Is Bayern Munich responsible for Borussia Dortmund's plight?
From 2013 Champions league finalists, Dortmund are currently sitting at the relegation zone in Germany after enduring their worst start to a season in decades. They will now have to sit there for another six weeks due to the winter break in Bundesliga.
A fairytale ride for a team who were on the verge of bankruptcy in mid-2000s to being Champions League finalists in 2013, it all looks to have gone horribly wrong in the last few months.
Dortmund have lost 10 of their 17 league games this season and are currently sitting in the relegation zone with just 15 points. Fingers may be pointed at Bayern for Dortmund's slump if one takes a closer look at how Bayern are signing Dortmund players to strengthen their squad as well as weakening their direct rival in the process.
Players moving to Allianz Arena
When the world’s attention was on the all-German Champions League final in 2013, the giants of Germany announced the capture of Gotze on the eve of the finals. It may not have had much impact on Dortmund, who lost to a last minute goal from Robben. Gotze was injured and was not even a part of the squad.
However, the way Bayern Munich announced the capture to the world and how they managed to steal one of the prized assets of Dortmund with money would have left many frustrated. They did not stop there and used all their possible weapons at disposal to buy Lewandowski as well. To Dortmund’s credit though, they did not let the Polish striker follow Gotze's footsteps and kept him at Westfalenstadion.
But, it did not take long for Bayern to get their man. When Lewandowski's contract ran out in 2014, the German champions captured him for free.
"Bayern are hitting back now [after Dortmund's two titles]. They want to destroy us to make sure we will never be a danger to them again” said Dortmund CEO Hans-Joachim Watzke, after Bayern announced the capture of Lewandowski in January.
He further added, "And they are doing so by signing our players. We don't stand a chance when our players can earn twice as much elsewhere. Despite everything, we will not change our strategy, though."
There was no surprise when Bayern beat Dortmund 2-1 at Allianz Arena earlier this season. Inevitably, Lewandowski was on the score sheet against his former club.
Also, Bayern's open pursuit of another Dortmund star in the form of Marco Reus has resulted in some heated exchanges between the two clubs lately. It is unclear whether Reus will make the move there as of now.
Summer transfer failures are another reason
Even though Bayern can be termed as one of the causes for Dortmund’s slump, there are other reasons which have contributed for this situation.
Dortmund bought in Ciro Immobile to replace Lewandowski, who had scored 101 goals in 185 appearances. However, the move has backfired so far as Immobile has managed to score only three goals from 13 Bundesliga games this season.
He is not the only failure, but other signings like Shinji Kagawa, who has been a shadow of his former self since returning from Manchester United. Another summer signing Adrian Ramos has also managed just the two goals in 13 games this campaign.
As a result, the 2013 Champions League finalists have found the back of the net only 18 times in the league this season.
Injuries, captaincy crisis, goalkeeping issues and many more
Also, the constant injuries suffered by their players have not helped Jurgen Klopp's cause much. Ilkay Gundogan and Reus, who returned from injuries never looked like their former self.
Moreover, the team’s defending has been a big worry for their manager. A lot of the goals they have conceded have been silly, and as a result of mistakes they have made.
What is also important to note is that Mats Hummels’ captaincy skills have been questioned few times this season. Following their 1-0 loss at Hertha Berlin, the players went to thank the thousands of away fans for their support, however Hummels disappeared back into the dressing room without acknowledging them.
He later though apologised by saying that he had been in pain and needed immediate treatment, which is why he left soon. But this issue had arisen even before that match. After losing to Hamburg at home earlier this season, he left the stadium within minutes of the final whistle.
Goalkeeping remains another crisis for Klopp. Roman Weidenfeller, Dortmund’s non-playing World Cup winner lost his place to Australian keeper Mitch Langerak following his poor performances. To Klopp’s dismay, the Australian has also continued the same trend with under-par displays.
Players out on international duty
With several players set to be out of action for Dortmund due to international duty, Klopp may not have his full squad to train during the winter break. Shinji Kagawa is set to play the Asian Cup for Japan while Langerak is part of the Australia squad. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang will be playing the African Nations Cup with Gabon.
Also, the club's record signing, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, who has yet to contribute a goal this season will not return to action till the end of January due to a hamstring tear.
Despite this slump, fans have always backed their manager and has promised to do so till the end. However, Klopp’s fate will be clearer when they face Bayer Leverkusen, Augsburg and Freiburg after the winter break.
Results in those fixtures may ultimately go on to have a say in both the coach’s and the club’s fate. However, winning the Champions League may be the only chance for Dortmund to return to Europe again.