Dortmund - If the gravity of Borussia Dortmund’s present situation had not fully sunk in for BVB fans prior to Matchday 13, the side’s 2-0 defeat away to Eintracht Frankfurt on Sunday will have come as a brutal reality check.
Poor chance conversion
“We’re now in the middle of a relegation battle,” said sporting director Michael Zorc afterwards. “Everyone needs to be clear about that.” Indeed, there is no way around it: Dortmund are bottom of the standings for the first time since 2007 after losing for the eighth time in the Bundesliga this season.
“We were really fired up going into the game but suffered a setback early on,” said coach Jürgen Klopp of Alexander Meier’s opener. “That was the worst possible thing that could have happened for us in our current situation. Frankfurt didn’t have to do very much at all to score their goals and you could see that it hurt us.”
With a squad that reads like a wish list for many teams around the globe, there is still the sense that Dortmund are too good to be at the bottom for long - even if the same has been true since their slide began in September. On the face of it the main problem, and the solution, appears to be relatively simple: Dortmund are simply not converting their chances. BVB have had 241 shots on goal this season - only FC Bayern München and Bayer 04 Leverkusen have had more - but have only scored 14 times. Not much of a return on investment.
Yet while carelessness in front of goal may be the root of Dortmund’s woes, it is not the only troubling issue. Failing to score breeds insecurity throughout the side, which opposing teams can sense and then take advantage of. Once that happens, playing becomes more difficult given the looming spectre of past defeats weighing down the players.
Klopp explained as much in his post-match press conference: “We missed some really good chances and our opponents seem to be scoring with almost their first chance. I can’t explain why that is. And when that happens it all starts over again. Breaking that [cycle] is a huge challenge we’ve got to overcome.”
Dortmund’s next opportunity to do that will come on Friday in the Matchday 14 opener at home to TSG 1899 Hoffenheim. That will by no means by a straightforward task, as Hoffenheim are an awkward, attack-minded side who will be buoyed by a 4-3 win over Hannover 96 on Saturday. Subsequent fixtures against Herth Berlin, VfL Wolfsburg and a resurgent SV Werder Bremen round out the club’s tricky domestic December schedule.
However, sitting just nine points adrift of fifth-placed Borussia Mönchengladbach, it is not all doom and gloom in Dortmund. Klopp remains convinced his side “tried everything” against Frankfurt, saying “any talk that they didn’t want it is wide of the mark”. Meanwhile, took to Instagram to appeal to fans, saying: "We’ve failed as a team and as a team we have to get out of this [...] We need you to do that!" Having nearly 81,000 fans cheering them on at the Signal Iduna Park on Friday could be just the springboard Dortmund need.