Peter Stöger was always a risky choice for Borussia Dortmund. But the manner of their Europa League defeat to Red Bull Salzburg should convince the club’s hierarchy that he's not the answer, writes DW’s Michael Da Silva.
The Europa League had offered Dortmund a path to salvation this season. With their great rivals Bayern Munich out of reach at the top of the Bundesliga and their elimination from the German Cup ending another possible route to silverware, Dortmund had one last shot to win something in 2018.
Two draws against APOEL Nicosia were all they had to show for their efforts in the Champions League, but miraculously their measly tally of two points was enough to see them enter the Europa League. Dortmund are probably wishing they had saved themselves the further embarrassment.
The warning signs were already there when they limped past Atalanta in the round of 32, conceding two goals at home and having to rely on a late Marcel Schmelzer strike to see them through. For Dortmund and their increasingly beleaguered coach, the writing was on the wall.
Sometimes the manner of a defeat is more damaging than the defeat itself. In both legs against Salzburg, Dortmund were beyond bad, they were utterly miserable. For a club that boasts such a wealth of experienced attacking talent, there can be no excuse for such abject performances. The players must take their portion of the blame. All of them except Roman Bürki, whose saves kept Dortmund in the tie, should take a good hard look at themselves.
However, the team were hamstrung by some frankly odd decisions by Stöger. Marco Reus and Mario Götze, two of the "exciting” forwards Stöger was beaming about in the prematch press conference, were withdrawn at halftime, with Dortmund still needing two goals to go through. Did Stöger have one eye on Sunday's Bundesliga game against Hannover?
That inexcusable decision left Dortmund with no creativity on the field, except perhaps the anonymous Mahmoud Dahoud, and absolutely no attacking spark. It was a tactical car crash and yet another indication that the position he currently holds is too big for him.
Stöger would be right to concentrate on improving the team's Bundesliga form — they have gone from being unpredictable under Peter Bosz to being turgid and negative under Stöger — but not at the expense of winning silverware. A good run in the Europa League would have at least repaired some of the damaged pride that is swallowing the club up.
Dortmund are a club whose ambitions should go far beyond finishing fourth in the Bundesliga. They need a clear-out of players in the summer and a strategic re-think from top to bottom. This includes questioning the chain of decisions that have been made at the boardroom level to send Dortmund spiraling into perpetual crisis.
But before any of that, Dortmund must find a coach of the caliber that the club demands. Otherwise, their drift towards irrelevance will only hasten.