02|03 RÜCKRUNDE: BUNDESLIGA HOT POTATO!

SeasonTwo.EpisodeThree | Rückrunde

Welcome to the latest instalment of my journey with Borussia Dortmund. Last time out, we completed the first half of the season, in my first full season in charge.

As always, you can get in touch with me in the comments below, via twitter @fmfutbolmanager, or my slack channel #fmFutbolManager — if you’re not a part of the Football Manager Slack community, then you can join here!

Now, onto the update.


To start things off, I rung in the changes at Dortmund II over the winter period. They were languishing down in the relegation zone in 3 Liga, a division I’m happy for some of my youth players to be playing in. I removed David Solga from his position and installed Philipp Laux as his replacement.

So where we could we started to shift to a more attacking brand of football. It’s a tough act to balance.

JANUARY TRANSFER WINDOW

Due to the spending in the summer, we didn’t do any deals this window. We have managed to tie down a lot of the talent to longer contracts, and increase some of the minimum fee release clauses. This does, however, increase the wage bill by €300K p/w.

We are still massively outspent by Bayern, but this is about us, not them.

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Bayern continue to outspend us at every window, and I guess that’ll carry on for the foreseeable.

RÜCKRUNDE RESULTS

My relationship with Dortmund is one of love and hate. There have been periods where we’ve looked like we could beat anyone. Then there have been moments where the defending has been so poor, I wouldn’t even expect it of my under 19s.

JANUARY 2020

We had a few games in the winter break to keep the legs fresh. Lots of goals and a run out for some of the fringe players. However, when the proper season started again, we’d turned into a team I didn’t recognise. We struggled to draw with Hannover (1-1), a late Gómez goal securing a point. Then, despite the comprehensive victory over Mainz (3-1), where Gómez again bagged, we were dreadful against Bayern (1-0).

It was getting to the point where I never know which team would turn up.

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FEBRUARY 2020

Another couple of defeats for us in February, and suddenly our season came crashing down. We beat Darmstadt (3-0) comfortably, which we should be doing. We then got knocked out the cup, losing yet again to Bayern Munich (2-1e). Mahrez getting sent off five minutes after his introduction didn’t help.

After a wonderful 2-0 victory over Hoffenheim gave us hope, but then we were absolutely humiliated in the Champions League. Despite taking a 1-0 lead, we just couldn’t stop any of their shots going in. Getting thumped 5-1 in the first leg, which pretty much knocked us out of the Champions League, too.

Cologne (2-0) and Frankfurt (2-0) didn’t offer much trouble, but we still conceded an alarming number of clear cut chances to them. We’d suddenly forgotten how to defend, despite the clean sheets.

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MARCH 2020

Despite a good start to the month, defeating Napoli 2-1 in the Champions League, we still crashed out of the competition. A lesson learned there for me indeed. Don’t head into the away fixture full out attack and then try chase your losses.

We had a bit of a European hangover, struggling to a point against Augsburg. Despite their lofty league position we should have beaten them. We surrendered a two-goal lead, and what’s worse we went 3-2 down. However, we showed great character to come back and level the match for an important point.

Freiburg gave us a tougher match than I expected, too, but the result was never in jeopardy. Isak really has impressed me recently and is edging closer to pushing Alcácer out the way to stake a regular first team place. He scored again in the 3-1 victory over Wolfsburg.

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APRIL 2020

By April we were a point clear of Bayern with six games to play. This really was a title race!

We comfortably defeated Borussia Monchengladbach in the opening game before a two-week break. Isak scoring again and maintaining his position as my lead striker. My wingers also scoring, with Bruun Larsen getting his 7th in 9 games.

The press then added the pressure by pointing out that Bayern had won the league an impressive eight times in a row, and it was up to us to deny them a ninth.

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At this stage of the season there are no easy games and I think we both have a tough set of fixtures to navigate. Bayern, however, lost earlier in the day to Freiburg so this was a fantastic opportunity to push further ahead.

First up, Leverkusen. I named a strong side, as strong as I probably could. However, Isak kept his place after his recent performances with Alcácer dropping to the seconds to try help them stay up. A move which could backfire.

