Dortmund - If you're perusing the upper echelons of the Bundesliga standings for eight-time German champions Borussia Dortmund, believe it or, you're looking in the wrong place.
'A tough time'
Saturday's 1-0 home defeat to Hamburger SV made it four league games without a win for Jürgen Klopp's under-performing troupe, who already find themselves ten points behind domestic pacesetters FC Bayern München and only two clear of the bottom three.
"The problem is we're just not solid enough on the pitch," admitted BVB's head coach after the game. "Physically we were more than a match for the opposition, but we didn't play enough football and didn't capitalise on the spaces out wide. We improved in the second half and really gave it everything. If we'd have taken some of our chances we could have turned the game, but that's all hypothetical. We knew it was going to be a tough time with the squad we've got."
Dortmund have now lost three of their last four league assignments, albeit having registered an average of 68 per cent more attempts on goal than the opposition in each game. In doing so, die Schwarz-Gelben have scored just three, whilst shipping seven at the other end. In this season's UEFA Champions League, on the other hand, they boast a 100 per cent winning record after two matches without conceding once.
"Again it comes down to form," opined Klopp. "We've got some players who can generally perform to the right level throughout the heavy schedule and others who can't. Some of the new players aren't used to playing every three days. We've got players who've come back from long-term injuries and have to go straight into the team instead of slowly working on their match fitness. Others play all the time without enough pre-season training behind them. There are reasons for the ups and downs, but we've still conceded some silly goals."
Greatly hindered by that that unwanted record of 12 goals against in seven league outings in 2014/15, Dortmund's current seven-point tally represents the club's worst start to a season since 2009/10 when the Ruhr district outfit had amassed just six points at the same juncture in the campaign. Results improved as the year progressed, but the damage had already been done for a BVB side that ultimately finished a handsome 13 points adrift of eventual winners FC Bayern in fifth.
'Starting point for the rest of our season'
"You can all say and write what you like," Klopp continued. "In an ideal world, we wouldn't be in this situation and things would be different. Criticism can be constructive, but it shouldn't make people feel any worse than they already do. We know what the problems are. We want to use the [international break] to find some stability. We'll be working hard with the guys that are with us. Once everyone's back, we'll continue in that vein. The 4th of October is a real low point for us, but it's also the starting point for the rest of our season."
Thirteen of the 18-man ensemble involved against Hamburg have been called up for international duty, with BVB next in action away at promoted 1.FC Köln on 18 October. By that point - assuming the wayfarers return unscathed - Dortmund should be that little bit closer to full strength following news of imminent returns to first-team action for midfield triumvirate Marco Reus, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Ilkay Gündogan. That just leaves Marcel Schmelzer, Jakub Blaszczykowski, Oliver Kirch and Nuri Sahin on the sidelines, but as Klopp knowingly told journalists at Saturday's post-match autopsy, "even when everyone's back, it's still a question of form."