Two months ago Peter Bosz and Borussia Dortmund lost their first competitive match together. They were defeated in the DFL Supercup rematch with Bayern, 4-5 on penalties. The result came after squandering a late 2-1 lead on their home ground. That was immediately followed by the bad—but not unexpected—news of the transfer out of Ousmane Dembélé to Barcelona.
Yet supporters and management remained convinced Bosz was their ticket to a Bundesliga title.
Bosz cleans up
Bosz you will recall was brought in to clean up the mess created when Thomas Tuchel left last spring. Tuchel was, in turn, heir apparent to Jürgen Klopp. Bosz—more hairless than heir—looked like he knew exactly what he was doing too. A fact heralded during the first of two fall international breaks by the league’s website as it celebrated BVB’s quick start to the new Bundesliga season, which included five clean sheets in a row.
The timing of the praise coincided with nemesis FC Bayern’s dismissal of Bosz’ opposite number from that Supercup match: Italian manager Carlo Ancelotti. Everything seemed suddenly to be going Dortmund’s way then. Despite persistent summer transfer rumors Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was retained. The club was enjoying the view from the top of the table. The weather was turning, the leaves falling, and the schadenfreude of watching things fall apart at the Allianz Arena was no doubt intoxicating.
All in all BVB loyalists had plenty of reason to enjoy the revels of Oktoberfest.
Steins empty. Taps dry…party over?
That was a month ago, however. Now, the beer has all been served and the festival has ended. And Peter Bosz may well be thinking that he had too much. He would certainly be excused for having a headache right now.
The past two weeks have witnessed a noticeable downturn in Dortmund fortunes. The club dropped 3 points to RB Leipzig on Matchday 8 last weekend, 2-3, to end its own two year home win streak. At midweek BVB travelled to Cyprus and barely managed a draw with UCL Group H opponents, APOEL. A result which gives them almost no chance to advance in the tournament and raises a serious question about their chances to even transfer to Europa League. Finally this weekend—Bundesliga Matchday 9—Dortmund yielded two second half goals to draw away to Eintracht Frankfurt, 2-2.
If all of that weren’t bad enough, at the same time things seem to have turned around for BVB’s mortal enemies. Both Bayern and Leipzig notched UCL victories last week to give Dortmund supporters a throbbing case of reverse-schadenfreude, which likely only deepened Peter Bosz’ hangover.
Hair of the dog
Despite all of the bad news, however, BVB faithful ought still to be looking forward rather than downward. Their club remains at the top of the table, though tied with Bayern on points. Also, Dortmund and Bayern remain the only teams in positive double-digits when it comes to the most critical tie-breaker of goal differential.
The threat presented by Leipzig after last year’s 2nd place finish has yet to materialize. Indeed, the pressure seemed to have gotten to Ralph Hasenhüttl’s men earlier in the year. It may build again and raise its intimidating head as the season progresses.
And the “back on beam” influence of the re-introduction of Jupp Heynckes as Bayern’s latest manager may not be long-lived. Everyone, including Jupp, knows he is temporary. He is just keeping the throne warm for the next in line. While the Hoffenheim and Leipzig faithful deal with their relative anxieties amongst those cited, Dortmund ought to be able to relax.
Confusions and infusions
In that respect BVB and Bosz’ greatest challenge right now is change. The club had a lot of success during those early days of the season no doubt due to their high-pressing style. The scheme places a lot of pressure on rapid counter-attacking through the middle and flawless finishing. There’s not much room in that style to fall behind, or give up penalties, or find oneself in need of a late goal. All of those can be tolerated, but not on a recurring basis or winning is bound to suffer.
Bosz must also adjust to changing personnel. Mario Götze has returned to form and proved an able assist man for Aubameyang. Super Mario remains a viable secondary threat himself as well. And Dortmund has also recently been blessed with even more youth in the form of England’s Jadon Sancho. Then there is the uncertainty of Marco Reus’ comeback from injury and his future in general.
For the present, Bosz and company can ride the cushion of their early season success. Still, things are changing and the point spread over the table is likely not comforting. There is surely the temptation among even the most faithful to wonder what January will bring.
Whatever you’re thinking under that Guardiola haircut, Peter, if it comes to saying it out loud to the press, try to keep it clean.
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