Ahead of yesterday’s DFB Pokal clash with VFB Stuttgart, Borussia Dortmund fans only expected two things from their team: to learn from their mistakes in their loss to this opponent in the Bundesliga, and to maintain their place in Germany’s cup competition. Unfortunately for us, neither ended up being the case.
Dortmund ended up bowing out of the Pokal against Stuttgart in a very underwhelming fashion. The score line read 2-0 at the end of the game, with the Swabians controlling most of the proceedings. Had it not been for the heroics of their former keeper Gregor Kobel, they could have won the game by an even higher margin.
After the game, Dortmund captain Emre Can was quoted in calling the game a football catastrophe, and while it will indeed be a catastrophe for Dortmund’s chances of obtaining silverware this year, the team, and their captain included, have no one to blame but themselves. According to Can, Borussia Dortmund did not show the necessary investment into their performance to win this all important game:
"Every player should analyze his own performance. I certainly do. When I talk about the team, I always talk about myself first. It's not enough. We don't invest enough, we don't press enough, we're not brave enough with the ball. Anyone can make mistakes, but only if they want the ball. We have to learn that. We're Dortmund, we're a big team and that's how we have to play. But we're not doing that at the moment."- Emre Can
Can’s indication that the team needs to want and show more conviction in games is problematic because it hints at a lack of motivation, which there shouldn't be any lack of in any professional team, especially when faced with one of the most important games of the season so far. Having already played against and lost against this opponent, only to do so again underlines lessons were not learned from the initial clash between these two sides.
Stuttgart’s performance against Dortmund reminded me of BVB’s game against Bayern, where the players on the pitch were 2-3 steps behind their opponents at every juncture, especially in the midfield and out wide. Loose passes allowed Stuttgart to obtain the ball in promising positions and turn defense into attack very quickly. The two goals scored were also almost carbon copies of one another, making this whole debacle even more frustrating. Can was quick to highlight these deficiencies as well, underlining the defensive and possession based frailties that led to Dortmund’s demise against Stuttgart:
"“Very disappointing. It wasn't right at the front and at the back, Stuttgart deserved to progress. Once again it was a disaster with the ball and extremely poor against the ball. The build-up play was extremely poor, the tackling was extremely poor. Nothing was right...I don't know if it's a question of attitude if you're sometimes not brave enough to demand the ball. I don't know what you call it when you just don't invest anything and don't run at the opponent intensively. Maybe it's also a question of attitude, but it's just not good enough. We need to do a lot more.”"- Emre Can
Dortmund’s Pokal performance does little to inspire optimism for the upcoming games, especially the one against Leipzig this weekend. This lack of “want to win” and the growing injuries that have resulted from this game make facing any strong team an intimidating prospect. Words alone in these post match interviews will not change the state of Dortmund’s fluctuating form on the pitch. Emre Can and his teammates, along with Edin Terzić and those in charge of the club must either seriously look to rectify these issues our make room for those who would be more capable of doing so in their positions.