They are looking up at Bayern Munich, who are on course to win the German championship for the eighth season in a row. And as they consider what to do if they do indeed come up short again, there is an expectation that head coach Lucien Favre will lose his job.
The truth is, Dortmund still seem to be struggling to move on from the days of Jurgen Klopp. He left at the end of the 2014/15 season, but those exciting times, when they played heavy metal football and won league titles in 2011 and 2012, still hangs over everyone at Signal Iduna Park.
After a brief sabbatical, Klopp joined Liverpool in October 2015, and he has since led the Reds to a Champions League title in 2019 and has them on the brink of winning the Premier League.
Yet the outward image of Dortmund today still feels built around what Klopp did back then, with the club trying to reimagine the brand of football he brought. The memories seem a burden on those who have come afterwards.
Bosses Thomas Tuchel, Peter Bosz and Peter Stoger have all been and gone, while current head coach Favre could soon be out of a job, according to reports in Germany. The club could be on to their fifth boss in as many years very soon.
Abel Meszaros, a Bundesliga analyst for European sports channel Sport1 TV, tells Bleacher Report he believes in the theory that an obsession with Klopp is still lingering.
“I share the sentiment that Dortmund are in a state of Kloppophenia,” Meszaros says. “After all, he was the ultimate embodiment of a Ruhrpott legend: charismatic enough to basically inspire a devout following from his players, yet understanding and caring enough on a human level to connect with them personally.
“In some ways, the perception of Klopp in Germany is both that of like a religious leader, a global brand and a down to earth guy, basically the total package.
“What made those years special is that he became champion as an outsider and changed the course of world football with his heavy metal football.
“He played in defence with 20-year-old centre-back’s, developed young players into superstars in the middle like Nuri Sahin and Ilkay Gundogan, turned versatile attacking midfielders into briefly world-class players like Shinji Kagawa and Mario Gotze, and his strikers—Marco Reus, Robert Lewandowski and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang—kept supplying goals.
“In addition, his revolutionary ideas on pressing and counter-pressing—the idea that you don’t have to get back into defensive shape, and it’s much better to actively try to win the ball, because it’s less energy and you create chances—changed the world of football tactics.
“You no longer needed to have the best players in the world to try to compete with the likes of Bayern or Real Madrid.” Continue reading