What Is Going On With Borussia Dortmund?

Jurgen Klopp - Thinking - BVB - Borussia Dortmund Football Club - On the SidelinesLook back two years and you'll find no shortage of people proclaiming Borussia Dortmund as the saviors of modern football. Swashbuckling their way to two Bundesliga titles - including a Cup double - in a row and a whole raft of unique records along the way, the Bundesliga side were competing with a global superpower over the course of a season and wiping the floor with them. The perennial German giant, Bayern Munich, simply couldn't cope with the power of Dortmund for two seasons.

Their fresh pressing system, implemented over time by visionary manager Jurgen Klopp, truly made an impression on the European football scene as many teams tried to follow suit and "Do a Dortmund". It looked like we might have one of the great European names - let's not forget their Champions League victory in 1997 - emerging from the shadows again to show the footballing world how it was done. The problem was that, it would appear, Dortmund made too much of an impression. One of the clubs to take their own pressing form of football and adapt - even improve it - was Bayern.

Move forward two years since then and Dortmund currently occupy the relegation zone in the Bundesliga. Under the same manager, and with a deeper squad than they've ever had previously, the atmosphere around the club could not be more different. They've witnessed star names like Robert Lewandowski and Mario Gotze moved to Bayern, weakening them massively while strengthening their rivals.

They've witnessed other players like Shinji Kagawa leave a star and return a broken man - the Japanese international simply cannot make the same impact that he once did in Dortmund during their two-in-a-row era. The system itself looks to have taken its toll, as conviction in both boxes is strongly lacking. Poor finishing and unbelievable defensive mistakes have become a common occurrence, as the team looks to be struggling more than ever with the intense demands of the Gegenpressing system that Klopp has revolutionized.

So, what are the reasons for this downfall? And why have the club been so Jekyll & Hyde this year? Well, in truth, there has been signs of this before. After the first Bundesliga win, they crashed out of a relatively easy Champions' League group the season after. They couldn't find a way to match their European form with domestic duties. The season after, 2012/2013, was the opposite.

They went all the way in Europe, losing in the final to the much maligned Bayern juggernaut, but surrendered their Bundesliga crown earlier than they would have liked. Again, their inability to compete consistently at a high level two games a week became an Achilles heel. So, is this a flaw with Klopp and his coaching staff? Or is it just a sad fact that without the supreme budgets of the elite, that this will never be possible on a season-to-season basis? Should Dortmund consider concentrating on one or the other?

The club now finds itself in a bit of a conundrum. Tail off much more in the league and the hope of a Champions League placing will be gone, and with that comes the fear that other stars like Marco Reus and Ilkay Gundogan could move on. The strong German core of the side are all being looked at by the top level vultures of the European scene, so a failure to get back into the top European competition - or look competitive at home - could spark an exodus that would finish the project for good.

On the other hand, they have drawn a strange Champions League draw. Juventus are a club with incredible tradition, but their European performances have been sketchy at best over the course of their history. With a hat-trick of Scudetti behind them, the levels that the Old Lady reach in Europe are nothing like the performances they reach domestically.

They, then, face similar problems and parallels to Dortmund, albeit they are performing in the league still. So, come February, who is more likely to be the one to really capitalize? Will Dortmund be in a position then where going for glory in Europe would be their only hope of getting back to the top table and keeping their squad together? Or will they have hauled themselves into a realistic jaunt for the top four placings in Germany again?

At 9/4 at the moment with the bookies to finish in the top four spots, or 10/11 for either team to win the Knockout tie in Europe, it's a hard one to call for the Germans. It's safe to say, though, that the BVB project is in serious need of rejuvenation and it might need to come in the form of a crossroads decision for the season - chase glory? Or chase consolidation?