It wasn’t the five goals that newly promoted Stuttgart put past Roman Bürki that ultimately cost Lucien Favre his job. It had long since been clear that his stay at Dortmund would not last beyond the end of the season, when his contract expires. The names of possible successors have been making the rounds for months. But no matter who it turns out to be, this person won’t fit the bill as well as Jürgen Klopp once did – a world-class coach with a heart that beats yellow and black.
Lucien Favre is one of the best in his field. He stabilized the club after a difficult stretch that included two changes of coach. He successfully nurtured numerous young talents and finished second in the Bundesliga twice – but he wasn’t able to deliver the title that Dortmund so dearly desire. Even in the 2018-19 season, when BVB finished the first half of the season with an eight-point lead over their arch-rivals from Munich, it was yet again Bayern who won it all in the end.
Not one for the ‘big points’
The fact of the matter is that when things were on the line, Dortmund failed under Favre’s stewardship, especially in the duels with Bayern, after which the battle for the title would be as good as decided both this season and last. At the start of last season, the team expressed ambitions seldom voiced before, announcing that nothing short of the title would do. As we all know, second place was the result.
Injuries are no excuse, even if the current absence of Erling Haaland obviously weighs heavily. But it’s more than the Norwegian’s goals that BVB are missing. Playing Marco Reus as a center forward, a position that has never been his best is obviously not the best tactical decision. And yet Favre stubbornly chose to stick to it.
No easy answer
It was also the style of the meticulous Swiss tactician that led to his downfall in Dormund. Favre is anything but a vocal motivator, he’s not an inspirational figure for the fans or his player. And risk-avoidance is his middle name. This also impacted a very talented group of players, who as a result were far to hesitant at times, and for the most part performed below their potential.
All of this isn’t lost on the people of the Ruhr region, where Dortmund is located. They demand “full throttle” football, full of emotions and success – and above all 100% commitment. A mixture of enthusiasm and greed. Just like in the days of Jürgen Klopp.
Klopp’s shadow looms large over the Westfalenstadion, not least because BVB CEO Hans-Joachim Watzke still raves about him. Fans, too, long for an exciting style of play and a charismatic coach who wears black-and-yellow on his sleeve. But as long as a BVB coach’s response to a draw is: “A point is always okay with me,” as was the case after the 1-1 draw against Frankfurt a week ago, they won’t be satisfied.
The only question that remains is: Who comes next? There aren’t a lot of coaches of Favre’s caliber on the market. The highly touted Julian Nagelsmann would have to be bought out of his contract at RB Leipzig. The ideal candidate, Ralf Rangnick, is not at all popular with the fans. Make no mistake: The BVB board have their work cut out for them; they need to find a coach who can return both enthusiasm and success to the pitch. Someone who can go a significant way towards filling Jürgen Klopp’s boots.
Adaptation: Chuck Penfold