The upcoming weekend will not only see the Bundesliga’s final round of fixtures before the annual winter shut down, but also a milestone landmark reached for a rejuvenated Borussia Dortmund. On Saturday December 19, Dortmund will officially be 100-years-old and, while most clubs would obviously celebrate, Dortmund can be forgiven for partying a little harder than the rest.
Having suffered some tough campaigns in recent seasons, BVB are flying high again thanks to an impressive run of nine games undefeated that has catapulted them into the upper echelons of the league standings. More importantly, the club has safely made it to the centenary mark – a feat that looked highly unlikely when they were on the brink of bankruptcy just four-and-a-half years ago.
Those were lean times for Dortmund supporters considering they had come so soon after the most successful period in the club’s existence. The nineties brought two league titles, two German super cups, a Champions League victory as well as an Intercontinental Cup to vastly swell the club’s trophy cabinet. However, the noughties have proved to be far less productive – both on and off the pitch. Since their last league title in 2002, Dortmund’s progress has steadily declined, finishing in a lower position every season until their bleak 13th place in 2007/08 season. The finances also deteriorated at an alarming rate, culminating in a last minute rescue package to save the ailing club from extinction in 2005. However, after a sixth place finish last term, good times could be just around the corner thanks to current Coach Jurgen Klopp.
Since Klopp took over from Thomas Doll in July 2008, Dortmund have begun to look like a legitimate force again following years of under achievement. The ex-Mainz Coach hardly received any fanfare upon his arrival at the start of last season, but fast became a local hero after steering the club to its highest position in five seasons on an extremely tight budget. What’s more, Klopp resurrected a fighting spirit of old at the club amongst his young troops that made them hard to beat as their five defeats all season proved. That spirit has clearly been evident again this season as BVB sit in sixth once again following a 3-1 demolition of champions Wolfsburg last week – just five points behind current leaders Leverkusen.
The main key to Klopp’s success has been a solid defence. Despite their tender age, centre-back pairing Neven Subotic (21) and Mats Hummels (21) have become one of the most envied partnerships in the Bundesliga with Dortmund conceding just 17 goals in 16 games this season, and the two regularly putting in commanding performances. Last season only Schalke had a better defensive record but, this time out, Dortmund can also boast one of the most prolific goalscorers in summer signing Lucas Barrios. After a slow start, Barrios has netted eight times giving Klopp’s positive tactics a good finishing point. Add talented playmaker Nuri Sahin to the mix, and Dortmund look a well balanced outfit with the ability to beat anyone on their day.
It may seem a touch early to be touting Dortmund as potential league winners given their rough recent years, but a win against Freiburg at the weekend would put Klopp’s side firmly in the title picture going into the mid-season break. Wolfsburg won the title from a similar position last time out, and there is a sense that BVB have comparable qualities and could do the same under their inspirational young Coach. Either way, a European spot looks very achievable and would be a very positive end to a centenary year. Deep down though, supporters want to get back to the dizzy heights of the nineties and its trophy laden seasons and, with Klopp at the helm, that certainly seems possible. If the current form can be maintained, then there’s every chance the glory years could be back much quicker than expected.
Elsewhere, Hannover managed to set a rather unusual record during their epic 5-3 defeat to Borussia Monchengladbach last weekend. The struggling side became the first team in Bundesliga history to score three own-goals in one game. The 96ers generously helped their opponents to a victory by scoring three comical goals at the wrong end to compound an altogether drab performance. Defender Karim Haggui got the ball rolling when goalkeeper Florian Fromlowitz pounded an attempted clearance against him and into his own net, while Constant Djakpa’s moment of lunacy worsened their blight. Under minimal pressure, the Ivorian turned and curled a shot past his keeper from the edge of the box in a bizarre moment that will more than likely grace footballing gaffe DVDs for years to come. Haggui then finished the rout by netting his second when trying to cut out a cross late on to complete a miserable record for Andreas Bergmann’s team.
Meanwhile, Werder Bremen extended the stay of popular Coach Thomas Schaaf by a further two years following the club’s impressive start to the season. The Bremen Coach’s contract was due to run out at the end of the season but will now expire in the summer of 2012. Schaaf celebrated 10 years in charge last May and is easily the Bundesliga’s current longest serving Coach. He is the ultimate one-club-man having spent his entire playing career with Bremen as well, meaning his stay has spanned four decades. The highlight of his reign so far was the 2003/04 league and cup double but recently reached his first European final as Coach in last season’s UEFA Cup defeat to Shakhtar. Of his new deal, Schaaf said: “Werder have an interesting team capable of pursuing new goals. That is why it was not difficult to accept this new challenge.”