Once thought as the ones to usurp Bayern Munich at the top of the Bundesliga, it’s not gone according to plan in the Ruhr valley for Borussia Dortmund. Back-to-back league titles under Jürgen Klopp in 2010/11 and 2011/12 were justifiably lauded, but no one could have imagined the immediate return to the shadows cast upon the league by giants Bayern Munich. Fast-forward to the weekend before the 18/19 Bundesliga season kicks off and the gap to the top remains ever-present.
Under the stewardship of the two Peter’s – Bosz and Stöger, Dortmund narrowly squeaked into the Champions League last season, finishing level on points with Hoffenheim and Bayer Leverkusen, while not only finishing 29-points off Bayern, but also eight points adrift of fierce rivals Schalke. Though their goal return was third-best in the league, the defensive issues have never been more apparent and it has left many Dortmunder pondering come what may this season.
Managerial Background – Lucien Favre
With both Bosz and Stöger ultimately failing to place the club in a stronger domestic position last term, Hans-Joachim Watzke and Michael Zorc turned to former Borussia Mönchengladbach headmaster Lucien Favre to re-invigorate a club who maintain so much promise.
The Saint-Barthélemy native’s approach certainly suits the club perfectly, preferring a dynamic attack-minded philosophy that should bring out the best in the plethora of attacking talent under his charge. What’s more, Favre’s knack for developing young players is inline with the clubs’ continued desire to nurture their youth pipeline. Seemingly, he is the perfect fit.
It has certainly been a busy summer at Hohenbuschei, with Dortmund conducting very good business in a bid to set the record straight in the table. Former stalwarts Roman Weidenfeller and Sokratis Papastathopoulos were shifted out, as was Bundesliga veteran Gonzalo Castro. André Schürrle and Andriy Yarmolenko, both of whom never came close to hitting the requisite heights, were also let go on a loan and full deal respectively.
The arrivals, however, show a lot of promise. Young centre-back Abdou Diallo was brought in from Mainz as a direct replacement for Sokratis. Thomas Delaney was purchased from Werder Bremen and adds badly-needed midfield ingenuity. The midfield was further reinforced with Belgian international Axel Witsel, while Marius Wolf was snagged from German Cup holders Eintracht Frankfurt.
Youngsters Dzenis Burnic and Jacob Bruun Larsen returned from their loan spells at Stuttgart, while highly-touted right-back Achraf Hakimi was acquired in a loan deal from Real Madrid. Marwin Hitz on a free transfer rounds out some lovely business, giving Favre quite a bit of depth in all areas of the first-team and arguably the strongest squad apart from Bayern.
Simply put; Dortmund need to re-assert themselves as the dominant power in the league after Bayern, and they certainly need to nip Schalke’s ascendency at the roots before they progress towards their undeniable potential under Domenico Tedesco. Champions League qualification should be the bare minimum but finishing second should be a reasonable – and achievable – outcome for the season.
Strongest XI (4-3-3)
Bürki – Piszczek, Akanji, Diallo, Schmelzer – Witsel, Delaney, Dahoud – Wolf, Reus, Philipp.
Note: predicated on Julian Weigl leaving the club
By Andrew Thompson.