Jurgen Klopp’s famous Borussia Dortmund side is one of the most iconic teams in recent memory. They emerged as a genuine European powerhouse, so much so that their massive decline in Klopp’s final season at the club almost slips under the radar.
The two-time Bundesliga winners and 2012/13 Champions League finalists endured a nightmare 2014/15 campaign, spending half the season flirting with the relegation zone before a resurgence in February saw them salvage a semi-respectable seventh placed finish.
So, what went wrong? Here’s a look at how Klopp’s seventh and final season at Dortmund played out.
Dortmund, who finished second in the Bundesliga the previous year, lost Robert Lewandowski on a free transfer but still went on to win the 2014 DfL-Supercup, seeing off the Pole’s new employers, Bayern Munich, 2-0 with goals from Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
That result came after Dortmund enjoyed a summer of seven wins and one draw from their nine pre-season friendlies – the only defeat coming in a 4-0 thumping by Liverpool. The level of competition was low, but Klopp’s side were scoring goals for fun, even putting ten past Swiss side Rapperswil-Jona.
An ominous omen began the season as Dortmund conceded the fastest goal in Bundesliga history on their opening day. They trailed Bayer Leverkusen after just nine seconds and eventually fell to a 2-0 defeat.
Star winger Jakub Blaszczykowski was absent for that game as he neared the end of his recovery from a nasty knee injury, with captain and star centre-back Mats Hummels also unavailable alongside midfielders Ilkay Gundogan and Nuri Sahin.
Nevertheless, the second and final game of the month was a 3-2 win over Augsburg.
Blaszczykowski picked up a fresh muscle injury as he attempted to make his return and would miss the entire month of September, as would Gundogan and Marco Reus, who damaged his ankle.
A 3-1 win over Freiburg kicked off the month before things started to take their turn. They lost 2-0 to Mainz, drew 2-2 with Stuttgart and then fell 2-1 to Schalke in the derby, with defensive lapses and individual mistakes starting to litter their performances. Klopp had vowed to ‘put things right’ against Schalke but it was arguably the poorest showing of the season so far.
Hummels made it back for all but the first game, playing 80 minutes against Schalke, but looked well off the pace.
They did, however, beat Arsenal 2-0 in the Champions League.
Fingers started to be pointed in October. Dortmund lost all three games – against Hamburg, Koln and Hannover – and it was at this point that Klopp felt the need to speak out.
“I think it’s completely normal for questions to be asked about the attitude of my team. You can list all the missing players, but so what? You still have 11, don’t you? For me, this is a phase as a coach in which I simply have to work harder.”
Injuries and a lack of preparation following the World Cup that summer were the targets of Klopp’s wrath at this point. Importantly, however, fans remained committed to the boss.
A fifth defeat on the bounce – a 2-1 loss to Bayern Munich – kicked off November. Hummels injured himself yet again during that game and would go on to miss the three remaining games. Blaszczykowski was still out and Gundogan was uncomfortable after missing seven games with his back problem.
A 1-0 win over Gladbach provided welcome relief but there was a draw against Paderborn and a defeat to Frankfurt to close out November, and it was after the latter that fans started to voice their frustrations towards the players.
Fans began to whistle and berate the squad, with middle fingers raised all over the crowd, and Klopp admitted he had no issues with that sort of response.
“It was clear that this would happen. We don’t make it easy for them, you have to say that,” he said as Dortmund fell to 18th in the Bundesliga table.
“We didn’t become a bit stupid overnight and no longer know what works and what doesn’t.”
They were the words of Klopp as a month of one win from five games across the Bundesliga and Champions League saw questions asked about his competence to lead the team and ability to navigate a way through this crisis.
Klopp did vow, however, that things would get better in 2015 once his players were all fit, healthy and well-rested after the mid-season break.
Sahin and Blaszczykowski both made their first appearances of the season this month as the team threatened to get back to full strength.
He wasn’t wrong.
