Dortmund dropped points for the first time this Bundesliga season as they were held to a 1-1 draw by gritty Nuernberg Saturday. The Franconians have gone seven games in all competitions without a victory, but may be satisfied to have earned their point against the 2012-13 Champions League runners-up.
Marcel Schmelzer put a makeshift BVB side ahead with a well-struck free-kick late in the first half, but Per Nilsson drew the hosts level shortly after the break. Dortmund looked the more ambitious team later on in the match, but were unable to find the net. Nuernberg almost won it late, but Alexander Esswein fired off target when through on goal.
Read on for a full match analysis.
Ever since they won the Bundesliga title in 2011, there has been little question of the quality within Dortmund's starting lineup. However, their ability to cope with injuries and suspensions has consistently been called into question; beyond the first XI, there has not been very much in terms of quality footballers.
In 2013, BVB have taken steps in the transfer market to improve their depth.
Nuri Sahin was brought back to the Signal Iduna Park on a long-term loan; he is perfect cover for Ilkay Gundogan. Later, BVB confirmed the acquisition of Sokratis to add cover as both a centre-back and a right-back. And although Mario Goetze was sold to Bayern, BVB added two high-quality attacking players in the form of Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
And yet, despite now having their deepest team in recent memory Dortmund have been found short of staff. Three days after a demoralizing loss to Napoli in the Champions League, Juergen Klopp fielded a starting lineup against Nuernberg that was Pep Guardiola-esque in terms of its use of players out of their natural positions.
Erik Durm, formerly a Mainz striker who has since been converted into a defender a la Kevin Grosskreutz, started at right-back in the first outing for BVB that lasted more than 12 minutes. On the topic of Grosskreutz, the natural winger and converted full-back started in defensive midfield alongside Sven Bender and Jakub Blaszczykowski in a 4-3-3 formation.
Marvin Ducksch, whose previous Bundesliga experience amounted to an injury-time cameo against Braunschweig, led the forward line for BVB in Nuernberg.
It is undeniable that Dortmund have more quality in depth this season than in the last few years; they are just unfortunate to be missing injured stars in the form of Lukasz Piszczek, Mats Hummels, Nuri Sahin, Ilkay Gundogan and Sebastian Kehl. And after playing 45 minutes in midweek with only 10 men, many others were in need of a rest.
Still, there is some cause for concern in Dortmund.
The use of Sven Bender against Napoli was evidence that Klopp does not believe he has a worthy fourth option in central defense, and his reserve full-backs are natural attacking players. The trainer needs to either make signings in midseason or hope that BVB's youngsters mature enough to be useful role players in the coming weeks.
From even before the opening whistle until the closing minutes of their loss to Napoli, everything went wrong for Dortmund.
BVB were expected to be without several key players, but not long before the game, Sokratis was ruled out with a foot injury. When Napoli took the corner kick that led to their opening goal, Neven Subotic was still running back onto the pitch—this enraged Juergen Klopp, and the coach was sent to the stands.
Compounding BVB's woes, Roman Weidenfeller was sent off later in the first half, a shock for the side that last season was the cleanest team in the Champions League in terms of yellow and red cards. And moments before half-time, Mats Hummels was forced off with a back injury.
After the half-time break, Lorenzo Insigne scored a rare free-kick goal for Napoli with a shot that struck the woodwork before nestling into the net. And for BVB, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang struck the crossbar with an effort that easily could have gone in.
On Saturday, luck made the difference in the opposite direction.
BVB were fortunate that Daniel Ginczek's looping header struck the woodwork. And they went into the half-time break 1-0 ahead due to a very, very rare free-kick goal struck by Marcel Schmelzer.
Nuernberg deserved their equalizer and nearly claimed all three points at the death. But Alexander Esswein missed a one-on-one chance deep into injury time as FCN were forced to settle for a draw.
It may be too much to expect a club like Nuernberg to beat an established, strong team like Dortmund, but the Franconian side ought to have gotten much more from Saturday's match.
Although there were some quality players in the lineup, the BVB team that FCN faced was not the irresistible side that has terrified its opponents for the last three seasons and counting. It was a tired team with many players used out of position.
Playing at home, Nuernberg should have been aggressive from the opening kickoff. But it was not until after half-time that they truly began to push their opponents. Still, after Per Nilsson's equalizer, they completely took the pressure off BVB. It was as though Wiesinger was satisfied with yet another draw despite playing against a vulnerable and entirely beatable BVB team.
Satisfaction with a draw was not right for Nuernberg. Der Club are now out of the DFB-Pokal and are without a win in all six of their Bundesliga matches. The season may be young, but Wiesinger just does not look the right match for Nuernberg.
Last season, Dortmund were unable to cope with the burden of competing on three fronts and were effectively out of the race for the Bundesliga title before the winter break. In domestic matches that came following Champions League weeks, BVB dropped eight points; five of these came away from home. This season may see history repeat itself.
This season, Dortmund's schedule following Champions League group stage games is absolutely brutal. Having already drawn with Nuernberg away from home, they face visits to Gladbach, archrivals Schalke, Wolfsburg, Mainz and Hoffenheim.
Even with a deep squad, Dortmund's schedule would be enormously difficult. But with so many injured players, their task is bordering on the impossible. Bayern may even lose their head-to-head match with BVB, but they won't drop many points against the likes of Mainz and Wolfsburg. And that could make all the difference.