Back in May when Borussia Dortmund’s players stood in front of the Südtribune after choking against Mainz on the final day of the season to surrender the Meisterschale to Bayern, the feeling of unity, togetherness and determination was palpable. When the players once again stood before the Yellow Wall last Friday following the 2-2 draw with Heidenheim, there was nothing but whistles, jeers and a sense of real dissatisfaction.
Times have changed at the Signal Iduna Park and after just three games this season there is a sense that a timebomb is ticking and if things don’t improve quickly, there is going to be a reckoning with those in charge. There are already a number of threads unravelling at the club and the Black and Yellow ship is not a happy one. It is one sailing through choppy waters and one where the man at the helm is coming under ever more intense scrutiny.
Some people will be looking on and saying that everyone needs to just calm down and take a chill pill. BVB are unbeaten this season and will come good. Last season had it’s bumps in the opening weeks and the club came as close to winning the title as they have in the past decade.
That said, the expectations have been raised as a result of last season’s near-miss and the fans will demand the next step is made- at the moment is seems the club have stalled. There are a number of factors at play here leading to the general sense of pessimism and the danger is that they will all come to a head soon.
Put bluntly, none of the three performances so far this season have been up to scratch with each one ending in recriminations and promises that things will get better next time. The opening weekend win at home to Köln saw a limp display with Gregor Kobel emerging as the key man as he kept the visitors at bay. The keeper sealed three points when it wouldn’t have been a travesty had Köln actually won.
The Ruhrderby against Bochum should have given them the chance to redeem themselves, but the home side were much more ‘up for it’ and escaping from the Vonovia Ruhrstadion with a point was the maximum BVB deserved. Against Heidenheim on Friday, the first half looked promising as they led 2-0, but the second 45 minutes was abject and literally invited the thus far pointless newcomers on to them. That Heidenheim were the side chasing the three points into injury time says it all.
Midfielder Julian Brandt summed things up perfectly after the game. “We shot ourselves in the foot – the committed Heidenheim team had it as easy as Bochum last week. We conceded two goals, and we actually had the ball under control for the first and gave away a stupid penalty for the second.
“Football is a game of errors, you’re always going to get misplaced passes, but we need to learn to protect the ball when we have tracked back and defended. It will be our downfall if we keep conceding goals like that. We went into the half-time break 2-0 up, and the clear goal must be to kill the game off. We made crazy mistakes in the build-up. We were sloppy and inconsistent in front of goal, and also in front of our own goal.”
Gregor Kobel, Donyell Malen and Ramy Bensebaini aside, none of the players emerge with a great deal of credit from the opening three matches and with the international break now upon us, there will be little chance to make immediate amends.
Of course the person of coach Edin Terzic will increasingly be in the firing line should the current malaise continue. Yes, he has his bond with the Südtribune, yes he is ‘one of their own’, and yes, he seems to have the full confidence of Hans-Joachim Watzke, but there are increasing rumours that he doesn’t see eye-to-eye with sporting director Sebastian Kehl and that has been shown in the club’s rather strange and underwhelming summer transfer window. Terzic pushed for a new striker (Füllkrug) when other areas of the squad appeared on the outside to need more attention.
A story has also emerged of a blazing row with Nico Schlotterbeck after he wasn’t a starter against Köln. The performance levels of the team and their habit of folding when put under stress will fall at the coach’s door and what starts as a trickle of criticism could turn into a torrent.
Social media is already rife with posts about Julian Nagelsmann being a contender for the Borussia Dortmund post and as long as the team continue to disappoint, these stories will only increase and perhaps gain traction. Is Terzic really the man to guide Dortmund to the Bundesliga title?
“I can understand the anger and frustration of the fans, because I feel it just the same” Terzic explained after the Heidenheim surrender. “These are simply things that must not happen to us if we want to have really big ambitions, because these things don’t happen to top teams. For us it happens again and again.”
Yes they do.
Köln, VfL Bochum and Heidenheim wasn’t exactly the most demanding of openings to the season and looking ahead the fixtures will not be getting any easier for the Schwarzgelben.
After the international break they are away at Freiburg before facing VfL Wolfsburg and between those fixtures they kick off their Champions League campaign with an away trip to Paris St. Germain. With Milan and Newcastle making up the group the prospects of progression to the knock-out stages after Christmas look a tough ask. A poor showing in the Champions League would only add to the mood of woe.
It is up to the players and coach to act as the bomb disposal officer and cut the correct wire (is it the black one or the yellow one?). Failure to act could see the ticking time bomb go off.