“We’ve lost two times and we’re here to win. But APOEL need a victory too. We’re aiming to win the two matches against APOEL. This would mean we’d be under less pressure” – Borussia Dortmund manager Peter Bosz on Monday.
“The result is disappointing. We started well, but did not go on. Then we played more slowly and worse. We have to look at ourselves. We did not get the ball forward quickly enough, we tried to improve that but did not manage to do so” – Borussia Dortmund manager Peter Bosz on Tuesday.
It sounds very much like football just happens to Peter Bosz, that a 1-1 draw with APOEL Nicosia in which Borussia Dortmund looked ponderous, demotivated and entirely lacking in ideas was something he would honestly try to avoid, but really what could he do? He certainly gives that impression from the dug-out, where he looks as passive as his team’s efforts to break down a Cypriot side gifted a first Champions League goal and point in three years.
If Jurgen Klopp and then Thomas Tuchel had excelled in creating a yellow-and-black whole greater than the sum of its parts, Bosz seems determined to turn their wine into water with Borussia Dortmund almost inevitably being shunted into the Europa League just a year after finishing above Real Madrid in the group stage. This is a team blessed with the Bundesliga’s top scorer and yet against a side destroyed last month by a Harry Kane hat-trick, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang touched the ball just 30 times. Why get the ball to your dangerous striker when you can pass the ball harmlessly in front of a packed defence? Julian Weigl will have to develop a sense of urgency if links with Barcelona and Manchester City have any substance.
Dortmund boasted Aubameyang, Mario Gotze, Shinji Kagawa, Christian Pulisic and Andriy Yarmolenko in their line-up on Tuesday night and yet they looked utterly devoid of ideas after five minutes of a game that they absolutely had to win. In their fourth big test of the season – after Tottenham, Real Madrid and RB Leipzig – they were for the fourth time found lacking. The ultimate big-game team have become big-game chokers. In just a few short months, Bosz has overseen Dortmund’s first Bundesliga home defeat in 41 games and made their Champions League exit almost inevitable.
Being top of the Bundesliga table will of course mitigate any criticism, but it’s worth noting that Dortmund’s victories have come against Wolfsburg, Hertha Berlin, Koln, Hamburg, Borussia Moenchengladbach and Augsburg; four of those teams are in the bottom six of the table. There is a sense that Bosz’s men are only winning the phoney war, while losing the battles that magnify their weaknesses. Certainly, a cursory glance at Twitter tells you that BVB fans are not fooled – they see a team regressing under Bosz and there is a concerted campaign to have Tuchel reinstated before another club belatedly realises he is available.
This was supposed to be the group of death but there has been only one victim; the Bundesliga’s pace-setters are in need of a European pace-maker after an undignified collapse.