Seven minutes in and we were 1-0 down to a set-piece goal. A ridiculous goal to concede with Bender being given all the time in the world to slot home from a Tah knock-down. Set pieces, the destroyer of dreams.

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However, two minutes later and we were back on level terms. A short corner played in my Luís was headed in my Zagadou. Such simplicity.

We dominated proceedings, creating 10 chances with a couple of real good openings, but we went into half-time level.

The game didn’t really offer much, with both teams creating little in the way of chances at either end. Reus came agonisingly close on 92 minutes, but the ball sailed over the bar. What a disappointment. We had a great chance to push further ahead.

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In training this week, Matthijs de Ligt suffered pulled knee ligaments. Initial prognosis is that he’ll face at least two-weeks out. Just what we need right now. He will miss the Schalke and Hamburg games.

Next up with was the Revier derby, our fierce rivals Schalke. The pre-match press conference was all about Dortmund being favourites for the title now, and I had to agree. However, there was still a little doubt in my mind as this game has a habit of kicking you when you least expect it.

With Bayern winning 3-0 against Werder Bremen, we were back to second, so a win was needed, however, we had the better goals difference for now so a draw would be enough to take us back to the top of the table.

Despite all the huffing and puffing, we found ourselves a goal down to Schalke’s first shot on 84 minutes. An absolute bloody disaster. We’d dominated proceedings, hitting the woodwork, getting shots blocked but creating so many chances.

A loss. I can’t believe we were going to lose and stay in second place.

Then on 93 minutes we were awarded a penalty.

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Reus fires it in to level the match in dramatic style. This season is unbelievable. Three games to go!

We move on. Bayern have a tough home match against RB Leipzig following a midweek Champions League tie against Liverpool, which they drew 1-1. We go to Hamburg a day later.

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MAY 2020

Ahead of the Hamburg match Bruun Larsen and Mahrez both went down with injuries to rule themselves out of the tie. But bad news was met by good, as Bayern Munich failed to beat RB Leipzig, losing 2-1 at home. Game on!

We were top of the league, we had a game in hand. We were ahead on goal difference. Then, the unthinkable happened.

Despite taking the league, every single shot on target that Hamburg had went in. Everything. They played like Barcelona. We were absolutely smashed 6-2 and not only were we embarrassed on the park, we were embarrassed off it too. We had relinquished top spot in the process. The league was now handed back to Bayern with two games to go.

I was furious. There were no other ways for me to get my anger across to the players other than demanding training the next day. From being firmly in control of our destiny, we had dropped seven points in our last three games in the most dramatic collapses imaginable. You couldn’t have made this up.

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The penultimate matches were away to Hertha Berlin for us and away to Mainz for Bayern. I couldn’t see Bayern losing any more of their games, so it was going to be a straight shootout for goal difference, if we could find out how to score again.

We made a great start, Reus firing one in on eight minutes with power to give us the lead.  Not long after it was 2-0 after Guerreiro crossed for Pulisic to slam home. At this point I was torn between going for more goals to get the goal difference up or protecting our position of having the lead. Stick or twist.

We decided to twist and strike while the iron is hot, we pushed forwards more and we were rewarded minutes later when Pulisic got his second and our third.

We were showing a desire I thought we’d lost. We are chucking ourselves into challenges, blocking everything that went near our goal, but we were open and Hertha were starting to get a few chances.

On 47 minutes we were 4-0 up, this time Pulisic turning provider for Witsel.

Half time.

I decided to drop the tempo for the second half and lower our mentality. I was happy with the goals, and didn’t want to jeopardise our position. I told the lads that I was very pleased with their performance and to keep it going. A quick check of the half-time scores and Bayern were a goal down to Mainz. What is going on!?

On 52 minutes Pulisic turn provider again, what a game he was having. Sancho this time gets onto the end of his cross.

On 70 minutes Hertha got one back, one of those power drivers from outside the area that no keeper would ever save. Or at least my keeper never manages to save.