While a 0-0 draw with Bayer Leverkusen and a 1-0 defeat to Augsburg was a rough way to start off the second half of the campaign, Dortmund quickly turned things around. They won four Bundesliga games in a row – seeing off Freiburg, Mainz, Stuttgart and Schalke – with only a respectable 2-1 defeat to Juventus in Europe to dampen spirits.
February also brought the welcome news of a contract extension for Reus, who vowed not to follow Mario Gotze and Lewandowski out the exit door.
Dortmund ended the month in 10th.
February proved to be a false dawn unfortunately as Dortmund’s defensive nightmares resurfaced.
They drew twice against Hamburg and Koln before being dispatched from the Champions League with a 3-0 loss to Juventus, and although the month ended with a 3-2 win over Hannover, the only memory was Dortmund’s woeful defence over the final two games.
Dortmund did make it through to the quarter-final of the DfB-Pokal, but that wasn’t the biggest cause for cheer.
Bayern Munich took a 1-0 victory to kick off April before being announced as Dortmund’s opponent in the semi-final of the cup, after which came a 3-1 defeat to Gladbach.
All forms of encouragement had not worked for Klopp, who had one trick left up his sleeve – to resign.
He asked to be released from his contract shortly after the Gladbach game, citing a need to step aside and let Dortmund focus on rebuilding without any distractions or ties to the past.
It was unconventional, but it did spark the team into life. They won twice in the Bundesliga against Paderborn and Frankfurt, before seeing off Bayern to advance to the DfB-Pokal final.
Dortmund managed to clamber their way back into the Europa League spots with a solid run of form in May. They lost just one of their four Bundesliga games, beating Hertha Berlin and Werder Bremen.
In one final send-off from Klopp, Dortmund tried to get their hands on the domestic cup but instead put on a display which did nothing but remind the crowd of just how far they had fallen and just how seriously things needed to change.
Defensive mistakes were aplenty as Kevin De Bruyne’s Wolfsburg roared to a 3-1 victory, but fans still celebrated Klopp’s every move and were undoubtedly sad to see him go, despite how the season had ended up.
Klopp’s exit did bring about change for Dortmund, who would finish second in the Bundesliga under Thomas Tuchel in 2015/16.
While director Hans-Joachim Watzke was happy to see the upturn in form, he later confessed that he regretted parting ways with Klopp and perhaps should have given him an entirely new team to work with.
“Maybe it would have been better if we had replaced the entire team – and not the coach,” he wrote. “It was clear to me that we would never get a coach like that again, but we would find good players.”
RUMOUR: Man Utd could launch shock Pickford swoop as they consider letting De Gea go
Manchester United may consider a shock bid for Everton goalkeeper Jordan Pickford in the midst of uncertainty encompassing David De Gea’s future, reports propose.
As per the Telegraph, United are not persuaded they need to broaden De Gea’s agreement, which runs out in June and procures him an astounding £350,000, and could allow him to go free of charge in June.
The Spanish shot-stopper, who was omitted from Luis Enrique’s Spain squad for the international break, suffered a poor start to the season with a raft of errors most notably at Brentford.
And United are also dealing with a high wage bill that reached a Premier League record of £384million last season.
The Red Devils announced earlier this week that their salaries have increased by a whopping £61.6m from the previous year.
Cristiano Ronaldo’s return as well as Jadon Sancho and Raphael Varane’s arrivals led to a 19.1 per cent increase in their salary bill as well as a net loss amounting to £115.5m.
United are assessing their long-term plans and a change between the sticks can’t be ruled out, even though De Gea, 31, has improved recently and has been integral in the last 11 years at Old Trafford.
That could bring England’s No1 Pickford, 28, into the frame come January.
The Everton shot stopper has various clubs carefully monitoring his situation as he will have just one year left on his Everton contract at the end of the season.
The England international is also a homegrown player, which is very appealing to his suitors.
