Don’t know about you, but 2012 feels a lot longer than nine years or so ago. The 2011/12 Bundesliga season certainly makes you feel like it was at least; Jurgen Klopp was managing Borussia Dortmund, Sebastian Kehl was the captain and Marco Reus was still playing for Borussia Monchengladbach.
Borussia Dortmund finished the 2011/12 campaign eight points clear of Bayern Munich at the top of the table and crowned their league and cup double with a 5-2 thumping against the Bavarians. It was their second league title in a row, but also the last time the Black and Yellow have tasted a Bundesliga win to date.
They might have made a Champions League final the following year, but the story for Borussia Dortmund since the 2011/12 season has pretty much been one of playing second fiddle to Bayern, who have continued to churn out the silverware and become a popular pick for those who like betting on soccer.
Since 2011/12, Bayern have won five DFB Pokal titles, eight Bundesligas and two Champions Leagues. In reply, Borussia Dortmund have a solitary DFB Pokal to their name. Not only is that embarrassing for the one and pretty much only side in Germany that can seriously challenge Bayern, but it’s ridiculously embarrassing for a side with the global stature and talented roster that Dortmund have housed over the years.
At the time of writing, Dortmund are one point behind Bayern in the 2020/21 Bundesliga title race and have already lost two matches, one against Augsburg away from home and, more crucially, the home fixture of Der Klassiker against Bayern Munich.
But do Lucien Favre’s side have it in them to turn things around and break the Bayern curse this season?
The issue with Borussia Dortmund has always been their mental strength. Since 2012, BVB have had some sides that are nowhere near the level of Bayern Munich and other seasons where they’ve more than matched the Bavarians and maybe even edged out ahead of them in terms of overall quality and balance.
However, it’s clear that the steeliness to grind out the wins needed to mount a title challenge is something that Dortmund just don’t have in their ranks. Results like the 2-0 loss to Ausburg, a side that finished 15th in the 19-20 Bundesliga campaign, just come out of nowhere and derail Dortmund’s title ambitions far too often over the years.
These are the results that you hardly ever find Bayern producing.
As well as the odd slip up across the season to sides that a side like Dortmund should have no problem swatting aside, BVB are seemingly plagued by royally bottling it when it comes to the crunch Der Klassiker games against Bayern.
Since Lucien Favre took the reins of the club as manager in 2018, Dortmund have conceded fifteen goals in just five league games against Bayern Munich. Needing to score three goals per game against Europe’s best side is not exactly a sustainable way of ensuring you’re doing your job in the biggest games en route to winning a league title, however what’s more worrying for Dortmund is just how frequently their one or two goal deficits against Bayern Munich end up growing to three, four, five or even six goals.
Managing The Egos
It’s a fact of football that the best players are usually the ones with the biggest egos and require the most amount of micromanaging. Now Dortmund haven’t traditionally been a club too good at keeping a hold of their talismanic individuals, with the likes of Ilkay Gundogan, Ousmane Dembele, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Sokratis and Shinji Kagawa all departing for pastures new after impressing in Dortmund, whilst the real standout stars like Mario Gotze, Mats Hummels and Robert Lewandowski all left BVB to join up with Bayern win trophies at the Black and Yellow’s expense.
Whilst the selling has thankfully dried up in recent times, managing the talismanic individuals in Dortmund’s ranks currently doesn’t seem to be manager Lucien Favre’s strength. The likes of Thorgan Hazard has become ridiculously polarising in his performances since joining in 2019, Erling Haaland is continuing to bang in the goals but there seems to be tension with the manager growing and a move abroad looks inevitable and Jadon Sancho, always at the heart of a transfer window, has had a couple of discipline issues already.
You never hear of Bayern’s players acting anything other than professionally, and one does have to begin wondering whether Lucien Favre really has what it takes to keep a lid on the egos in one of European football’s biggest dressing rooms.