On 82 minutes it was 5-2 after Hertha break away from a corner. Suddenly that goal difference we’d made up was being ebbed away.

We made it to full time as winners. A 5-2 victory and again we fail to stop the opposition from scoring. A new keeper was definitely on the shopping list this summer. We we got back to the changing room, we heard that Bayern had lost 2-0 against Mainz. We were ahead of them again by three points and four clear goals. Given that we have a superior number of goals scored, 76 to their 53 it would take a big win for Bayern and a loss for us to reverse this table.

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So heading into the final game of the season. I don’t remember being this nervous for a long time now.

We were at home to Werder Bremen, a team who we have not lost to in my time at the club, with two victories and a draw. Bayern, on the other hand, are 1-2 favourites at home to 11th placed Cologne. We just need to not lose!

Our training has been focussed on defending set pieces, as Werder Bremen have good crossers of the ball, and a lot of their assists have come from crosses and set pieces. They also primarily attack down the right, so I will swap my defensive central midfielder to move over to our left to help on that side of things.

Two days before the match, Benjamin Pavard contracted flu. I took the risk to have him treated at the club by the doctor here, which would mean he would be back to fitness in 1-2 days. I couldn’t afford to be without him. It paid off, as no others players came down sick, and he was available for the match.

Match day 34. Borussia Dortmund vs. Werder Bremen

We went into the game with our usual 4-2-3-1 which has got us this far. Alcácer starts up front in place of Isak, as I wanted to go with experience in this game. The rest of the team picks itself. No place for Florentino Luís or Sergio Gómez.

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I told the lads to be calm, and the result will come. My part was over. It was down to them.

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Two minutes into the game at the Allianz Arena and Bayern had already taken the lead, just as match referee Daniel Schlager consulted VAR in our match for a potential penalty against us. Fortunately, the incident between Kempe and Mbabu was ruled to have occurred outside the box.

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Just three minutes later and we had our own penalty incident referred to VAR, when Felix Beijmo brought down Witsel in the box. This time the referee did award a penalty!

Witsel himself stepped up, and as he has done four other times this season, he cooly slotted it past the helpless keeper! COME ON!

Borussia Dortmund 1 – 0 Werder Bremen

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On 15 minutes we were close to conceding with a low shot just going wide of Bürki’s post.

By the half hour mark we’d had just 35% of the ball, and Werder Bremen, as we suspected had already chucked in 20 crossed into our box. Thankfully, de Ligt and Pavard had dealt with them all, completing 100% of their headers.

The first half ended with just three shots on target for both sides and the possession more even after I slowed the pace of our game down a little. We didn’t need to go out with an attacking mentality anymore, it was on them to come at us, so I dropped us to cautious to absorb some pressure and give us a better chance of hitting them on the break. I demanded that we improve, and out we went.

The game plan worked. We were nullifying every attack that they threw at us. On 67 minutes I withdrew Alcácer and Götze for Isak and Mahrez to try give us some more pace in our attacks.

It almost paid off immediately with a counter attack almost resulting in a goal for Isak.

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With the tired legs out there, I swapped Reus for Sancho to see the game out.

Weigl hit the bar on 91 minutes, and the match finished 1-0 and in fairness it was pretty dire. Just three shots on target all match, one of which was a penalty

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The league was ours! Our first full season trying and it was ours! Absolutely delighted.

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The final league table looked like this.

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(click here for the full league table)

Despite the Bundesliga title win, I was not named Manager of the Year. I’m not bitter about that at all.

As for the other Dortmund teams, the Under 19s celebrated a double, clinching the German Youth Championship and the German U19 Division 1 West.

Dortmund II relegated Aalen on the final day of the season with a 4-1 victory to give them an 11th place finish. Which, considering their situation when I sacked Solga is quite remarkable.

And that’s a wrap.

TEAM STATS

(thanks to @fmsamo for the idea!)

