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The Issues Holding Borussia Dortmund Back

Updated: Feb 9, 2022

The talented squad isn’t reaching their full potential.

SPOILER ALERT! Borussia Dortmund are not winning the Bundesliga. Shocking, right?

But it's results like the one they just had against Leverkusen on Sunday that revealed a lot about where the team is.

Losing 5-2 against Bayer Leverkusen who have such an underrated squad of brilliant talent is not a shame, but it's the manner that matters.

Looking at the goals themselves, Borussia Dortmund provided a variety of defensive calamities. Set-pieces with bad marking? Check. Own goals forced by bad passes? Check. Defense in dissaray on counter-attack situations? Double check.

However, it's not the single case of this game i'm interested in, it's the bigger picture for Dortmund that is more interesting and indeed, worrying.

The "Selling club" dilemma

For the better part of the last decade at least, and since Jurgen Klopp era, Borussia Dortmund has been looked at as a "development club".

Imagine saying that about a Champions League winning side, and arguably, Germany's second biggest side. This reputation stemmed from the fact that loads of young and promising talent has gone through the club's ranks and moved on to "bigger things" (most of them at least).

Dembele, Perisic, Aubameyang, Gotze, Lewndowski, Immobile, Gotze, Pulisic, Sancho and more all gone through Dortmund's system before making the jump to a bigger place. While Lewandowski is undoubtedly the most successful out of the names mentioned, Dortmund still profited in a huge way from the other names.

At the moment, they have the likes of Haaland, Reyna, Mallen, Dahoud and others that also could depart the club for greener pastures. Thus, the question is; is this reputation good for the club??. Financially, it is very profitable, and will keep them from collapsing like they almost did in the early 2000s when the club was nearing bankruptcy. Footballing wise, it's not really a good model of work as it never gives any coach at Dortmund the opportunity to form a solid core for 3 or 4 seasons straight, which has been the case indeed since Klopp left.

Speaking of coaches, in a way this mentality creeped into the choice of coaches. Once again, since Klopp left, all the coaches that came after him were not really successful, couldn't be successful with Dortmund, and none of them (except Thomas Tuchel) went on to achieve bigger things. However, the common trait between them is that they are good at using young players and developping them.

That can be good for feeding clubs like Red Bull Salzburg, who are involved with RB Leipzig and other clubs under the Red Bull business model, with those clubs not really household names in Europe and can afford the constant turnover in their squad. But, it's no good for Dortmund who regressed behind more than Bayern actually leaped forward in German Football.

In a way, this is similar to Ajax, who barely form a good squad before it all goes on market after a spectacular season (look the 2019 brilliant team). For Ajax, it might be less of a hit since they are still the strongest side in Netherlands. Dortmund though, are a very far second to Bayern at the moment, not even feeling like a top 4 team in certain seasons. And the loss to Leverkusen 5-2 was only another example of why that model doesn't work in clutch situations.

You can't blame Bayern when you are THIS bad!!

Onto some on-pitch issues now, of which Dortmund have many. Marco Rose, at the moment, seems like another coach good at developping, mostly clueless tactically when it matters, and loses his temper easily which is all Dortmund coaches nature for the last 10 years or so (including Klopp and Tuchel but without the tactical cluelesness for those two obviously).

Borussia Dortmund defensively are 14th, which means there is 13 sides in the Bundesliga that have tighter defenses than them. Considering Dortmund are second on the table, this is simply awful. When 15th placed Bielefeld have stronger defense than you, there is a serious issue that needs addressing. Looking at Dortmund's defense, there is a lack of composure and quality.

Zagadou and Akanji are decent strength based CBs but crumble under pressure. Thomas Meunier is bang average offensively and even worse defensively. Matts Hummels is an experienced head that can direct traffic, but he is way past his days partnering with Subotic and physically seems spent after 30 minutes in each game he plays against quick and agile strikers.

The midfield line is rife with talent, yet lacks serious intensity particularly under pressure and in defensive sitautions. Mahmoud Dahoud is a very good player, but can't exactly be the CDM Dortmund needs. Axel Witsel might be the best midfielder they have, but his age and fitness issues are not helping. While the likes of Bellingham, Brandt, and Reyna all are very creative and brilliant but don't exactly put a lot of effort into tracking back which is a must these days under any system and any coach.

Onto the attacking department, and you think an attack led by Haaland has no problems, Right??.Wrong!! Dortmund's offensive mechanism has problems both with and without Haaland. When the Norwegian terminator is on the field, mostly they score and they look very good, but when they are not creating enough for him, he rarely moves back to recieve the ball. But it's not exactly his style so he is not really at fault here. However, without Haaland, the machine almost shuts down completely. While Mallen, Thorgan Hazard, and co. can come with the goals, they are not ground-breakingly creative for all their talent.

Add to all these issues, Marco Rose's inability to make a balance between the two sides of the game. He tried 3-4-3 and 4-3-3 and 4-2-3-1 and 4-4-2 even in certain games, yet couldn't find a stable setup to stay consistent with it. Which leads to another problem, with that tactical inconsistency breeding confusion for players about their roles in the setup from game to game.


If Dortmund want to be real challengers for Bayern, they need two big overhauls. First, in their recruitment policy, where they'll need to be planning long term for themselves and not be a stepping stone. Second, they have to bring in a serial winner of a coach and start a serious project beyond the cliches of "enjoyable football" and "developmental club".

If you liked this article, share it around and comment on it. If you feel like debating, reach out on Twitter @GouesmiO. Until next time, Take care and Goodbye!!

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