Borussia Dortmund's 4-1 loss to Hamburg has handed Bayern Munich a 15-point lead and given Jürgen Klopp a headache
"Die Stimmung ist im Arsch," Jürgen Klopp had said during the week, with reference to a raft of injury and sickness problems. (Literal translation: the mood's in the bum). This typically robust choice of words posed an interesting linguistic conundrum for the Borussia Dortmund manager after the 4-1 home defeat against Hamburger SV on Saturday. Could he go any lower, or deeper, still? Klopp, though, was smart enough to realise that negative superlatives are best to be avoided, so he changed tack. Backsides were out, philosophical musings, by way of some heavy sarcasm was in. "I have noted directly after the match that life does indeed goes on," said the 45-year-old, through gritted teeth.
It was Dortmund's heaviest home defeat since a 5-1 loss inflicted by Bayern in 2009. It was also the match that saw the champions relinquish their title for good. A whopping 15-point deficit now separates them from the Bavarians, which will be just about impossible to make up. What's more, the manner of the result posed a few uncomfortable questions about the club's transfer policy. In the last couple of years Dortmund could do no wrong in that respect but their latest move – bringing back Nuri Sahin – has suddenly looked a little less clever. To be sure, the 24-year-old will be a huge asset in future months. He knows Klopp's system and increases the options in central midfield. In hindsight, however, buying another full-back and striker, as the club had initially planned to do in the January break, might have been a more prudent option.
Sven Bender had a terrible time as a makeshift left-back. Marcel Schmelzer was out with flu, as was his back-up Kevin Grosskreutz. He'll also miss the trip to Shakhtar Donetsk for Wednesday's Champions League match. The right-back Lukasz Piszczek was also well below par after missing plenty of training. In between them Mats Hummels had a veritable nightmare. Sahin, making his first start since his return, looked short on match-fitness and confidence in the centre. Ilkay Gündogan was sadly missed; the 22-year-old had been in outstanding form in recent weeks. Gündogan has thigh and toe issues but should be back in action at the Donbass Arena. That game has become a lot more important for Dortmund. Losing the title after back-to-back wins was always likely and doesn't really impact on their strategy to grow as a club. But a failure to go deeper in the Champions League – coupled with a cup defeat by Bayern in 10 days' time – would amount to Klopp's first real set-back.
On the domestic front, the next couple of weeks will provide a chilling snap-shot of a not too distant future without Robert Lewandowski. The Poland forward, scorer of the opener, was sent off for a reckless foul on Per Ciljan Skjelbred on 31 minutes, when Hamburg were 2-1 up after goals from Son Heung-min and Artjoms Rudnevs. Rafael van der Vaart later admitted to making "a bit of drama" to sway the referee Manuel Gräfe. The admission prompted an angry response from Klopp ("that's the worst thing I've ever heard") but it's impossible to say whether Gräfe would have been more lenient without Van der Vaart's intervention.
In any case, the decision disrupted Dortmund's rhythm. "We lost our calmness," Klopp said. Jeffrey Bruma saw red for a late tackle but Dortmund conceded twice more. First Rudnevs then Son each completed their brace after some defensive lapses.
Hamburg, it should be said, played with the kind of courage and aggression that has hardly been seen from them this season. They were well worth the win. But this was Dortmund's defeat, first and foremost, their third one at home in this campaign. "We are not used to that, we can't play like that," said Sebastian Kehl. The Dortmund skipper warned about a dangerous trend. "To concede six times in two games is heavy," he said. "We need to talk about that." The Black and Yellows' "against" column now reads 26 – one more than at the end of last season.
Dortmund do have more depth this year. And in Marco Reus, they have signed an outstanding talent that has made their attacking play even more thrilling. But their weakness has remained the same. They are still an all or nothing team: devastatingly good when their collective pressing game is executed to Klopp's exacting standards, vulnerable to getting caught when it isn't. "We were much too open, there was space everywhere," said Kehl.
One can expect Dortmund to get it right again against Donetsk in the Champions League. In the Bundesliga, however, Dortmund will do well to hold on to second spot. Julian Schieber, the only other striker on the books, is not in the same league as Lewandowski. There's a chance Klopp might actually do away with the position altogether in the main man's absence. Pep Guardiola will be watching with interest.
• All the Lewandowski gossip nearly put a dampener on what was otherwise the perfect weekend for Bayern. "The club needs to make its position clear," demanded the striker Mario Gómez after the embarrassingly easy 4-0 win over Schalke. The 27-year-old insisted he wasn't afraid of anybody but he's clearly vexed about the speculation "Lewy" might be heading to Bayern. Lothar Matthäus added fuel to the fire by stating he had been told the deal was done "from a top source" in Paris, where Germany played France in midweek. The Bayern president, Uli Hoeness, who has remained suspiciously tight-lipped about these rumours, couldn't let this one go unanswered. "Lothar has been very busy with women in recent times," he snapped, "maybe he is after prey now." It didn't make much more sense in German, to be fair. Suffice to say that it was meant as a bad put down.
• On the pitch, however, a team of kindergarten mascots might have caused Bayern more trouble than Schalke. Jens Keller's sorry excuse for a team arrived in Munich with one aim: let's not concede double-figures. Bild saw "a public training exercise in front of 70,000" on Saturday night, as the hosts continued their unbelievable run. They magnanimously stopped at four goals but are yet to drop a point and to concede a goal in 2013. Gómez and Arjen Robben were handed their first starts since the winter break. Jupp Heynckes needs to keep everyone happy. "The manager has an ass in his trousers," said Gómez admiringly, "not many would have played me today [after Mario Mandzukic's strong start]". Schalke's players were reluctant to pay similar compliments to Keller, who is sleepwalking to his inevitable dismissal, engulfed in a fog of melancholy. Relief for everyone concerned will surely come after next week's trip to Mainz.
• Things aren't looking much better for Bruno Labbadia. The Stuttgart manager has been upstaged by Keller's more voluminous, silky salt-and-pepper number in the hairdo stakes, and Saturday's 4-1 defeat by Werder at home made it five losses on the trot for the Swabians. As Süddeutsche Zeitung noted, winter often equals crisis time at the VfB but this year, the situation is more complicated than usual: Labbadia just extended his contract a couple of weeks ago. The only thing stopping another full-blown fan-revolt is a disagreement about the causes of the latest malaise. Some point at Labbadia, some at the board's frugality in the transfer market, some at the sporting director, Fredi Bobic.
• "The Bundesliga is a little crazy," said the Borussia Mönchengladbach coach, Lucien Favre. Only a little? Third-placed Bayer Leverkusen drawing 3-3 at Gladbach was Germanic madness at its best, a smorgasbord of wonderful attacking football – from Leverkusen – and awful defending, also from Leverkusen. Afterwards, no one could quite figure out how the result had came about. "They didn't have a chance, I don't know what to say," said Stefan Kiessling. "That's the fascination of football, in a negative sense," mused Rudi Völler. One possible explanation for the unlikely stalemate might be found in the wildly diverging levels of efficiency: Gladbach conjured up three goals from nothing whereas the much more fluid visitors should have run away with it.
Results: Augsburg 1-1 Mainz, Freiburg 1-0 Düsseldorf, Bayern Munich 4-0 Schalke, Borussia Dortmund 1-4 Hamburg, Borussia M'gladbach 3-3 Bayer Leverkusen, Eintracht Frankfurt 0-0 Nuremberg, Greuther Fürth 0-1 Wolfsburg, Hannover 1-0 Hoffenheim, Stuttgart 1-4 Werder Bremen.