There comes a point where you realize that you are fighting a losing battle and accepting defeat is the best course of action. Form bewildered Borussia Dortmund coach Jürgen Klopp that point must be fast approaching. The former German manager of the year has watched helplessly on the sidelines as his side slide down the Bundesliga into the relegation zone. But now his side have hit rock bottom with a loss to FC Augsburg which left them sitting at the foot of the Bundesliga table. The loss marks Dortmund’s 11th defeat this season in a campaign that has only notched them 4 wins and 16 points so far. The pressure is starting to mount on Klopp with many now questioning if it’s time for him to give up and leave. The fans, who have seen a variety of highs and lows over the past decade have every right to be annoyed but have so far remained loyal as always. That was until Wednesdays defeat when the frustration of yet another loss finally spilled over. Protests broke out shortly after the final whistle with fans shouting their disgust at the team. Captain Mats Hummel and vice captain Roman Weidenfeller approached the fans to offer an apology and listen to their concerns. Later Hummels defended the fans reaction by saying that they had ever right to be upset and that the performances of the team so far have been unacceptable.
The list of what has gone wrong at Dortmund this season is a lengthy one but in truth it comes down to three factors – injuries to key players, failing to replace Lewandowski and lack of confidence throughout the squad. Klopp has had to content with these problems and more as he attempts to rectify the issues and stop the rot. Injuries to key players like Mats Hummel, Marco Reus, Nuri Sahin, Ilkay Gundogan and Henrik Mikhitaryan over the course of the season so far has certainly hindered progress with Klopp forced into tweaking his starting eleven on more than a few occasions. But the problems stem back to the summer and Dortmunds failure to effectively replace Polish strike Robert Lewandowski. The hitman spent four glory filled years at Dortmund winning two Bundesliga titles and reaching a Champions League final before leaving on a free to arch rivals Bayern Munich. With cash to spend, Klopp and Dortmund entered the transfer market and replaced the giant Pole with not one but two new strikers – Colombian Adrian Ramos and Italian Ciro Immobile. Also coming in was Shinji Kagawa who returned to club after a torrid spell in England with Manchester United. In all the three new faces should have provided enough firepower and goals to make up for the loss of Lewandowski. But in truth all three have failed to reach their potential. Between the two strikers, only 5 goals have been scored in the league, hardly the return that Klopp was looking for given the clubs $28.4million outlay for the pair. Gabon striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has had more luck infront of goal but still his return of five leagues goals to date is hardly anything to write home about. The same can be said for Kagawa, an $8million acquisition who has also had trouble finding the goal, netting only once in fourteen appearances but more importantly his setup play has been poor leading many to believe that he has returned to the club as damaged goods.
With the strikers in poor form and the defence looking suspect in the absence of Hummels, the team’s confidence has depleted to levels that will be hard to recover from. As the defeats mount up, the players look more and more disillusioned unable to fathom what is happening. Lower confidence levels lead to poor concentration which results in silly but costly mistakes throughout the team. How else can the fans explain the performances that they have been witnessing? Errors like Matthias Ginter’s toe poke own goal in the defeat to Mainz or his bad back pass header to Roman Weidenfeller in the loss to Frankfurt are just two examples but to single out the young defender as the main culprit would be unfair. In truth no one is performing well and all have been responsible for mistakes in the games so far. Confidence is rock bottom but it’s up to the manager to do something about that.
Klopp has tried on several occasions to rally his troops and has seen glimmers of a recovery especially in some of the Dortmund performances in Europe. But time is running out, with the club rumoured to be contemplating a switch in the next few weeks. The end of February has been identified as the end of the line for Klopp to turn the clubs fortunes around. If he can’t Dortmund will appoint a new manager who can and they should have enough time to rescue the club from relegation. Klopp knows that all of his hard work and success at the club will be undone if he is sacked or resigns leaving them in this precarious position so is reluctant to give up. However in this situation that looks bleaker by the day, it may be time for Klopp to face the music and do whats best for Dortmund by walking away.