Borussia Dortmund got off to a terrific start in both the Bundesliga and the Europa League. Five out of five games won by Dortmund at the start of the season through a combination of talent, skill, expertise, good strategy and some really intelligent football.
And then the trouble started.
Over the last three matches, Dortmund's performances have steadily declined. Unusually, this has nothing to do with the lack of goals or even the Dortmund midfield. No, ironically it has been their defence that has been the source of their downfall in the last few matches.
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In their recent 2-2 draw with Darmstadt, the second goal against them was completely unnecessary. Their entire defence seemed in complete disarray throughout the match. So when Florian Jungwirth took the free kick the chaos increased, therefore giving Sulu ample time-and space-to place the ball at the back of the net at his leisure. After the match, Mats Hummels himself admitted the lack of a proper defence as a reason for the draw.
Hummels mentioned at the start of the season his weight problem in the 2014/2015 season.
His weight might be under control now, but his performance in the last few matches leaves a lot to be desired.
The rest of the defence, whilst not exactly bad, have not been outstanding either.
Schmelzer, Sokratis, Piszczek have been average at best which is just not good enough for the second-best team in the Bundesliga. They are usually disciplined and act instinctively outside the penalty area.
It is inside the penalty zone where the greatest concern lies, the players give the impression they are not clear about their individually assigned roles. Whenever the opposition takes a free kick, corner or indeed just come close to the penalty area, Dortmund suddenly become very chaotic.
Either the Dortmund defenders are very,very late in catching up with the opposition players or they get ahead of the players but instead of forming an organised line for the defence, they seem to stand in patches with no real idea of where the ball is going.
Their performance against Bayern Munich- a match dubbed the German El Clasico- was nothing short of a humiliation for Dortmund. A result that was mainly self-inflicted, with very little, actual effort from Bayern. Taking full advantage of the opportunities presented to them.
The majority of these opportunities were presented courtesy of Roman Burki. Burki came to Dortmund at the start of this season from Freiburg. After some excellent performances in the opening matches where proved why he is considered one of the best goalkeepers in the Bundesliga, the last few games have told a different story. Burki has been looking at bit inattentive, to say the least.
Lately, Burki seems to have taken to trying out Manuel Neuer's sweeper-keeper technique, but without his results. He was directly responsible for the first goal by Muller.
As a reaction to Muller's reception of the ball, Burki came forward a little bit too much, too early which is always a bad idea when the opposing player is standing so close to you and there is a severe lack of defenders in the vicinity. In such situations, even a little bit of the right manipulation of the ball will send it at the back of the net. This is especially so when the opposition player is Thomas Muller.
The penalty may not be his fault. But the third and the fourth goals in the 46th and 57th minutes respectively, were due to carelessness on Burki's part. He had, on both occasions, run out of goal very early, making it a lot harder to prevent Lewandowski from whizzing past him and putting the ball at the back of the net. The rest of the Dortmund defence were nowhere to be found.
Mario Gotze's goal was also completely unnecessary as well, and was an example of the chaos and disarray of the Dortmund team since it was scored from a rebound that could easily have been avoided.
Therefore, it is important for Dortmund to recognise this problem in their defence. Otherwise, no amount of goals will enable their team to win any match.
Because if you can't defend well, even if the team scores five or six goals the opposition will have no trouble equalising or indeed getting ahead.