Dortmund Team Stats Figure Position
Goals 77 1st
Pass completion ratio 78% 9th
Chances created 71 1st
Shots on target ratio 41% 16th
Average possession 49% 10th
Tackles won ratio 86% 2nd
Fouls made 373 (10 per game) 18th

Statistically we outscored the opposition by quite a distance. Our 77 goals in the league was top by some considerable distance, Leverkusen were second with 59 goals. Pass completion doesn’t worry me too much, as we do take a lot of risks on the ball from the central areas of the pitch.

Top of the chance creation table too, shows that we’re very effective in attack. However, just 41% of shots on target, down in 16th just goes to show that if we were more efficient in taking our chances we could have scored a whole load more.

I don’t play for possession with Dortmund. I want us to hit teams on the counter, so having a less than 50% number here is find for what we’re trying to achieve right now.

Finally, a pleasing stat is the tackles won ratio and fouls made. We are extremely efficient in the tackle, conceding the fewest yellow cards, in the process.

PLAYER STATS

Not a single player made it into the end of season player stats overview for the league. As a collective we were extremely efficient, but we didn’t have any standout players this term.

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The Goalkeepers

My weakest area and the one area to strengthen. The worst kept secret is that we’re interested in Manchester City’s Ederson. With City willing to talk to us so a deal there could soon be forthcoming.

Bürki and Rajkovic are okay keepers, but to be at the top level, we’re going to need someone better. They have rotated and each let me down when I’ve called upon them. Bürki with 35 conceded in 25 and Rajkovic 22 conceded in 19 games.

The Wing-Backs

Hakimi and Mbabu have both been excellent down the right side of the pitch for me. However, as with Guerreiro on the left, the assist numbers are a little lower than I would like them to be. Mbabu was 8th in comparison to every player in the league for most headers won, winning 85% which is a phenomenal stat for a wing-back.

Playing with two complete wing-backs, I expect them to be far up the pitch, getting dangerous crosses into the box for the rushing attackers. I might look at ways to adapt the system to bring them more into the games.

Keeping Guerreiro on the left was key, however, he is wanted again this summer, so we will do what we can to hold onto him. His understudy, Mendy, has a much higher average rating though, so perhaps he might be ready to step into the first team.

The Central Defenders

Matthijs de Ligt has been in top form again this season, with a 98% tackle completion ratio and 73% of headers won.

The only other player to come close to that is Abdou Diallo, but he only started 12 games this season, and most of those were the easier games where we rested the key central defenders.

However, Pavard was the stand out this season, also winning the Player of the Year and Players’ Player of the Year awards. He was also named in the Team of the Year alongside Götze.

I feel well stocked in this area and won’t be looking to make any additions in the summer.

The Central Midfielders

I’m absolutely spoilt for central midfielders. Witsel is my penalty taker, so his 8 goals have been padded a bit, however, only half of those were from the spot.

De Jong and Gómez have more than 1 key pass per game, with ~85% of passes completed. They have both played in the more advanced of the two central midfield roles.

Weigl in the more defensive role has 93% of his tackles won and he has done an unflattering role well.

The Attacking Midfielders

The attack is where most of the creativity comes from. Reus has another good scoring season with nine goals and four assists. Pulisic went one better on the opposite side with nine goals and eight assists.

Götze had a better season for me. You might remember me singling him out last season for someone who needed to improve, and we changed the system to better accommodate him. He relayed that faith with three goals and 13 assists. Much better, but I hope to see more goals from him if possible.

The Strikers

I feel sorry for the strikers in my side. The system is geared towards goals from all over, so there isn’t a stand-out striker to get all the goals for us. Alcácer had a better return this season with 13 goals. Isak impressed with six in 14 starts.

Isak has a lot of room to develop, so he will stay with us next season and get more games. We will also look to introduce Arp into the first team, too, so we might need to come up with another system to utilise two strikers.

Now onto the much awaited awards!

Oliver Jensen’s golden spoon award
Awarded to my stand out player of the season.

  • Benjamin Pavard

Probably not too much of a surprise given how we he has done this season, but Pavard was certainly my player of the season. With six goals and three assists he has been immense for me. With a 7.22 average rating, too, he is one of the better players in the team and is at the top of his game right now.

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Oliver Jensen’s wooden spoon award
Awarded to my stand out player, for all the wrong reasons.

