How Dortmund has gone from the team in the first half of the season scoring goals and winning games against anyone and everyone to a team that can’t seem to beat anyone defies imagination. Dortmund has one win in their last 8 games, with it also being the only win since the start of the second half of the season in late January. It actually all started with the events last summer, where Dortmund couldn’t seem to sign a forward. Not expecting to really compete for anything other than a top 4 spot in the league, there did not seem to be any urgency to resolve the forward issue and the season started without one.
When it became obvious that Max Philipp could not play the position and produce any goals, Watzke and Zorc were finally motivated to go sign Paco Alcacer. It was a great signing for what he is-a late sub with enough speed to run at tired defenses and score late goals. What he has proven he is not is a starting forward who is effective in the box. He is what he is. Unfortunately, when Dortmund has needed goals in the last 10 games or so, they just simply haven’t been there. They couldn’t score a single goal against a garbage Augsburg team that was missing its only effective scorer in Finnbogason. It hasn’t helped that Reus missed so many games since January, but at this stage in his career and with his track record, his missing significant stretches through injury is a certainty.
The other serious and neglectful issue that arose in the summer was not signing fullbacks. Piszczek and Schmelzer are well beyond their expiration dates against any decent level of competition, though Piszczek did perform well in the first half of the season to his credit, but he has also been lost for the recent slump to injury. Hakimi was brought in from Real Madrid, has great speed, and provided some excitement at left back. Even then, his defense was exposed at times as woeful. But he was far better at leftback than he has proven to be at rightback, where he has been a complete liability. Vertongen exposed him so badly in London that Favre had no choice but to bench him for the return leg. Zagadou missed a number of games to injury and, then, has struggled to get his form back since returning. In fact, he was so poor against Augsberg that it is hard to imagine his getting back onto the staring roster anytime soon.
The optimist may say that Dortmund wasn’t expected to be good this season, put together an unexpected and impressive first half of the season, and is building for the future. Certainly, Witsel has proven to be a great buy and Sancho is an emerging star. The reality, though, is that Pulisic, Sancho and Akjani, among others, will be gone this summer or the next, and Dortmund will always be building with the next young crew with it highly unlikely they can actually challenge over the course of a season for a Bundesliga or a deep Champion’s League run, though with a bit of luck they could conceivably win another German Cup someday. Unfortunately, dreams for the Dortmund fans that soared in the first half of the season have been crushed by reality and a team that just seems to be a train wreck right now, struggling to score goals when the defense is holding up well, and then watching the defense collapse on those occasions when they do grab some goals. Even in their lone win recently against Leverksuen, they were completely outplayed by their opponent for most of the game but were, to their credit, able to convert those opportunities they got and hang on for dear life at the end.