Little wonder, then, that Hamburger SV captain could barely even crack a smile following such a lamentable showing on Matchday 5.
"Conceding too many"
"Dortmund are so strong, break so quickly and play so well between the lines. As the opponent you always have to put them under pressure, but we just didn't do that enough," lamented the Dutchman after his side's sorry 6-2 defeat at Yellow-Black hands. "It could easily have been 9-2 like last season against Bayern. Put simply, we’re conceding far too many."
Indeed, Hamburg have now shipped 15 goals in five outings - more than any other Bundesliga outfit - but that's not to say the back four alone are entirely culpable. "You can't just blame those sorts of defeats on the defence," explained van der Vaart. "You have to question the whole team. All eleven players have to defend and fulfil their responsibilities at the back as one. We have to be more stable."
"Didn't give up"
Tucked away amongst all the negatives, though, the HSV captain was able to at least draw some good from an otherwise forgettable evening's work, namely a twelve-minute power play that temporarily threatened to transform the complexion of the contest altogether.
"In terms of positives, we didn't give up after going 2-0 down, but instead came right back into it," van der Vaart recalled, before continuing with his frank assessment of the game. "After grabbing the equaliser for 2-2, for a moment Dortmund were rattled, but that didn’t last long and we couldn't make use of this passage of play. After that we let them in far too easily [...] If you're not at 100 per cent and don’t play good football, you're bound to have problems."
It goes without saying, Hamburg will be working tooth and nail to steady the sinking ship ahead of next weekend’s derby showdown against Werder Bremen, with the Green-Whites only two points better off than their northern neighbours following a Dortmund-initiated three-match winless run. The northern derby is one of the most anticipated fixtures on the Bundesliga calendar after all.
"It means everything," explained van der Vaart. "That's how it feels now anyway. Fortunately, Bremen are not doing too well either and also lost again. So it's a meeting of two sides not exactly brimming with self-belief, but we need the points and are going to fight for every ball. It should be a thrilling derby." That much is a given.