Borussia Dortmund’s 1-0 win against FC Ingolstadt wasn’t pretty. Although it wasn’t a game for the ages, here are some takeaways.
Some days you just look up at the scoreboard, take your three points and move on. After playing a mid-week match against our sport friends from Lotte then facing a cellar dweller after only resting two days, you can hardly blame Borussia Dortmund for being satisfied with Friday night’s result. Die Borussen didn’t look the better side for stretches of this match and these were crucial points to remain in Champions League qualifying position. But what did we learn?
First, we were reminded that having world-class talent matters. FC Ingolstadt 04 were more intense, more cohesive and pressed effectively but couldn’t time the last pass right. They couldn’t put the final ball on frame. Ingolstadt are on their way to the Zweite Bundesliga and the talent on the pitch reflects that.
Dortmund, on the other hand, were disjointed and tired but won on the class strike of a classy striker near the top of his game. The pass that yielded the goal was a beauty. Sometimes your talent is enough even when your opponent is fighting harder and in many cases playing better. It wasn’t enough for Ingolstadt despite their intensity and mettle. They troubled the BVB midfield, disrupting buildup and applying pressure.
Which brings me to the next thing we learned: Julian Weigl is critical to this club right now. Without his steady presence in the midfield, the buildup looked erratic and nervous. Pass angles were strange and the balls were regularly weighted poorly. At times I’ve been critical of Weigl’s defensive capabilities but I’d missed that it often doesn’t matter because he’s so steady and so rarely gives the ball away that most defensive shortcomings are offset. We haven’t had to see the starting eleven without him very much because he’s stayed remarkably healthy, especially given his youth.
Young players don’t always handle the workload of three competitions as well as Weigl and this certainly has been the case with Christian Pulisic and Ousmane Dembélé the last two matches. Dembélé wasn’t at his best on Tuesday and Pulisic made some uncharacteristically poor decisions on Friday. This is understandable given the two have a combined age barely older than Roman Weidenfeller. The difference between the two is that Pulisic appears to be handling the adversity better than Dembélé even if his talent isn’t as significant.
But that maturity is characteristic of a team that looks less frazzled when their backs are against the wall against inferior opponents than a mere month ago. After a hard foul a Dortmund player is less likely to dwell on it, he’s now more likely to ramp up the physicality in his own game and go on about his game. On Friday, Borussia Dortmund got their three points and are moving on.