Dortmund entered into Sunday’s derby game against Bayern being undefeated and looking genuine contenders for the 2015-2016 Bundesliga title, at least to the eyes of a Layman. However, Sunday’s result highlighted what we all should have known, that there was only one thoroughbred in this race and had no intentions of sharing the track let alone the podium. The question that remains is how do Dortmund respond to such a crushing defeat, especially having built up the confidence to make an actual title push?
Dortmund should look to maintain their current form and reaffirm their realistic aspiration of reentering Europe’s elite championship. Tuchel having not changed much in terms of style for Dortmund this season will find it difficult to overcome the monster that is Bayern, however he has managed to facilitate the evolution of Aubameyang and the reemergence of Gundogan as well as having a mostly fit squad that included Marco Reus, Tuchel should be in a good position to secure Champion’s league football for the BVB hopefuls. The title however is far beyond the the black & yellows, as Guardiola has finally witnessed the desired growth of the his players he has been hoping for since taking over the Bavarian club. Lewandowski, Muller, Gotze have all stepped up multiple levels and the addition of Vidal and Douglas Costa has made the team far more dynamic and dangerous especially with the skill level the latter has surprisingly displayed with the step up in level the league is compared to Shakhtar. Dortmund would have to experience a similar evolution in order to compete and with Tuchel essentially mimicking Klopp’s style so far in the season, it is hard to see that happening right now.
The criticism of Dortmund is not limited to simply unchanging tactics but mostly at the incapability for the managers to get their core players to step up to the elite levels they can and should be at. Gotze and Lewandowski proved with their move that it was a necessary step for them to discover a new level to their game, a level that Marco Reus, Gundogan, Hummels, Aubameyang, Mkhitaryan, can all access under the right guidance which would place Dortmund back among the title favourties and European Power houses. Considering that it is early days for Tuchel and looking at his work with Mainz, it would be naïve to suggest off the bat that he won’t be able to take this team to their full potential, considering the blistering start they have had to the Bundesliga season, but the thumping by Bayern simply suggests that they are miles behind and that Pep and his boys have ascended to a peak that their competitors are failing to match. Dortmund with the potential that they have in their squad are the closest to matching the champion’s but simply cannot remain at the level they are at now.
In the current climate of football, being a good team simply isn’t enough to be consistently competitive against the elite teams within the game. Clever tactics will only take you so far and with the talent employed by these clubs like Bayern, from administration level down the pitch – including team management — will take little to no time to adjust to tactical hindrances they posed by potential threats to their assault on titles. As we saw under while Dortmund was under Klopp, Jupp Heynckes took the initial step in not only copying Klopp’s tactics but then adjusting and improving on it. Guardiola then came in already having a similar high press style, proceeded to take what was an excellent team, to seemingly untouchable levels within the league. Dortmund remained the same, didn’t evolve and were eventually caught up by those around them, which saw Klopp’s last season being an abysmal one. Now with Tuchel at the helm, the squad has performed admirably, with key players performing well and staying fit, but they have shown nothing that we have not seen before from Dortmund; this is not a new beast emerging from the ashes ready to ascend beyond their current abilities but simply a wounded animal that has been nursed and placed back into the wild to resume its normal duties.