“This is the season Bayern lose their crown.” “Dortmund finally have their mojo back.” “The title is heading back west.” Just three of the statements made about Borussia Dortmund prior to the season’s big kick-off back in August.
Yet three months later, the side who have won two of the last four league titles (finishing as runners up in the other two) find themselves languishing close to the foot of the table, a position the club’s fans are finding very, very hard to deal with.
Now, for this author, of a Royal Blue persuasion when it comes to the Revierderby (Dortmund v Schalke), I will admit it has been a fairly amusing opening to the campaign. But it would certainly have been nice for those smug chaps at the Allianz Arena to be knocked off their perch.
The campaign got off to the worst possible start for Dortmund when, a whole nine seconds in, Bayer Leverkusen’s Karim Bellarabi darted through to slot the ball beyond Roman Weidenfeller and set the tone for much of the opening weeks of the campaign.
Although victories against Freiburg and Augsburg followed that opening-day loss, Jurgen Klopp’s side then went on a dreadful run of form, their worst in the league since the Bundesliga’s formation 52 years ago. The run began at the worst possible place, Klopp’s former club Mainz, with Shinji Okazaki and a Matthias Ginter own goal ensuring Dortmund went home empty-handed.
From the next six games, the men in yellow could only garner a single point, in a two-all draw at home to relegation-threatened Stuttgart. A particular low (or high, depending on your point of view) point came in the biggest game of the season so far, the Revierderby away to bitter rivals Schalke. A dreadful start put Klopp’s side on the back foot early on, and although they pulled a goal back through Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, the task proved too much.
Dortmund’s sudden downturn in fortunes seems bizarre; after all, besides Robert Lewandowski, who departed for Bayern in the summer, this is largely the same side which finished comfortably finished second last season. However, key men Marco Reus and Mats Hummels have been in and out of the side through injury, while neither Ciro Immobile or Andre Ramos, brought into the club to negate the impact of Lewandowski’s departure, have been able to find their shooting boots at the Signal-Iduna Park as I write this.
It looked like it could all be about to change when Reus, returning from another injury lay-off, flicked home the opener at the Allianz Arena, and for 70 minutes it looked as though all would be forgotten as Dortmund clung onto their lead. But within just ten minutes, the now-familiar storyline had returned and Bayern had snatched a 2-1 victory and the three points from under Klopp’s nose.
However, the performance provided hope, and next time around against Borussia Mönchengladbach they finally brought that dreadful winless run to an end thanks to one of the most outstanding goals of the season.
Picking the ball up in the centre circle, Christoph Kramer needed no first touch before curling the ball beautifully over the goalkeeper and into the net to give Dortmund the lead.
Unfortunately, Christoph Kramer is a Gladbach player, the goalkeeper was Yann Sommer, and the goal will go down in history as one of the greatest/most bizarre own goals of all time.
It may have come about in fortuitous circumstances, but it stopped the rot, and Jurgen Klopp will hope that now his side can kick on, dragging themselves back up to where they feel is their rightful place. But the season so far has been something of a reality check for Dortmund’s famous fans, and Klopp is fully aware that if it happens again, he may begin to feel the full force of them upon his shoulders.