Stuttgart Defeat Leaves Borussia Dortmund Needing a Change of Direction

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Even a 5-1 scoreline in his team’s favor would not have significantly boosted Lucien Favre’s standing at Borussia Dortmund. The writing had been on the wall even before BVB was beaten by four clear goals by Stuttgart on Saturday, with the club reportedly planning to hold showdown talks with the manager during the winter break. Stuttgart’s stunning success at Signal Iduna Park merely brought forward a decision that probably would have been made at some point in the coming months anyway.

Dortmund announced the sacking of Favre less than 24 hours after a 5-1 loss that may well have actually flattered the hosts. Stuttgart’s win was no smash-and-grab. They were by far the better team against opponents who had been expected to challenge for the Bundesliga title this term. Dortmund is not quite out of the race just yet, but they would almost certainly have come up short had Favre been allowed to continue in the job for much longer.

The 63-year-old is far from a bad coach. He has had success in the past, most notably with Borussia Monchengladbach and Nice, but he never seemed a natural fit for Dortmund. And so it has proved, with the bulk of the fan base glad to see him gone after two and a half years at the helm. Dortmund must now decide where they go from here.

Favre’s Style of Soccer Not Really in Tune With What Dortmund Fans Want

Favre is a mild-mannered, introverted individual who was born in a village in the Swiss mountains. Dortmund is a working-class city whose straight-talking supporters like nothing more than blood-and-thunder soccer. Jurgen Klopp is not only the most successful manager in the club’s modern history, but he also embodies what the Dortmund faithful want to see from their coach.

Favre espouses a more considered style of play. He is certainly more attack-minded than his predecessor, Peter Stoger, who tended to focus on coaching the defense and letting the forwards do their own thing higher up the pitch. Favre built a more coordinated attacking unit and worked on pre-planned moves in training which were adapted for different opponents. Dortmund made a brilliant start to his first season in charge, before falling away and finishing second to Bayern Munich.

Dortmund were runners-up again last term, ultimately ending the campaign 13 points adrift of a relentless Bayern side. There was no shame in finishing second, but BVB turned in some torrid performances towards the end of the campaign, losing 2-0 at home to Mainz and then 4-0 at home to Hoffenheim on the final day.

Dortmund started the current Bundesliga season brightly, winning four of their first five fixtures. A battling 3-2 defeat by Bayern Munich was followed by a thumping victory over Hertha Berlin, but BVB then proceeded to lose at home to Koln and draw disappointingly at Eintracht Frankfurt. Saturday’s shocking thrashing at the hands of Stuttgart was the final nail in the coffin.


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Question Marks Over Favre’s Man-Management Were Present Throughout

There have been signs in recent months that the Dortmund players had lost faith in Favre. That was in part down to circumstances, with the squad as aware as everyone else that the manager was out of contract at the end of the season and unlikely to be offered a new deal. But there has been a deeper discord simmering beneath the surface for several months.

“We always try to play small and small through narrow spaces and have a huge ball-loss rate,” Mats Hummels told Sky Germany in a remarkably honest post-match interview on Saturday. “If it works, it looks like nice football. But it rarely does. That requires too much skill.”

Favre is notorious for his obsessive attention to detail, and that has not always gone down well in Dortmund’s dressing room. Favre wants everything to be done correctly, and he has been known to stop training sessions in order to correct the position of his players’ wrists when they are receiving the ball. Such methods may have worked at Gladbach and Nice, and they also bore fruit early on at Dortmund, but it is no surprise that players such as Erling Haaland, Jadon Sancho and Marco Reus might have tired of such micro-management.

Favre has also struggled to motivate his players, and there have long been doubts over his man-management capabilities at Dortmund, the biggest club he has ever coached. Favre has plenty of qualities and will likely go on to do a good job elsewhere, but his days at Dortmund had been numbered for some time.

Terzic Steps Forward but Dortmund Must Begin Planning for the Next Man

Dortmund has already announced that Edin Terzic will take charge of the first team for the rest of the season. The 38-year-old has held many positions at the club in the last decade, including assistant manager to Favre since the latter’s arrival in 2018. Dortmund will hope he makes a similar impact to that of Hansi Flick, who was initially appointed interim manager at Bayern last term before going on to conquer the Bundesliga and the Champions League as permanent boss.

Marco Rose and Jesse Marsch are the early favorites for the job, with Mauricio Pochettino seemingly out of the race as Dortmund would prefer a German speaker. The club would no doubt love Julian Nagelsmann to move to Signal Iduna Park, but he looks settled at RB Leipzig for the time being.

If Terzic performs well enough over the next few months, he could take over on a full-time basis. Winning the Bundesliga, for which Dortmund is currently offered at +900 with BetMGM, would be sufficient, as would an unlikely triumph in the Champions League (+900 with BetMGM).

In the short-term, though, Terzic must set about getting the players back on board and returning Dortmund to winning ways. Given Bayern’s dominance of the division in recent years, BVB cannot afford to fall too far behind German soccer’s perennial champions.

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Greg Lea

Expert on Soccer

Greg Lea is a freelance soccer journalist from London. He is the former editor of The Set Pieces, and has contributed to the Guardian, FourFourTwo, and ESPN. A Crystal Palace fan, he is a long-time subscriber to the belief that it's the taking part that counts. Email: [email protected]