Roman Weidenfeller - ranting is silver, saving is golden
Normally we're far from belaboring players of our own team. When speaking freely amongst your friends you judge far more harshly than when you publicize an article. Usually the scissor in your head kicks in on time. But we have come to a point where we have to let it out: Roman Weidenfeller the Borussia vice-captain does not fit into our team anymore! His style of play but even more so his behavior towards his colleagues seems like a relic from past times.
What has happened? Roman Weidenfeller emerged from the „Gerry-Ehrmann-school". Ehrmann, former keeper of 1. FC Kaiserslautern has been known to produce solid old school glovesmen. Tim Wiese might have made the logical step, when he moved on to wrestling, because the Ehrmann way always involved muscle and macho demeanor. So Weidenfeller is no modern goalkeeper that can play the part of the Libero as well and that is able to set up quick counter attacks with wide throw-outs. He was never known to look into the mirror for mistakes but rather to shout at his teammates when conceding a goal. We won't forget that Weidenfeller's qualities on the line and in one on one duels played a vital role in winning trophies during the Klopp era. Plus he has stuck to Borussia for thirteen years through good and bad times. But since the world-cup Weidenfeller has tried to revolutionise his game and that made him lose a lot of his former qualities. Even worse is that there seems to be a climate of mistrust between him and his defenders. That became obvious once more during the match at Torino.
Remember that BVB had to make a sudden substitution after only 32 minutes played due tot he injury of Lukasz Piszczek. Sokratis moved to the right and youngster Matthias Ginter stepped in for Piszczek as CB. Ginter went on to play one of his better games in black'n'yellow but still he was shouted at by his goalkeeper again and again. The situation in the 86th minute of the match was the most shocking. Ginter cleared the ball with a sliding tackling and bumped into Weidenfeller. Weidenfeller jumped up ranting at Ginter and the young defender shook his head in disbelief. A lot of BVB-fans did the same when they saw that, because there was no obvious reason for Weidenfeller's anger.
This is not a new phenomenon. Weidenfeller is known to straighten out his defenders. That must not be a bad thing if you do it from time to time and have good reason for it. When Jürgen Klopp benched his designated number 1 at the end of the first half of the season rumors went around Dortmund that the atmosphere between Weidenfeller and his defenders was poisoned. Klopp said he "wanted to see Mitch's smile on the pitch" and to give such a reason for benching the keeper that has been starting for years says a lot. Ususally the smile of a goalkeeper is not mentioned when his qualities are listed. Mitch Langerak stepped in, radiated a sense of calm – and missed the re-start after the winter break because he was warming the bench at the Asia-Cup. Since then, Weidenfeller is playing again. And during his first few matches it became obvious that he still tries to bbe a one-man-defence solving all problems by himself, because he does not trust the defenders.
Weidenfeller sends out a fatal signal, when he bullies Matthias Ginter in public. Ginter is new at BVB and he surely was not satisfied with his performances himself so far. Ginter was critisized a lot and the 21-year-young newcomer seems rattled by that. To further attack a young player whose confidence is already shattered won't help the team. Even more so, since Ginter might get more playtime due to injuries in the next games. That is not the way of a proper vice-captain.
Most importantly, one has to also look in the mirror from time to time and reflect on himself. The second goal BVB conceded in Frankfurt was Weidenfeller's fault, at least to big proportions. If he did not storm out of his goal that vehement, he could have easily got Ginter's header. In Turin, Weidenfeller did not look good at the 1-0 as well. However, this was no reason for self reflection in an interview with sky after the match, instead, Weidenfeller pointed out that there were several mistakes made in that context. Indeed, the goal was not on Roman alone, but one could also primarily reflect on his own doing though.
The world cup was not good for Borussia Dortmund. Roman Weidenfeller is not the only player about who you could get a feeling of a change in attitude since the title win in which he played exactly for zero minutes. Instead, he seems obsessed with copying Manuel Neuer's style of play and that has to end in a catastrophe because of his totally different strengths. The more the season of Borussia went down the toilet, Weidenfeller tried to rescue everything on his own.
No Borussian will ever forget how Roman went through bad times with BVB. If Roman plays this Saturday, he will get equal with Michael Zorc as the BVB player who played the most derbies in black and yellow. He went through relegation battle, title wins in cup and league, Champions League final and world cup and he surely identifies with the club. Furthermore, you could not leave out the fact that Weidenfeller was the first player to face the fans after the 0-1 against Augsburg and a turn in the atmosphere in Westfalenstadion. However, this not free you from every critic about your position and personality.
There has been a lot of talk about Weidenfeller's future in Dortmund recently. Possible successors are coming up in the media, Mitch Langerak is of course another alternative. Surely, Weidenfeller has some good years in front of him, being 34 years of age but whether he will have them at BVB remains questionable. He seems isolated in the team and in Sebastian Kehl, the last player of his generation will retire. Alongside the timing and atmosphere in the defensive line in general, the connection between goalkeeper and defensive line is the most important requirement for good defending. And our defenders more and more give the impression as if they would like to have another goalie. It seems that there is no possibility for a trusted relationship coming from both sides.
Many fans possibly wish for Mitch Langerak to play in the derby. The Australian is also said to have many advocates in the team. Naturally, Jürgen Klopp would have make a big statement with this change. A statement to underline that you as a vice captain, as one of the heads of the team who have seen basically everything, you do not offend the unsecure and youg defender if he does not play just like you want it. A statement for a more modern, friendly contact on the pitch. And even if Langerak did not show that he is the better keeper yet, the defense seemed more relaxed and sure with him between the posts.
We need to think about Weidenfeller's future in general. His contract will expire in one year, there are no signs that the club would like to extend yet. It remains interesting to see who will be the goalkeepers of Borussia next season. Every Borussian will wish for Weidenfeller to get a worth end of his time in Dortmund. Whether this end will come this summer is up to Weidenfeller himself. A little bit of self reflection would have been nice for our number one though. Maybe he would criticize himself then and think about his way of dealing with his team mates.