www.dw.com-After losing the first of the two games he was given to save his job, Lucien Favre is on thin ice. Ahead of a visit to Hertha Berlin, there are plenty of parallels with the final days of Niko Kovac at Bayern Munich.
Way back at the start of this month, in the dog days of the Niko Kovac era, a steady trickle of briefings, post-match comments and statements flowed from the corridors of power and the dressing room of Bayern Munich. Manuel Neuer, Joshua Kimmich, Uli Hoeness and Karl-Heinz Rummenigge were among those who contributed to the tide of talk that eventually swept away the Croatian coach.
The names may be different but the signals emitted from Borussia Dortmund right now are familiar.
“We urgently need to get back on track,” said head of player licensing Sebastian Kehl after Wednesday’s 3-1 defeat to Barcelona.
“This is not a step out of the crisis,” stated sporting director Michael Zorc. “It’s not going in the right direction for us at the moment,” added the captain, Marco Reus, who’d also publicly apologized for last Friday’s shambles against Paderborn.
And just as Kovac’s bold decision to marginalize Thomas Müller ultimately backfired, so did Favre’s decision to drop Jadon Sancho in the Nou Camp (reportedly for arriving late to a team meeting) after hauling him off in the first half of a heavy defeat to Bayern, looks already to have boomeranged somewhat on the Swiss coach. The Englishman sparked BVB into some belated signs of life and scored their consolation goal in a 3-1 defeat but even before that on-pitch statement, Sancho’s representatives were making noises about the 19-year-old’s disillusionment at Dortmund.
There’s little disgrace in losing to Barcelona on their own patch. But the familiar manner of capitulation, the lack of confidence and the myriad basic errors in and out of possession were all too familiar to those who have watched the Black and Yellows in recent weeks, or indeed those who watched Bayern throughout most of October.
Same old story
The lack of a genuine alternative to the injury-prone Paco Alcacer was also apparent once again, with Julian Brandt the latest to look lost up front. CEO Hans-Joachim Watzke admitted the club erred in not buying a back up to the Spanish striker in the summer but Favre has failed to find any kind of solution. The struggles of Brandt and fellow summer arrivals Thorgan Hazard, Nico Schulz and, after a bright start, Mats Hummels, have cast further doubts on Favre’s credentials. There’s also been a regression in longer-serving players like Julian Weigl, Thomas Delaney and Manuel Akanji. While Favre should not shoulder all of the blame, their performances are ultimately his responsibility.
Brandt admitted on Wednesday that “games are getting harder” for Dortmund and referenced Hertha Berlin’s new coach Jürgen Klinsmann as a factor ahead of the meeting of the sides in the German capital on Saturday.
That game is the second of the two more Favre was effectively given by Watzke at the club’s AGM last weekend, which followed a long meeting about the coach’s future. But even a big win matched by a convincing performance is unlikely to keep the wolf from the door for long. Despite the high profile of Klinsmann and an overhaul of their backroom staff, Hertha remain a midtable team. Qualification for the knockout rounds of the Champions League and the ability to keep up with Bayern remain the minimum required for Favre to keep his job beyond the winter break.
Not yet too late
The light at the end of the tunnel comes more in their upcoming opponents, and the inconsistency of the Bundesliga, than in signs of life on the pitch. Home clashes with Fortuna Düsseldorf and Slavia Prague follow Saturday’s trip. Win those three and Dortmund could conceivably be back in the hunt for the title and through a tough Champions League group.
BVB actually achieved that feat for the only time this season immediately before the games against Bayern, Paderborn and Barcelona that have led Favre to this point. Before that, the last time they won three on the trot was in March.
“It’s a very tricky phase for us at the moment, but I am convinced we can manage to turn things around,” the 62-year-old Swiss said on Wednesday.
The possiblity of a rejuvenation remains, and Dortmund do still have the players and resources to achieve it. But in the midst of the current malaise, a few eyes may have been caught by the impact of Bayern’s decisive switch from Kovac to Hansi Flick. It’s now up to Favre to keep the gaze on his team and not his future.