVB have yet to establish a clear tactical approach. I don’t claim to have the answer to BVB’s struggles on the pitch either, but luckily I don’t get paid to figure that out. Terzic needs to find a way to make this team tick and reach their ceiling. He had his say in recruitment — now it’s time to prove to everyone that he can use these transfers to improve the team.
Additionally (and because I can’t shut up about it), Terzic should really consider looking into what De Zerbi is doing at Brighton, as I think his tactical approach would fit Dortmund like a glove.
To be clear, this is not an anti-Terzic article. I’m not suggesting that all blame should fall at Terzic’s feet if this team does not perform. You can blame Kehl for bad timing and being pushed over, Watzke for being greedy, and you can even blame the players for their poor performances in the opening fixtures in the league. But now we’re in a situation where we know that Terzic has had a say in BVB’s transfers, and he has obviously made (or not made) some decisions regarding the team’s tactics. Every decision you make as an elite coach means even more pressure from the club, the media and the fans.
I admire Terzic for wanting to take on a lot of responsibility, as he clearly does it out of love for this club. Unfortunately, love isn’t gonna win you any titles on its own. As fans, we can rightfully demand more from Terzic this season — in every aspect. That doesn’t mean that we should call him an idiot or clueless (doing so is tasteless), but we have the right to hold him accountable for his actions.
In conclusion, this is the season where Terzic has to find himself as a coach. It’s the season where there will be no excuses, and it’s certainly a season that could define his future as one of Europe’s top coaches. The real challenge for Edin Terzic starts now.