Dortmund won’t sack Lucien Favre before the end of the season, but after a furious start, the second half of the season is looking bleak for Black and Yellow. Dortmud never showed up to Bremen for the German Cup, and found themselves knocked out. Bremen is terrible this season sliding down to the relegation zone and deservedly so. Dortmund, then, traveled to Leverkusen, where a fast and furious game in which they looked fragile the entire game led to an inevitable late collapse in the game as Bailey and Bender scored to knock Dortmund back in the pursuit of the Bundesliga title,
It is hard to blame anyone for the Werder Bremen loss and exit from the German Cup other than the players. In retrospect, Reus was likely injured much of the game and will now miss a month. But, Dortmund just simply looked lethargic, unmotivated, and disinterested. With a crowded league and Champion’s League schedule, losing in the German Cup wasn’t the end of the world. It certainly happens to teams missing the quality of depth to truly compete in all three at the same time. Dortmund has added some incredible pieces and Brandt, Sancho and Haaland are superb attacking players playing as well as anyone anywhere, but the lack of quality on the defensive line and on the right side of the defense have plagued this team all season. Hard to blame anyone but the players for the Bremen loss, though, and the offense just couldn’t find that extra gear they had in scoring 15 goals in the prior 3 games allowing a really mediocre Bremen team playing poorly coming into the German Cup showdown to outplay Dortmund by simply playing two tight lines at the back and springing counterattacks, despite the fact that Bremen hasn’t shown the ability to outplay anyone else this season.
The Leverkusen loss is a hundred-percent on Favre. He reverted to a 4-2-3-1, despite the fact that 2 centerbacks hasn’t cut it all this season, and he was wildly inconsistent in his substitutions leaving Brandt and Can in the game long after they were not physically able to play. Bizarrely, he brought the young American, Gio Reyna, on at that half for the injured Brandt, when he had only played as a very late second half substitution in his earlier appearances. While he has to learn sometime, Favre should have known that he was nowhere near ready to be inserted in an intense road rivalry game at Leverkusen. The mistake was costly, as Reyna committed an unnecessary and brain dead mistake in aggressively pulling Lars Bender to the ground in the buildup of a series that led to a Sancho goal. An incredibly poor and impulsive decision by a rookie that pulled a go ahead goal off the board and cost Dortmund points in the title race, but an even bigger bone head move by Favre, who had Hazard on the bench. He also left Can on the field long after he went down with obvious cramps. A new edition making his first start, Can’s performance was mixed to start with. He had one of the goals of the season in blasting a shot from 22 or so yards out for the top corner. But he didn’t really look match fit or up to speed, and there was no reason not to have subbed him upon the first signs of fatigue.
The least explicable move, however, was some doomed experiment at the back of moving Akjani to right back in a 4 man back line, and leaving Hummels and Zagadou as the only two centerbacks in front of goal. They have been playing 3 at the back, the spacing was all wrong for two centerbacks leaving Volland to feast, and Zagadou has only just returned the prior game from injury, Hummels played as if he had the luxury of 3 centerbacks where 2 could cover for him on his adventures forward, and Akjani has no business pretending to be a right back. Dortmund scored some great goals, had a superb Sancho goal taken off because of Reyna’s stupidity, but Favre got everything wrong in this game and Dortmund’s inevitable loss was only a matter of time.
With the Brandt injury, and his likely missing weeks, Dortmund looks to be in serious trouble in the Champion’s League and Bundesliga. The defense is frail and both of their attacking field generals are missing. Brandt was playing so well with his distribution and assists that Dortmund could have survived the loss of Reus. Especially with the addition of Emre Can, who did have an amazing goal in his starting debut and had some time to get match fit. But the loss of Brandt and Reus for likely a month is too much for Dortmund to overcome. They are out of the Cup, and will now likely get pummeled by PSG in the Champion’s League. They may be able to stay within the top 4 in the league, but the pipe dream of contending for the title is over. Sancho will be gone in June, Dortmund will have to completely rebuild the defense as even the addition of Schulz looks to be a bust, and who knows how long they can hang onto Haaland-depressing. In retrospect, Dortmund will likely regret hanging on to Favre past the winter break. He did a great job moving the club on from their struggles two seasons ago, but he just isn’t a good enough coach to build a program around with the aspirations of Dortmund in competing for some type of trophy.