The new signings that will dominate the Premier League this season
In every league around the world, there are players who stand head and shoulders above the competition. The players who dominate those around them and put teams to sword.
When it comes to the Premier League, there’s a number of new signings looking to do just that in 2022/23 – and they will take some serious stopping.
Liverpool’s new shiny striker Darwin Nunez was an imperious force in Portugal’s Premeira Liga last season, racking up 26 goals in just 28 appearances for Benfica.
The Uruguayan was equally as effective on the Champions League stage, and it was his performance in the two-legged game against Liverpool that convinced Jurgen Klopp and the club’s hierarchy to part ways with £64m – potentially rising to £85m if Nunez activates all the bonus payments and clauses added on to the deal.
A strong, powerful player, Nunez has already shown what’s to come in some impressive early season performances.
Arsenal have been crying out for a central striker oozing quality ever since Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang fell out of favour before leaving.
In Gabriel Jesus, they have acquired a proven winner, stemming from a number of hugely successful seasons with Manchester City. A versatile player who possesses skill, pace and a keen eye for goal, 25-year-old Jesus is only just entering the prime of his career – and brings so much experience to the table.
The Gunners are looking to bag a top-four finish in the Champions League and, with Jesus leading the line, they have every chance of dominating games this season.
Tottenham manager Antonio Conte demands the very best from each and every one of his players, with the Italian’s standards set as high as anybody in the game.
Croatian winger Ivan Perisic is somebody Conte worked with at Inter, and the pair lifted the Serie A title together in convincing fashion. The 33-year-old is heading towards the twilight of his career, but his incredible fitness, work ethic and mental strength means he remains one of the world’s very best wide players.
Operating as a wing-back these days, Perisic can dominate games in any third of the field, and Premier League defences will be terrified by the unknown threat he carries.
Kalidou Koulibaly has long been recognised as one of Serie A’s best defenders, but now he’s got the opportunity to show that he’s one of the very best the world has to offer.
A terrific reader of the game and fiercely strong in the tackle, Koulibaly has made a habit of pocketing forwards and dominating play from the back – something Chelsea have been crying out since Antonio Rudiger departed for Real Madrid.
Now in his peak years as a centre-half, Koulibaly has all the tools to ensure Chelsea dominate the vast majority of games they play in.
One of the standout performers at Manchester City for a number of years, Raheem Sterling decided to try something new after accepting that Pep Guardiola could no longer offer him the number of his starts his talent deserves.
City’s loss is very much Chelsea’s gain, with 27-year-old Sterling established as one of the Premier League’s most consistent forwards. Be it scoring goals, creating chances or breaking on the counter at pace, the England international continues to strike fear into defences up and down the country.
Already a member of the Premier League’s ‘100 club’, expect Sterling to deliver in spades full for Graham Potter and Chelsea.
Fulham returned to the Premier League in style last season, storming to the Championship title at a canter.
Life won’t be so easy for the Cottagers in the Premier League, but in Joao Palhinha they may have completed one of the most impressive bits of transfer business in the division. A star player at Sporting CP, Palhinha has all the attributes required to dominate Premier League midfields – with his stunning goal at Nottingham Forest a glimpse of what he can do.
Standing 6’3 tall, Palhinha was once named in the Premeira Liga Team of the Year, and he could push Fulham towards safety with some commanding displays.
Chances are if one player is going to dominate the Premier League above all else, it’s going to be Erling Haaland.
In the interest of sporting fairness, it was probably a touch unnecessary for Manchester City to sign Haaland, given how good they are already and given how unbelievably good he is. Nevertheless, the reigning Premier League champions got the deal done for a steal of a price – and the Norwegian now looks primed to tear defences apart week after week.
Unbelievably athletic and incredibly consistent, Haaland’s career statistics speak for themselves, and his opening day double-salvo against West Ham was the first warning shot to the rest of the Premier League – the 22-year-old is here and he is here to dominate.
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