It is hard to pick which Dortmund loss this season is more bitter to swallow between capitulating three goals in six minutes and failing to register a single shot for 90. In Leipzig, Dortmund was never involved in the proceedings. An early goal from Willi Orban beat Alexander Meyer at the near post, and the referee may as well have called the game there. Dortmund would do little for the remaining minutes other than giving Leipzig an opportunity to practice some new instructions from Marco Rose.
Instead of criticizing the tactics of the team, the performance of individual players, or the color of the referee’s underwear, I am going to try what it's like to be a club official after these types of matches.
Here are my three best excuses for the performance today. Call me a politician.
It is no secret by now that if you sign a contract with Dortmund, your hamstrings, shoulders, ankles, and calves are in the devil’s hands. The injury bug has struck early this season, and today it was too much for the squad to overcome. The absences of Donyell Malen and Karim Adeyemi have left the wings looking slow and bereft of creativity. Against Copenhagen, there was space enough in the middle of the pitch for Reus and Brandt to interchange and play through the opposition. Leipzig’s central pairing of Xaver Schlager and Konrad Laimer extinguished any chances through the center of the park before Brandt or Reus could so much as catch each other’s stare. This left the available space on the wings, where Brandt and Wolf had neither the pace nor the crossing ability to make anything happen for their striker. Because of the thinness of the squad, nothing on the bench offered Terzic a chance to fix the situation.
Dortmund also struggled mightily in the midfield, where a certain Mahmoud Dahoud would have made a massive impact. Dahoud’s party trick is his ability to collect the ball deep and play through heavy pressure to create opportunities on the counter. Leipzig had Dortmund on their heels in possession, and constant turnovers wasted the team’s energy and conviction.
Joke as we may that Julian Brandt cannot play more than two good games in a row, the German has found himself on the field far more often than was expected when his name appeared on the transfer list in June. Think back to 2019 when Julian Brandt was purchased as a creative number 10 or a playmaking number 8. Brandt himself has said he plays his best football in these areas, yet once again, he has found himself filling in for injuries on the wing. After a summer of uncertainty, calling on Brandt to put in three-90-minute performances at MOTM level is a bit unfair. Jude Bellingham and Marco Reus similarly had waning impacts from the first minute to the 90th, probably because there is no one on the bench ready to give them a rest. As much as we all want to see Giovanni Reyna tearing up the grass following his UCL heroics, now is not the time to rush the young American into a new 10-month injury. So where does that leave Terzic? Playing the same, tired attack Dortmund ran for most of last season and with almost no options to spice things up. That lead’s us to today’s final excuse.
The Head Coach
How did Marco Rose take a team that had hitherto collected only five points in the league and lead them past Borussia Dortmund? Maybe it was because he knew exactly what to expect. How many times did Rose sit on the touchline as Marco Reus ran out of ideas, Julian Brandt looked like Bambi on ice, and Jude Bellingham attempted to run and kick the team to a win all by his lonesome? Rose’s party trick in these matches last season was a giant, blonde goal monster who no longer serves as the Ace in the Hole for BVB. All Rose needed to do was take a quick look at the traveling Dortmund squad to know that Anthony Modeste would be up top, Reus and Brandt somewhere in behind, and someone with no business at right-wing getting the nod.
“Suffocate the middle. Guerreiro will never cross anyway, so unless Thomas Meunier has the game of the season, we should have this one in the bag” ~ Marco Rose, probably.
And until some players return from injury, every other coach in the Bundesliga will be rolling out a carbon copy of that recipe for success. The international break cannot come soon enough for Edin Terzic’s squad, but two season-defining games still stand between the squad and some much-needed respite. BVB can probably afford a loss to the lighter blue of the two opponents ahead, but the smurfier squad will be eager to poke more holes in an ailing BVB after their return to the top flight. Terzic cannot afford to let that happen.