“I don’t need a vote of confidence, but I must admit, every good thing must have it’s conclusion.” Juergen Klopp’s Wednesday press conference with Borussia Dortmund looked tense, sounded tense and it probably summed up the entire atmosphere and season for Die Borussen. Dortmund currently sit in the relegation zone in the Bundesliga after they suffered their eighth defeat of the season to Eintracht Frankfurt on Sunday. And then comes the Jerkyll and Hyde syndrome.
They sit on top of their group in the Champions League and are in the next round of the German Cup. How could this be happening? How could one of the most exciting teams of the last four years become a team that is on the verge of collapsing? When Klopp arrived in 2008, he needed about three to four years to build a side good enough to challenge Bayern Munich to the title, and the task was set to become even tougher as the club had just come out of a financial crisis and attracting top players would be even more difficult.
Hence they ended up signing the unknown Robert Lewandowski and taking players from their famed youth academy. They upsetted the applecart, winning the Bundesliga title in 2011 and set the tone for a golden era under Klopp. With Lewandowski, Shinji Kagawa and Mario Goetze, Dortmund retained the championship and went a step further and won the double and immediately they would won the love and trust of the footballing world. Bayern now had a serious challenger.
The following year, they signed academy player Marco Reus and despite not winning anything, their Champions League runners-up finish was enough to suggest that Klopp was heading in the right direction with the team, playing a pressing game with a ruthless counter-attacks. Goetze’s transfer to enemies Bayern Munich was the start of a coll relationship between the two clubs and Klopp even went further to say that “Dortmund are the Robin Hood of Germany.” Nice statement. Maybe Bayern do represent the ruthless ways in Robin’s enemy King John in the legendary tale.
Lewandowski moved to Bayern this season, and this move is probably the one that has seriously dented the goal scoring department of the side. The Pole’s replacement was Ciro Immobile, but as yet, the Italian hasn’t lived up to the expectations set by his predecessor. Do Dortmund really have a bad team? No, the same creativity remains with Pierre Emerick Aubameyeng and Henrikh Mkhitaryan still around and even with Marco Reus missing bits of the season, Klopp himself has not use this as an excuse.
There’s a collective abundance of individual talent, but at this moment, their lack of finishing and defensive woes have put them in the dark area called the Bundesliga Basement, and it is one dark place. Dortmund, two seasons or even a season ago, would have finished off the games or even picked up a point in the games they are currently losing now. One can’t only put the blame squarely on Immobile’s lack of finishing. Mkhitaryan and Aubameyeng themselves are natural goalscorers.
It seems right now, where Dortmund are lacking, the much “smaller” teams are benefiting and Die Borussen are slowly becoming the whipping boys of these teams. Weird isn’t it? But that’s the scenario presented to Klopp and his ailing troops. Dortmund won’t go down. They have a good enough squad to make sure that they get right back up there in a top four position but can going deep in the Champions League or even winning the German Cup be enough to paper the cracks of a bad league season?
Goetze and Lewandowski are gone, and Klopp’s two leaders, Mats Hummels and Reus, are the inevitable players that may leave the Signal Iduna Arena next. Dortmund don’t have the financial muscle to challenge Bayern, and in the Champions League, it would be a matter of luck and a kind draw that could see them go far. Dortmund’s clash on Friday night against Hoffenheim does represent the old cliche of “do or die” and the charisma of Klopp may not be able to play down the seriousness of this time. Klopp’s conclusion may not have been the one he would have loved to have scripted, but should the night’s encounter not go according to script, the “Mad Scientist’s” wonderful experiment at Dortmund may just end.