As if the Revierderby wasn’t claustrophobic enough, Saturday night at the Signal Iduna Park only served to squash the warring neighbours closer together.
Nothing at all could separate Borussia Dortmund and Schalke 04 after 90 draining, goalless minutes, and in the table, too, the Royal Blues (12th and rising) and the Black and Yellows (sixth and falling) were firmly put on a mid-table collision close, having spent the opening weeks of the season at opposite ends, a million miles from each other.
The new-found proximity left one side much happier than the other. “I leave with a point and a good mood,” said the S04 captain, Benedikt Höwedes. Their manager Markus Weinzierl “felt good because we are happy with the draw. We are about to turn this thing around.” The sporting director Christian Heidel’s contentment could not be sullied either, unlike the Schalke team bus. “They threw eggs at us, it was a special welcome but fun,” the 53-year-old sporting director smiled after his first derby.
Schalke’s awful start to the campaign is slowly being forgotten as a run of seven games without defeat in all competition has given the Weinzierl reboot more time to kick in properly. With a bit of luck, the visitors could have capitalised on Borussia’s dozy first-half performance; a third minute move involving concerted gegenpressing, a chipped (!) Höwedes pass and snazzy one-touch geometrics offered glimpses of a huge qualitative leap forward. Schalke, who have been the Cliff Barnes to Dortmund’s JR Ewing in this saga for so long, at last feel that they are “on the right path” (Weinzierl), one that leads to a bit more equivalence.
On the other side of the Ruhrpott divide, the draw was greeted with pure disdain, however. “It feels like shit,” said a dejected Mario Götze after an infusion of energy and urgency in the second half had failed to make the end product less toilet. “We were mega harmless before the break,” BVB sporting director Michael Zorc remarked angrily. “We need to go back to concentrating on our strengths and the simple things,” centre-back Matthias Ginter thought. Weinzierl’s 3-5-2-cum-5-3-2 system left the hosts little time and space to build up momentum, with the impasse culminating in a somewhat embarrassing stat: for the first time since the start of data collection, BVB didn’t register a single shot in the first 45.
Der Tagesspiegel diagnosed an “emotional deficit” that, combined with a lack of ideas in possession, had some observers longing for the more helter-skelter approach seen under Jürgen Klopp. A lot of rotation, inexperience and injuries have been blamed for the lack of domestic progress as well.
Whatever the reasons, the “Revolution 09” as Ruhr Nachrichten reporter (and secret twin brother of Mats Hummels) Matthias Dersch called Dortmund’s rebuilding process after the departure of captain Hummels, Ilkay Gundogan and Henrikh Mkhitaryan this summer, has run out of steam in a dread October yielding three draws and one defeat in four Bundesliga games. An eight point gap behind Carlo Ancelotti’s Bavarian monocrats has put any secret dreams of a Commandante Tuchel-led coup d’etat on ice, for the time being at least.
The return of Raphaël Guerreiro and André Schürrle will increase the 43-year-old’s options for the next few games and decrease the workload of some of the possibly over-worked youngsters, so the crisis should be short-lived. And Dortmund, as Thomas Tuchel reminded his interlocutors, could have just as easily edged the derby, too, by taking one or two of their decent opportunities after the break.
“A bit of luck was missing,” he said, philosophically. The slight sense of impatience that permeates the club hints at a potentially bigger problem for him, however. Tuchel, a disciple of Pep Guardiola, is coming up against a resistance that the Spaniard described as “counter-cultural” during his time in Germany, namely the idea that football should be all-action, all the time, providing non-stop entertainment. That’s how they like it in Dortmund, in particular.
Tuchel’s ultimate aim is almost the opposite though: total control over the opposition. Wearing down deep-lying teams with seemingly aimless passes in the first half, only to kill them in the second as they tire, is a tried-and-tested strategy from Guardiola’s playbook that supporters and most sections of the media in Dortmund are yet to appreciate. Maybe they never fully will.
Results and talking points
• After the first half of the first of the season, the Bundesliga has rarely been more Bundesliga-esque. Yes, Bayern are the inevitable leaders, even with their hands in their pockets and Ancelotti treating the league as a amuse-bouche in between Champions League feasts. The second 3-1 win over Augsburg in the space of three days was so comfortable that Arjen Robben and Robert Lewandowski had a chance to strike up a most unlikely football bromance, providing and scoring all three goals between them. “We’re going for dinner tonight,” said Robben with a naughty glint in his eye. “Maybe we’ll spend the night, too.”
• But just below the champions, newly-promoted RB Leipzig – whose sponsors (and in no-way-actual-owners) are also purveyors of the finest football columns by yours truly – are a close second, refusing to let up. A patient 2-0 win at anti-possessionistas Darmstadt made it nine games unbeaten for Ralph Hasenhüttl’s men. Süddeutsche Zeitung felt reminded of TSG Hoffenheim’s stunning first half of the season in 2008-09 under Ralf Rangnick (today RB’s sporting director), both in terms of Leipzig’s playing-style as well as the wall of rejection and animosity that they continue to meet.
• The original public enemies No1 meanwhile, are, too, yo-bum-rushing-the-show under Julian Nägelsmann, much to the horror of the traditionalists. His Hoffenheim beat Hertha 1-0 to stay ahead of 1. FC Köln (3-0 over Hamburg, thanks to an Anthony Modeste hat-trick) in third place.
• That’s Leipzig, Hoffenheim and Köln in the Champions League places, while Dortmund, Leverkusen and Gladbach struggle to keep pace, Hamburg (18th, no goal in seven games) are completely beyond any hope, jokes* or pity, hell-bent on the path to Bundesliga 2, and Wolfsburg are a shambles on and off the pitch. “It’s the most entertaining league in years,” wrote Spiegel Online. “It’s far more interesting to observe the management at Köln or Leipzig dealing with these unexpected situations rather than to read the 50th Mario Götze story or Klaus Allofs’ 60th excuse.”
*Der Postillon, Germany’s answer to The Onion, made a good effort, though, revealing Bayern’s very scary Halloween costume.
Results Gladbach 0-0 Frankfurt, Mainz 2-0 Ingolstadt, Wolfsburg 1-2 Leverkusen, Bremen 1-3 Freiburg, Darmstadt 0-2 Leipzig, Dortmund 0-0 Schalke 04, Augsburg 1-3 Bayern, Hoffenheim 1-0 Hertha, Köln 3-0 Hamburger SV.
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010
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