On their day, Borussia Dortmund are known to be scoring goals and winning games at will. Their attacking battery has hardly been questioned by anyone over the years, as their impressive recruitment always leads to good results. This season has been no different. In not just that regard, but one other regard too.
Dortmund have scored the highest number of goals in the Bundesliga this season-59. It is one more than Bayern Munich. But they’ve also let in 32 goals– as many as 11th placed Union Berlin. It has been a constant issue for them and it was there last season too. Recent games show that similar problems are coming up. With a Champions League challenge against Paris Saint-Germain approaching, it is a danger sign.
Their recent game was a thrilling 4-3 loss to Bayer Leverkusen. Despite going 3-2 up after an entertaining first-half, they let in two late goals and lost the game. In fact, that has been the story of the season for Lucien Favre’s men. Their inability to manage games is the reason why they aren’t at the top of the table currently.
Their recent 3-2 loss to Werder Bremen in the DFB Pokal saw them go 2-0 down, then pull one back. They then conceded again, before scoring once again to lose 3-2. They were recently 3-1 down to Augsburg, but won it 5-3 thanks to an Erling Haaland hat-trick on his debut.
They had a thrilling 3-3 draw against Paderborn- a game in which they were 3-0 down in the first half. They drew with RB Leipzig by a similar scoreline, despite being 2-0 up for the whole of the first-half, before letting it slip and allowing Leipzig a firm way back into the game.
It was the case for them last season too. They had to rely on outscoring the opposition and lost out on many points by failing to close out games. This season has seen Favre switch to a 3-4-3 shape instead of using last season’s 4-2-3-1. But their ultra-attacking style leaves them too open at the back.
While their 3-2 win over Inter was impressive, but they again had to rely on a second-half comeback. In the Champions League, that won’t always work. Teams that have pragmatism in there go far in Champions League football. Liverpool won the title last season because they had Virgil van Dijk playing consistently. Tottenham reached so far because they were more pragmatic than usual for a Mauricio Pochettino side.
So far under Favre, this hasn’t really been seen. They drop points against teams that they should beat, letting them down in the Bundesliga in the long-run. That approach can work in the Champions League, but the last time a side won the Champions League with an ultra-attacking style, it was Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona.
Even then, the Catalans were defensively a very smart team. They never let in as many goals as Dortmund. Perhaps, being in a transition this season has meant that Dortmund will take time. But they’ve always been missing their glint of pragmatism. When they had come up against Spurs in the Round of 16 last season, Dortmund’s lack of defensive nous let them down.
The attack PSG boast of is very much like the teams they struggle against defensively. Be it Leipzig, Leverkusen or Bayern Munich- they’ve had open games in which BVB have conceded a good amount of goals. If that happens against PSG, Favre could see his team go out in the Round of 16 all over again.