BVB CEO Hans-Joachim Watzke spoke at the member’s assembly on Sunday. He conceded that Dortmund should have added another striker in the summer and hinted at an ultimatum for Lucien Favre.
Borussia Dortmund held their Member’s Assembly in the large room of Westfallenhalle 3b in Dortmund on Sunday. When the team including the coaching staff led by team captain Marco Reus and vice-captain Lukasz Piszczek entered the exhibition hall, many of the about 1000 club members booed and whistled. Ruhr Nachrichten report that people also yelled: “shame on you!”
For BVB and their members, there is little to be upbeat about. The team were nearly crushed by Schalke in an ultimately scoreless Revierderby, they were utterly shellacked at the Allianz Arena in a 4-0 defeat away to Bayern Munich without registering a shot on target, and on Friday, the team set a new club record by trailing 0-3 at halftime in a Bundesliga home match — to third-rate calibre SC Paderborn. The second-half turnaround to make it 3-3 did not alleviate the embarrassment of the performance.
With 12 matchdays in the books, the Black and Yellows have only five wins and trail league leaders Borussia Mönchengladbach by five points. After the club announced their title challenge ahead of the season, they now have to fear to secure a top-four finish, as even Schalke is outperforming them.
Watzke speaks about the status quo
In his speech, Watzke squarely addressed the team that was seated in the front rows.
“It’s the style of Borussia Dortmund to calmly, serenely, critically analyse. We won’t let anyone take that away from us, also not the media. Marco Reus, as team captain did something very well. On Friday, after the game, he apologised to the BVB fans in the name of the team. Marco, that was brave, that was the right thing to do and I want to thank you for it. But that means you, the team, has to know that your team captain took the lead there and you need to follow up on his words. First and foremost, you have to do your job because words alone won’t deliver the results that everyone is hoping for. You can be sure that you can easily make it up to the million BVB fans, that you’ve angered now. But you have to do that with dedication, with passion. As Borussia Dortmund, losses can always be forgiven but only if you first prove that you gave your all in the game,” the 60-year-old said.
He added: “You (the team) have one major asset: Nobody expects of you to kiss the badge or similar things. The Dortmund fans — and there are 11 million alone in Germany — are basically craving for you to extend your hand to reconcile. They want to support you unconditionally. But it has to be palpable that your hand is extended in earnest. There is no room for alibis. Those BVB fans love their club like almost nothing else in the world and that is your big advantage.”
During the international break, at the heel of a humiliating defeat at the hands of Bayern Munich, the front office came together to thoroughly analyse the situation.
“We intensively analysed the current situation in the last 10 days,” Watzke said, explaining: “I invited Michael Zorc, our sporting director, Sebastian Kehl and Matthias Sammer to an extensively long analysis. I also invited Dr. Rheinhard Rauball so he can see that we’re dealing very analytically, very self-critically with each other.”
“Neither Michael Zorc nor Sebastian Kehl have shown in their careers as footballers and later as employees of the club to have a penchant to sugar coat things. And we don’t even have to talk about Matthias Sammer’s highly critical approach, of which I’m a witness of for 90 minutes during every game.”
“So nothing is being sugar-coated and nothing is swept under the rug. Though I also don’t want to go too much into detail because that would be a feast for the media. But one thing is clear: we analysed a range of things and I want to address a few.”
“First,” Watzke said, “I want to talk about objectives. And I would appeal to the media to cleanly reflect what we have said all along: We want to try everything to win the German championship. That was our proclamation. Period.”
“It wasn’t my own or Michael Zorc’s sole idea. That ambition was formulated collectively. You can ask any player because they feel the same way about it. When you finished second with 76 points — that was a very good performance of you, Lucien and your coaching staff — when you lead the league for 21 matchdays, when you delivered the Bundesliga an actual title race in many years, and when you’re ready to invest in new players, what else should you call out as your objectives? That we want to finish fourth?”
“Borussia Dortmund has to learn to always be ambitious, to become more ambitious in the future and to learn how to deal with a situation — like we have one right now — when it doesn’t work out. I prefer that over leaving our ambitions at the cloakroom. And after our analysis, we came to the conclusion that we would do the same again. Because nobody questions the quality — or I’d better say the potential of this team.”
Mistakes were made
While Dortmund have received a lot of praise for adding players Julian Brandt, Thorgan Hazard, Mats Hummels and Nico Schulz in the summer while offloading many fringe players, there has been consistent criticism levelled at Zorc for not adding another centre-froward. While Mario Götze did a terrific job leading the line last season, he is not the best fit for the number 9. Paco Alcácer, meanwhile, is too injury prone and has had fitness issues since joining BVB last season, which makes it impossible to rely on him for extended periods.
Watzke addressed that mistake on Sunday: “We have also discussed our transfer policy. And while not every of our newly added players has reached his full potential yet, we came to the conclusion that we’d do most things again. But we have also conceded that we made one error — Michael Zorc and Sebastian Kehl will confirm that — we definitely should have signed a second number 9.”
“We are also fully aware that there are arguments against a second striker. Bayern Munich also only have one. There’s always the risk that both neutralise each other. But the bottom line is: We made the wrong assessment.”
An ultimatum for Favre
When Watzke turned his attention to the state of the current team, he made sure to include Dortmund coach Lucien Favre in his criticism.
“Another thing that we concluded from our analysis is that many players, who made the difference for us last season are currently not in a good form. I don’t want to name names but it’s obvious that many difference-makers don’t present themselves in their best form,” the CEO said, then pivoting to the role of the man on the sideline.
He said: “And it’s also obvious, that the team on the field does not leave the impression of a coherent formation. It’s on the team and on Lucien Favre and his staff to improve that situation. It’s also our right to demand that. Lucien, you still have our trust but one thing is also clear: You’ve been in this football business for a long time, like many of us. At the end of the day, football is defined by results. We wish you, your team and the players all the best to conjure up a turnaround. You have all the support that we can give you.”
Telling Favre in public and in front of gathered club members that football is defined by results implicitly hints that BVB’s patience is growing short with the 62-year-old. And that a turnaround in form, rather than in results needs to come very soon. How soon? The next two games, according to Watzke.
“We have to show in the next two difficult games at the Nou Camp and away to Hertha Berlin that we enter these games with an attitude. We are still Borussia Dortmund but that has to be visible. You have all worked very hard to play these games like against Barcelona or against Hertha BSC at the Olympiastadion. So it is now on you, the team, to straighten yourselves and show what is actually expected of true Borussen. You also have to keep your optimism and push each other. Even Martin Luther knew: A happy fart never comes from a miserable ass. If you show these basic virtues in the next two games, then I am sure we will become a unity again.”