After dropping two points at home against dead last SC Paderborn this past Friday, questions remain as to whether Borussia Dortmund can consistently perform at the level required to challenge for the Meisterschalle Lucien Favre. The 2011/12 Bundesliga Champions were having a great November until the mid-month Der Klassiker. Dortmund had won two league matches in a row before staging a second-half comeback win against Inter Milan.
The inconsistencies, however, began to show themselves yet again, as the victory over Inter could not stop Dortmund’s now traditional thrashing at the Allianz Arena. In their last five away fixtures in Munich, Dortmund have netted just two goals compared to Bayern’s 24. 2014 was the last time Dortmund won in Bavaria, but the record champions had already won the league, rendering the match effectively meaningless. The defeat was anything but surprising.
Borussia Dortmund’s Inconsistency Under Lucien Favre
SC Paderborn Have Claimed Only Five League Points
What was surprising, however, was Lucien Favre’s men conceding three goals to dead last SC Paderborn in the next match day. The display was simply unacceptable if Dortmund expect to seriously challenge for the title. Their response, though, perfectly showcased the squad’s inconsistencies, as Dortmund performed brilliantly in the second half. Favre took drastic measures at half time as a chorus of boos rang down in the Signal Iduna Park. Julian Brandt, Achraf Hakimi and Thorgan Hazard all came onto the pitch, adding to the attacking threat already posed by Marco Reus, Jadon Sancho and Raphael Guerreiro. Dortmund’s speed and skill were simply too much for the Paderborn defence.
Favre’s men scored three high-quality goals to secure a point, but deeper problems were made bare for all to see. The defence lacks both pace and depth, while the midfield relies far too heavily on Axel Witsel. The attack may arguably be the best in the Bundesliga, but the squad is horribly unbalanced. Dortmund are simply too inconsistent to genuinely challenge Bayern Munich and possibly Borussia Monchengladbach for the Meisterschalle. No matter the performance by Paderborn, a title challenger cannot drop points to a relegation bound club at home. In the same vein, potential champions cannot lose by four goals to nill at Bayern. Dortmund often put in amazing displays, showing their potential and frustrating fans even more.
November Began Positively
Earlier in the month, Dortmund gave a very solid Wolfsburg side their first defeat in the league. This was followed up by the second-half comeback against Inter Milan, a side that trail Juventus by a singular point in Serie A. One may have thought that these two impressive results could break the club’s run of horrible results at Bayern’s Allianz Arena, but Favre seemed to almost sense imminent defeat. Neither Paco Alcácer nor Reus started, and Sancho was replaced by Guerreiro in just the 36th minute. The defence conceded four, while Bayern kept a clean sheet.
Wednesday’s defeat against Barcelona in the Champions League was no shock either, but Dortmund showed off their attacking ability. Nico Schultz had a great chance in the first half. In the second half, Brandt had a close-range shot saved, while Sancho scored and hit the woodwork. Brilliant goals by Luis Suarez and Antoine Griezmann, and a mistake by Mats Hummels that allowed Lionel Messi to score, sealed the three points for Barcelona.
Dortmund were again left disappointed. If it was not for Hummels attempting a pretty pass out of the back and the front line missing their chances, Favre’s men could have easily returned to Germany with a vital point. Inter Milan beat Slavia Prague, meaning that both Dortmund and Inter now have seven points going into the final group stage matchday. This was another toothless performance by a side capable of much more.
Dortmund have somehow found themselves in crisis mode, but not all is lost. While the side might be in sixth place, they are five points behind first-place Gladbach and just four behind RB Leipzig and Bayern. The next three league fixtures, Hertha away, and then both Düsseldorf and Mainz at home, are must-wins. How Dortmund perform in these matches against three relegation candidates will show just how serious their title credentials are.
One thing is certain however, Dortmund lack a clinical finisher when Alcácer is not fit. The Spaniard’s ability to poach and find space in the 18-yard box cannot be found anywhere else in the squad. Alcácer’s match fitness will be key moving forward, especially against side’s like Paderborn that drop deep and crowd the box. No other Dortmund player has the former Barcelona striker’s ability to manoeuvre and find space in a crowded penalty area.
Is Lucien Favre the Right Fit?
The next three league fixtures will not only make or break Dortmund’s season, but they may determine the future of Lucien Favre as the side’s manager. While his tactical awareness is world-class, one has to wonder if the stoic, calm demeanor of the Frenchman is the right fit for an emotional and bombastic club like Dortmund. Jürgen Klopp was the last manager to bring Bundesliga glory to the working class, coal mining region of Western Germany, a manager that was quite the opposite of the cool, emotionless Favre.
Echte Liebe is Dortmund’s motto, and Klopp embodied what that meant, willing the squad forward at all costs, even against the likes of SC Paderborn. Winning any domestic league requires consistency, and that is exactly what Dortmund presently lack. Unfortunately for Favre, maybe a manager of a similar vein to Klopp is what it will take to defeat the financial behemoth that is FC Bayern München, even if it may only be for one glorious campaign.