With the business end of the season fast approaching, Bayern Munich are set to take on Borussia Dortmund at the Allianz Arena. This is a very different BVB side from the one the Bavarians faced just a few months ago, so we caught up with Sean Keyser over at Fear the Wall to answer a few questions for us. Here’s what he told us:
Have Borussia Dortmund gotten better or worse after firing Lucien Favre?
Overall, it’s pretty close to a wash. A month ago, the answer would have been that we had gotten definitively worse, but since then we’ve won four straight, although they haven’t exactly been flawless victories. At the time, it was pretty clear that Favre had lost the squad, what with the embarrassing 5-1 loss to Stuttgart, so I definitely understand why BVB felt the need to fire him.
I’m mostly ambivalent towards the job that Edin Terzic has done as assistant coach. While I like him as a personality, I’m glad that a more experienced head coach in Marco Rose will be coming on board.
Terzic isn’t much of a tactician. I feel that he’s an assistant coach at heart, more adept at communicating roles one-on-one and firing up the players than Favre was. There’s a reason that BVB want to keep him as an assistant coach once Marco Rose takes over.
When it comes to the actual duties of head coach like building a system, rotating, and selecting the squad, I’m less confident of his skills. He’s been good at keeping the squad motivated this season, but a lot of the tactical issues that plagued Favre have continued.
What’s the big difference between this BVB side and the one we faced last year?
If you think about it, the squad is almost identical, with one glaring difference: the absence of right back Achraf Hakimi. While I’ve defended Thomas Meunier against BVB fans who think he’s the worst player in history, it’s hard to ignore that the switch from Hakimi to Meunier drastically altered how Dortmund play.
It used to be that Jadon Sancho could drift inside while Hakimi made overlapping runs out wide, a combination that made BVB one of the most effective counterattacking teams in the world last season. With Thomas Meunier, and to a lesser extent Mateu Morey, this same chemistry is gone. Neither player is going to charge into an open wing or beat a defender one-on-one, and Meunier has probably the worst crossing of any defender I’ve ever seen. It’s taken a long time for BVB to adjust to this.
Other than that, the overall strategy of the team is the same. Move the ball fast in transition through the full backs, or Marco Reus in a deep position, and use them as springboards to play Erling Haaland into goal. When it works it usually results in a goal or a big chance, but it requires a lot of intricate passes that certain players like Julian Brandt have really struggled with this season.
Speaking of Brandt, I have no clue what happened to him. He was really good with us last season, but his form has completely fallen off a cliff this year. He’s a total vacuum going forward: I’ll think “there’s no way he could mess up this pass” and he still finds a way to mess it up. It’s incredible.
Form-wise, do Bayern’s recent slip ups in the Bundesliga seem like an opportunity to you guys?
Not really. Just ask Lazio what Bayern’s dropped points against Eintracht Frankfurt and Arminia Bielefeld meant. I think those two matches say less about “form” than they are a microcosm of Bayern’s season so far. The bottom line is that Bayern’s rip-roaring offense papers over a defense that isn’t that great.
Bayern have conceded more goals than Peter Bosz’s Bayer Leverkusen and Borussia Dortmund, even with our crappy goalkeepers. Bayern do concede chances and goals, so it will be up to BVB to capitalize when they do. Once they’ve done that, the key is to simply hold back the most dangerous offense in world football. Seems simple enough, right?
What do BVB fans think of the Marco Rose signing, especially given Gladbach’s recent run of form?
I like the signing, and I get the sense that most BVB fans are in the same camp. I’m not very concerned with Borussia Mönchengladbach’s poor form. I’m sure the squad isn’t happy with Rose’s announcement, and might be playing poorly because of that. Even if Gladbach’s lead position isn’t great, the club’s recent victories against RB Leipzig, Bayern, and Dortmund, as well as some of its performances in the Champions League, are more than enough to have me excited.
Will we see a new-look BVB team next summer? With Sebastian Kehl set to come in, is a change of direction on the cards for the club?
I assume you mean the summer of 2022, when Kehl is rumored to take over for Sporting Director Michael Zorc. By that point, Dortmund’s squad will look radically different. Jadon Sancho will almost certainly be gone, and Haaland might go too. Many players, including big names like Mats Hummels, Dan-Axel Zagadou, and Manuel Akanji, have their contracts set to expire in 2022, so the club will have to decide whether to let them go or try to extend them. If you’re interested, here’s a piece by Mike Solak on what we think BVB should do with them.
As for whether the whole team as a franchise will go in a new direction? Probably not. Sebastian Kehl has officially been the quote-unquote “Licensing Director” for the past few years, but this has basically been a contrived position to help him learn the ropes under Michael Zorc. I wouldn’t be too shocked if he takes the club in a radically different direction regarding transfer strategies or anything like that.
Many thanks to Sean Keyser of Fear the Wall for taking the time to answer our questions. Check out their site if you want detailed coverage of the tie from a Dortmund perspective.