Do Borussia Dortmund Need to Make Changes to Be Bundesliga Contenders Next Year?

Lars PollmannFeatured ColumnistMay 4, 2016

Dortmund head coach Thomas Tuchel runs on the pitch after the German Bundesliga soccer match between Borussia Dortmund and FC Schalke 04 in Dortmund, Germany, Sunday, Nov. 8, 2015. Dortmund defeated Schalke by  3-2. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner)
Martin Meissner/Associated Press

Looking at the Bundesliga table must trigger a bittersweet feeling for Borussia Dortmund's decision-makers at the moment.

The Black and Yellows are playing an incredible campaign, as numbers relayed by the club's official website prove:

The season of superlatives continues. 80 (!!) Goals scored, and with 77 points the team are now well on their way to a points record (the current one stands at 81). Furthermore, there remains a 20 point gap between second and third in the table, BVB have not lost once in the second half of the season and have not been beaten in over a year at the Signal Iduna Park utter madness!

Still, though, the league title has been out of their reach for months. Bayern Munich may not have clinched it mathematically just yet, but there hasn't been any doubt for quite a while: The Bavarians will win their fourth straight Bundesliga championship.

It seems almost unfair to suggest Dortmund need to make changes in order to be a contender considering they're on their way to a points total that would've been enough to hoist the Meisterschale, as the Bundesliga trophy is called in Germany, in all but two seasons since the league's inception in 1963—Bayern won the 2012/13 season with 91 and the 2013/14 season with 90 points.

Bayern's 5-1 win in October showed there's still a long way to go for Dortmund.
Bayern's 5-1 win in October showed there's still a long way to go for Dortmund.CHRISTOF STACHE/Getty Images

However, there's a reason why Dortmund won't be champions this campaign, and it's not exclusively Bayern's strength. Simply put, the Black and Yellows dropped too many points in the first half of the season.

They've already won one more point in the 15 matches since the turn of the year than they had in the 17 matches before the winter break. All three of their defeats came in 2015, among them a 5-1 battering at the hands of Bayern that set the tone for the rest of the season.

The big difference between the two halves of the campaign has been the much better defensive record in 2016. Dortmund have cut the number of conceded goals from 23 to eight, or from 1.35 per game to 0.53. They've only allowed one more goal in 2016 than Bayern while scoring four more.

The Black and Yellows' attack has been championship-worthy all season long, as this stat from Opta illustrates:

Their defence, however, has only been on the same level in 2016, and that lack of consistency in the first half of the campaign ultimately doomed their title hopes.

Of course, no one expected Dortmund to compete for the championship after the ill-fated 2014/15 campaign, in which they fought against relegation until spring. But now they've come relatively close, expectations for the next campaign will undoubtedly be much higher.

Considering the big changes Bayern will go through with Carlo Ancelotti replacing Pep Guardiola in the dugout, keeping their level might actually be enough for Dortmund to win the league next season. 

For all the accolades Ancelotti has accumulated over the years, his domestic record is surprisingly poor, as ESPN FC's Miguel Delaney detailed in 2015: "Despite spending 18 consecutive years at the continent's wealthiest clubs, Ancelotti only has three domestic medals."

Keeping their level will be difficult for Dortmund, however, seeing as they'll presumably have to do without key performers Mats Hummels and Ilkay Gundogan.

If both indeed leave the club, head coach Thomas Tuchel will have to reshape his side's approach in the buildup phase drastically. Hummels and Gundogan are arguably the two most important players when it comes to setting up attacks from the deep parts of the pitch.

On the other hand, Hummels' lack of form in the first half of the season was a big part of why the Black and Yellows struggled defensively, while Dortmund have won all seven league games Gundogan missed with various injuries this season.

Chief executive Hans-Joachim Watzke and sporting director Michael Zorc need to have a good summer transfer window.
Chief executive Hans-Joachim Watzke and sporting director Michael Zorc need to have a good summer transfer window.SASCHA SCHURMANN/Getty Images

As chief executive Hans-Joachim Watzke told tabloid Bild in January (h/t James Benge of the Evening Standard): "One must never make the mistake to believe that a club like BVB is dependent on a player. We are not dependent on anyone."

If Dortmund find suitable replacements, there's nothing to suggest they won't be even more of a challenge to Bayern next season than they were already in the current campaign.

The fact they made a jump from the first half of the season to the second bodes well for Tuchel's second season in charge at the Westfalenstadion.

 

Lars Pollmann is a Featured Columnist writing on Borussia Dortmund. He also writes for YellowWallPod.com. You can follow him on Twitter.