It’s fair to say that most of us will be glad to see the back of 2017/18. A season that began with so much positivity and optimism ended with us just about making the Champions League and a final game that summed up our season. There have been managerial changes, squad upheavals and a seismic shift in the club’s approach to things. Players have gone and new heroes have emerged. There have been thrashings dealt out and taken. All in all it has been an up and down season for Borussia Dortmund. So with so much to look back on, good and bad, let’s see where it all went wrong and where it all went right.
The winless run
Following a stellar start to the season we went on a winless run which stretched to eight Bundesliga games. In that time not only were we unable to avoid shipping goals but we were failing to put chances away. This side that looked irresistible for the opening two months of the season now looked like it wouldn’t win another game all season. It’s a shame when you know your team is good but there is zero confidence in the players, and that is exactly what was happening to BVB. After taking a 4-0 half-time lead over Schalke at Signal Iduna Park in November it looked like we were about to turn our luck around – that was until Domenico Tedesco’s side fought back in the second half and astonishingly claimed a point from a 4-4 draw. The writing was on the wall for Peter Bosz from then and he was sacked two weeks later following the 2-1 home defeat to lowly Werder Bremen. This winless run ruined our season.
Appointing Peter Stoeger
This may seem a bit harsh and I want to preface this by saying that I don’t believe Peter Stoeger is a bad manager, his time at Cologne proves that. However, he was simply the wrong man for the job. During the summer, Peter Bosz had set about creating an extremely offensive side and conducted his transfer business accordingly. When his plan ultimately failed the Dortmund board performed a complete 180 degree turn on their philosophy and brought in a manager who was defensive minded. Not only had Bosz not played that way but BVB have never played that way under any manager previously. It is true that Stoeger carried out a salvage job on this side and achieved his aim of Champions League qualification. Performances against Bayern Munich and Schalke, as well as the Europa League exit to Red Bull Salzburg, in the second half of the season illustrated just how far out of his depth Stoeger was. Michael Zorc and Hans-Joakim Watzke have to take responsibility for this one.
Stumbling over the line
Champions League qualification was finally obtained but should have been done so far earlier than it was. Our 4-0 home win over Bayer Leverkusen at the end of April meant we only need a 4 points from our last 4 games to qualify providing Leverkusen didn’t slip up again. Leverkusen slipped up twice more meaning that we only needed one point from our final home game against relegating threatened Mainz to seal a top four place, thanks to our 1-1 draw in Bremen a week earlier. Instead we lost the last two games of the season putting our qualification in serious jeopardy. Leverkusen would win on the final day but their previous indiscretions meant their goal difference wasn’t good enough to overhaul us after we had suffered a severe 3-1 defeat at the hands of Hoffenheim. It was a chance to for Stoeger to stake a real claim for this job and for the team to prove everyone wrong by qualifying strongly for Europe next season. We went from possibly finishing second, to comfortably finishing third, to luckily making it to fourth. Not only did Stoeger seal his own fate during those games, the performances of some players also saw their days at the club become numbered.
The first two months of the season
For six weeks under Peter Bosz, Dortmund looked absolutely unstoppable. In fact, it was going so well that we didn’t concede a goal until 23rd September in the Bundesliga – six games into the season. We were unbeaten until 14th October when Red Bull Leipzig managed to beat us 3-2 at Signal Iduna Park. In that time we scored 21 goals and top the league with 19 points to our name. It looked like Bosz was on the verge of something with his free-flowing football and all-out attacking style. It may not have panned out how the Dutchman would have wanted but those were a glorious first two months at BVB.
When Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang left the club in the January transfer window there was understandably apprehension surrounding the sale. Auba had had his disciplinary problems and £53 was a lot of money, but we were losing around 20-30 goals a season by letting him go. His replacement needed to hit the ground running and not just be as good as him, but exceed him in other ways. When that replacement turned out to be Michy Batshuayi, brought in on loan from Chelsea, again people were troubled. He hadn’t done much in west London but had shown glimpses of his ability. It turned that all he needed was game time. Batshuayi filled the void perfectly for Aubameyang. It was testament to the impact he had when the squad didn’t appear to know what to do without him after he picked up an ankle injury in the Ruhr derby in April, ruling him out for the rest of the season. His 7 goals in 10 games have been enough to convince everyone that we should attempt to sign the Belgian permanently and quelled some of the negative feeling from the fans towards the club. Auba who?
Champions League qualification
Given the way in which our season ended our qualification for next season’s Champions League has been somewhat forgotten about. I accept that we didn’t qualify as strongly as we would have liked and we didn’t live up to pre-season expectations, but we still go into next season in a strong position. The new manager, whomever that may be, has the wrench of Europe’s top competition to lure players to Westphalia with. Players like Christian Pulisic, Julian Weigl and Marco Reus are also much more likely to stay with the knowledge that they won’t be missing out on playing against the best sides on the continent every other Tuesday or Wednesday night. It also a draw in our search for the new manager who now has the same prospect to look forward to.
With Champions League football in the bag it almost seems a bit spoilt to moan about some of the issues here. However, the winless run in particular killed our season. Confidence was completely shot and the wrong man was brought in to solve the problem, despite the fact he managed to get us into the top four. That wasn’t Peter Stoeger’s fault though, he is a good manager for a certain type of team. I suspect that is he was appointed by an Eintracht Frankfurt or a Hannover next season then they would have an excellent campaign by their standards. He was simply not the man for BVB. The style of football he played and the attitudes of some of this players sparked fan unrest that is unseen in Dortmund for years. But it isn’t all bad. We will be in Europe next season and, if we can sign Michy Batshuayi permanently, then we have a goal machine on our hands. Lucien Favre looks like the man most likely to get this job at the minute. Let’s see if he is the man to turn this club around.