On the surface, Borussia Dortmund’s annual general meeting on Sunday was a globally positive affair. Reinhard Rauball was, as expected, re-elected as president for three years. A healthy financial picture was unveiled, with an annual turnover of €490m and a tidy operating profit of just under €18m.
Anyone who knows the first thing about German football also knows that happiness can never be wholly quantified on a balance sheet, and the mood was largely defined by the horror show at home against doomed-to-relegation bottom side Paderborn, who were in the third tier 18 months ago (annual budget of €11m) and were 3-0 up at Westfalen at half-time. So, among the applause when CEO Hans-Joachim Watzke took the stage, there were clearly audible whistles and even a few angered shouts, perhaps from fans who hadn’t stopped whistling from their Friday night dissatisfaction. Those catcalls had continued at full-time despite Dortmund salvaging a draw from the game with Marco Reus’s stoppage-time equaliser.
It was all in stark contrast to last year’s get together, where the directors’ summaries and stocktakes bounced along joyously on the cushion of a nine-point lead at the top of the Bundesliga. BVB, the shareholders and their fans don’t expect that every year. What they do expect is a lot more from an expensively assembled, richly talented squad who have underperformed this season. The club may present itself as the sunnily dispositioned behemoth it’s OK to love, but there’s no escaping at times like this that it’s very much a business.
Coach Lucien Favre, whose position seemed to be hanging by a thread at half-time on Friday, was backed very conditionally. “Lucien, you still have our confidence,” said Watzke, addressing him directly and reminding him that results would ultimately decide – beginning with this week’s trips to Barcelona and Berlin, Favre’s most must-win week since the last one, a month ago.
As Ruhr Nachrichten’s Dirk Krampe pointed out, it recalled the AGM of two years ago, which happened the day after Dortmund let a four-goal lead slip in the Revierderby with Schalke. Then-incumbent Peter Bosz survived that. It was a pivotal moment, however. Fifteen days later, with the die cast, Bosz was fired.
The players too were put on notice. Watzke thanked Reus for his blunt confessional at the end of the Paderborn game – the captain had said “this can’t happen” – but also warned the squad that “deeds must follow words” with the season still up for grabs. “You’re in the front line,” Watzke told them. “Try to act as Borussen [Dortmund fans] expect,” Watzke warned.
Yet while the players and Watzke – who admitted the board’s mistake in not buying a second centre-forward to back up Paco Alcácer – are under the microscope, the buck will stop with Favre. Dortmund looked like a team lost for much of this game, devoid of discipline or dynamism. They were mind-bendingly bad. The Swiss coach is not known for cracking the whip, but it feels as if something drastic has to happen.
The inner circle of Jadon Sancho, who scored and set up Reus’s leveller, briefing that he felt scapegoated of late does not play well for the coach either. Whether it changes the medium-term future of Sancho is fairly unlikely. It is widely expected that he’ll be sold next summer, and the logistical difficulties of assembling such a big deal in January makes that strictly the emergency option. It does, however, add to a sense of disquiet.
Finally spare a thought for Paderborn, stopped within touching distance of the mother of all exploits and then seeing their story kicked to the kerb as Dortmund’s apparent crisis took centre-stage. Streli Mamba, who ran the home side ragged in the first half and scored twice, was still taking it all in after the game. “When I scored the second goal,” he said, “I asked [my teammates] if anyone could pinch me.” Despite this brief moment in the sun, we know where Paderborn are ending up at the end of this season. As for Dortmund, we still have absolutely no idea.
• Bayern went to Fortuna Düsseldorf for what Thomas Müller described as “a character test” following the international break, and it was one they passed with flying colours. They “set the tone” in the first half, as Müller said, scoring three times through Benjamin Pavard, Corentin Tolisso and the excellent Serge Gnabry and though Robert Lewandowski’s run of scoring in every Bundesliga game came to an end – Philippe Coutinho got the fourth in the second half – they are flushed with optimism after another very complete performance, and are still yet to concede in three games under Hansi Flick. There is no immediate rush for Mauricio Pochettino, or anyone else, to ride to the rescue.
• Leaders Borussia Mönchengladbach remain so but with their lead cut after a loss at surging Union, looking as if the international break had curtailed their momentum. “We didn’t show what we can do today,” lamented Patrick Hermann, though the team were still warmly received by their travelling fans – well aware of realistic expectations – at the end.
• Across the capital things look bleak for Hertha’s Ante Covic, after his team were hammered 4-0 at Augsburg – whose Twitter feed mischievously put up a mock-up of Hertha’s crest with the flag changed from blue to clear white. Covic, a loyal servant to the club over two decades, said his own future was the “least important” element of the aftermath, but after four straight losses it wouldn’t be a shock if a change occurred before Dortmund’s visit.
• Leipzig are second, just a point behind Gladbach, after beating Köln for a third straight victory. Emil Forsberg scored twice, with a penalty and a long-range free-kick, against a visiting side who seem hell-bent on continuing to shoot themselves in the foot under the new management team of coach Markus Gisdol and sporting director Horst Heldt. Julian Nagelsmann’s concerns are solely fitness-based, with Kevin Kampl needing an operation for a heel problem, and his defence decimated.
• What a few weeks it’s been for Achim Beierlorzer. Dismissed by Köln the day after a heartbreakingly late home defeat by Hoffenheim which signalled the start of the international break, he was surprisingly picked up by Mainz (whose sporting director Rouwen Schröder he worked with at Greuther Fürth), and made his debut in the Sunday late game at … Hoffenheim, whose win at the RheinEnergie Stadion two weeks back had been their sixth in a row in all competitions. So, naturally, Mainz won 5-1, despite playing more than half the game a man down after Ridle Baku’s red card, with Pierre Kunde’s brace the highlight of a masterful counter-attacking display.
• Elsewhere Freiburg and Schalke complete the top five, with the latter winning at Werder Bremen as they continue to improve under David Wagner. Christian Streich’s surprise packages stay fourth after grinding out a draw at Leverkusen. “I really like to look at the table, and to see us annoying everyone,” smirked their striker Nils Pedersen.