Borussia Dortmund played the last 30 minutes with five attacking players on the field and still needed a goal from a defender to seal a point against the worst team in the Bundesliga.
You could make the argument they needed an all-action midfielder, a connecting piece between their ball-playing center backs and their row of attacking talents.
Jude Bellingham was that man in the first half, surging, shooting, scrapping his way around the field, but he was brought off after an hour, a decision Terzic later confirmed was “tactical and not to do with his performance.”
You could also say Dortmund needed more composure. After a beautiful team goal finished off by Erling Haaland was ruled out for offside, Dortmund missed a hatful of chances. Marco Reus, Julian Brandt and Bellingham all should have had their names on the scoresheet. The Dortmund captain even missed a penalty to cap a dismal day.
Lack of support
Given that they needed a goal, Dortmund’s defensive holes were more explicable, but the frustration at not being on the front foot was visible and audible.
“Stop pussyfooting around and play football,” shouted Mats Hummels at one point, late on.
Perhaps what this team needs most of all though, is their fans. Edin Terzic’s energy on the sidelines is one thing, but with the Signal-Iduna Park once again reduced to an echo chamber on a Saturday afternoon, it is telling that Dortmund’s point against Mainz means they have only collected 13 points from 8 games at home.
“It’s quite speculative to say, we might we could have [won with fans],” Terzic told DW in the video conference after the game. “We have won games without fans and of course we miss them, every team misses them but we have to accept the situation as it is and make the best of it.”
Even after all these months and ghost games being deemed a necessary norm, football matches in their current form remain odd. Especially here, in a city that owes much of its international recognition to the success of its football team. This is a city proud of who it is and without football on Saturdays it feels like some recognition of that is missing.
There were only one or two yellow and black scarves on show on Saturday, no away fans spilling out of Dortmund train station, no swathes of yellow jerseys walking down Strobelallee. The beer taps were closed, there was no smell of sausage in the air, and the general hum of excitement was replaced by the cold wind and the shuffle of those fortunate to attend.
There is an energy missing from this place, and this team is in need of it. This felt like the kind of game that Dortmund would have won with a wave of sound from the Yellow Wall, a game where they would have benefited from a roar of support where you can hear the momentum in the game change.
In truth, it’s likely a combination of all three. Maybe Terzic should have kept Bellingham on rather than going all out attack. Had Reus kept his cool, Dortmund would have escaped with a win and no one would be talking about any of this. With a full stadium, Dortmund might have got the audible push they needed to get over the line.
On a day when the opposition’s goal was a 30-yard screamer Dortmund needed something extra to win and they didn’t have it – in any of the areas they needed it.