Ask the Borussia Dortmund fans what’s more annoying than not being able to challenge Bayern Munich for the league title and the most likely answer will be finishing behind their local rivals Schalke. Unlike the previous seasons, Schalke have been pretty consistent this season, something Dortmund haven’t managed after an impressive start to the Bundesliga under former manager Peter Bosz.
Despite all that has been made of their season, though, Dortmund are just a point behind Schalke. Such are the high standards Die Schwarzgelb have set, anything apart from a top-two finish is a failure. Under Peter Stöger, they have been more consistent in the league but were knocked out of the Europa League and the DFB Pokal.
A top-four finish is a bare minimum and they seem to be in a comfortable position, four points above Bayer Leverkusen. By the end of the weekend, however, the deficit could be reduced. Why? Dortmund take on league leaders Bayern Munich today.
By the end of the season, Bayern will have won their sixth successive Bundesliga title and it’s a shame no one is able to challenge the Bavarians’ hegemony. The consistency Bayern have managed since Dortmund’s last league title is frightening. But could the gap be narrowing despite the difference in points tally?
Lack of consistency
The side who’ll be lifting the title come May won 10 successive games until their draw against Hertha Berlin in late February. Schalke, who are currently second, have managed five successive wins which could further increase. Dortmund, meanwhile, haven’t managed more than four wins on the trot.
Last season, Dortmund won the DFB Pokal but not once did they manage a run that had four successive wins in the league. Bayern, on the other hand, started the league campaign by winning their opening five fixtures. That’s the kind of form that sets you up for the league title.
Dortmund have players in their squad who are capable enough but the form often comes in short bursts. Take Michy Batshuayi for instance. Before his brace against Eintracht Frankfurt, he went five games without a goal and Dortmund failed to win four of them.
Lack of experience
Dortmund are often known for promoting younger players and that is partly the reason for their inconsistent performances. While the likes of Jadon Sancho and Christian Pulisic have impressed, they haven’t done it consistently enough. With youth comes inexperience and unlike Bayern who have a mix of youth and experience, Dortmund simply have too many youngsters in their squad.
The Dortmund team that started against Hannover in their last Bundesliga game had an average age of 26.5 which isn’t the youngest. However, if you look at the players in key positions, the lack of experience is evident.
Manuel Akanji started at the heart of the defence and he is just 22. He’s barely had the experience of playing regular top-flight football and you can’t really expect him to out in 7/10 performances in every game like Mats Hummels or Jerome Boateng.
The midfield has a similar issue with Mahmoud Dahoud and Julian Weigl vying for a starting berth; young and good players, but when the going gets tough, they don’t have the experience to come out with flying colours.
Bayern, on the other hand, have Thiago and Arturo Vidal – experienced players. Corentin Tolisso and Leon Goretzka (who will join in the summer), don’t have to do it all on their own. Dahoud and Weigl don’t have the same luxury.
The transfer cycle
If you don’t win, you can’t retain your best players. If you can’t retain your best players, the chances of winning are substantially reduced. Dortmund, like quite a few other sides, have been caught in the vicious cycle that Bayern seem to have a control of. The only player Dortmund have managed to keep away from the big wigs is Marco Reus, but with the World Cup coming up, don’t be surprised if he impresses and moves on.
Last season, Dortmund had Ousmane Dembele ripping defences apart with his pace and trickery. The season before that, Henrikh Mkhitaryan had his best season in a Dortmund kit. In the last few seasons, they’ve had one or two players who raise the bar but eventually move on.
New players need time to adapt. But because of the club’s cycle of selling its best players, they haven’t been able to maintain a certain level of consistency that is needed to stay on Bayern’s tail.Published 31 Mar 2018, 07:28 IST