  • Roman Bürki

with 35 goals conceded in the 25 starts I gave him, Bürki really disappointed this season. He also had the second lowest average rating in the team. We’re weak in the goalkeeping area, with Rajkovic not developing as well as I had hopped. A new keeper is needed this summer I think.

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Oliver Jensen’s silver spoon award
Awarded to the best youth player (under 23) to break into the squad, either new signing or from the youth teams.

  • Dan-Axel Zagadou

When I signed de Ligt I was worried about the game time I would be able to give Zagadou, but with him being left footed he has played on the left of the defensive paring when he has been fit, and he has managed five goals and two assists in the 14 starts he has had.

If his development continues like this, he has a very strong claim for a starting place next season.

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Fans player of the season

  • Benjamin Pavard (40%)

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  • Raphaël Guerreiro (25%)

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  • Jadon Sancho (22%)

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Young player of the season

  • Benjamin Pavard

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It has been an excellent season, capped with a league title win. I really hope this squad doesn’t get broken up during the summer transfer window.

FINANCIAL RESULTS

Our financial results are a bit of a mixed bag. We’ve made a lot of money on player sales. Equally, we’ve spent a lot of money on player purchases. Michael Zorc has also given some rather large wage increases with the renewals to contracts this term.

It was a bit of an eye-opener to see we had made the biggest losses this season, Our Champions League exit and extravagant spending has made us the worst in German football. This is something I want to change for next season. Remind me if I don’t correct this.

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However, when you look at transfer spend in the Bundesliga, we only spent €34.26M net, so it really isn’t too bad at all. Compare that with who we’re fighting it out for in the league, and we’re really not as bad as the financials make it seem.

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The wages to turnover ratios for the league paint a similar picture. We spend 39% on wages, €138M p/a with a €350M turnover. Quite a respectable number I think, and one of the lowest ratios in the league.

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Income Analysis

It’s important to have a good set of results off the pitch, if we want to be able to compete with Bayern in the short term before we can start bringing through some of the youth products we have here at Bayern.

Income across the board was up, with the exception to season tickets, which we expect to be level for the majority of my time here.

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€488M is a huge sum to be bringing in, compared with last season, a 51% increase. We always know the to main sources of income will be sponsorship and prize money, which kind of go hand-in-hand. You do well, you get prize money and sponsors are willing to pay more for you to promote their brand.

Our income was massively subsidised with €132M of player sales. I wouldn’t expect this to be a seasonal trend, so we cannot rely on that as a solid income stream, however, I would expect players to be using Dortmund as a launchpad for their careers in the short term, so will expect to see money coming in through this channel for the next few seasons at least.

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This gives us a good base reading going into the second season and some goals here to aim at beating.

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Expenditure Analysis

We lost nine players in the summer last season, and they needed to be replaced. I wouldn’t expect to be spending so much in the coming seasons.

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The huge increase in expenditure is primarily down to the transfer fees paid for new player acquisitions. I’m not in control of the fees we pay, this is Michael Zorc. If we have a need for a player, I will make that need known, and if funds are available then we go for the players. However, I hope that the need will be smaller now.

We also secured the signatures of our brightest prospects, but that came at a cost as our wage spend increased 32% over last year. Wages are still our largest outgoing, which is what I would expect.

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Overall then, things look healthy going into next season. We are in profit, and that’s the main thing.

PLANS FOR NEXT SEASON

Well Borussia Dortmund II secured their position in the third division, so that gives us a good team to send players down to for match fitness and youngsters up to for match practice at a higher level.

We’re going to be expected to win the league again, but it felt kind of lucky doing it this season. Bayern really threw it away at the end there, when we handed it to them on a silver platter.

Objectives are to go further in the Champions League, give more youth players their debuts, and to try and win at least one piece of silverware.

As always we have a lot of interest in our players. If acceptable bids are received and players want to go then they will be sold, if not, I expect to go into next season with the same squad, plus a ‘keeper (more news on that in the next post). We have €113M available should we need it. As always, thank you for reading.

Until next time, tschüss.

Oliver Jensen

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