Normal service resumed for Borussia Dortmund on Wednesday after their 7-0 thumping of newly-promoted FC Nürnberg to put them within arm’s reach of Bayern Munich. It was games such as these that they failed to pick up three points from last season, losing to then newly-promoted Hannover 96 and VfB Stuttgart under the coaching of Peter Bosz. Changes are aplenty at the Westfalenstadion this season with the addition of new head coach Lucien Favre as well as multiple arrivals in central midfield. That said, sporting director Michael Zorc suggested that this transitional season is perhaps going better than expected.
“If you have a) a new coach and b) up If you have new players in central positions, it is perfectly normal that it takes time to get into the game with the right moves and the necessary balance. We are very satisfied with the development so far,” said Zorc.
One of the Bundesliga’s three remaining unbeaten teams – the other being Bayern Munich and Werder Bremen – Favre has shored up Borussia Dortmund’s defensive calamities, a problem area for Die Schwarzgelben last season, conceding 47 league goas in 34 games. The Swiss tactician has shown a lot of faith in Manuel Akanji (23) and Abdou Diallo (22) – a €25 million summer arrival from 1. FSV Mainz 05. With just three goals conceded in five games this season, early signs suggest that the duo are progressing under Favre who despite his emphasis on attack, is a defence-minded coach.
The 60-year-old awarded Marco Reus his Bundesliga debut during his tenure at Borussia Mönchengladbach while the form of the Germany international this season suggests that they’ve rekindled that relationship. The forward has three goals and two assists while his freedom to play anywhere across the front three or as a No. 10 by Favre could see Reus have his greatest season yet, barring any recurring injury problems that have stifled his career thus far.
And so, Favre should certainly be given credit if these early fixtures are anything to go by. Finally, Borussia Dortmund have been able to keep hold of their best players despite Europe’s elite club sniffing around the likes of Christian Pulisic and Julian Weigl. Thomas Tuchel came into the job following the departures of Mats Hummels, Ilkay Gundogan and Henrikh Mkhitaryan while Peter Stöger lost Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. Luckily for Favre, Sokratis was their biggest departure this summer but with the recruitment of Diallo, BVB have got themselves a modern-day centre-back that’s capable of reaching the highest levels.
There’s one player however that deserves plaudits and it’s down to Favre and the management team. Jadon Sancho joined the Bundesliga club last summer for €8m while many had thought he wouldn’t make an instant impact. In search for a quicker route to first team football, the Englishman left Pep Guardiola’s City to join a special project at Borussia Dortmund to aid his development. In just sixteen minutes against FC Nürnberg on Wednesday night, the 18-year-old created more chances (three) than any other player on the pitch.
In just 787 minutes for Borussia Dortmund in the Bundesliga, Sancho had been involved in nine goals (seven assists and two goals), becoming involved in a goal every 87.4 minutes. There’s no denying that Sancho is one of the hottest talents in world football at the minute and while the youngster wants to play, Favre is the right coach to get the best out of him. Sancho will only feature when they need a player of his skillset while the England youth international can play in Germany without the added burden of English media, heaping unnecessary pressure on the shoulders of Sancho.
It’s clear that Favre and Zorc have faith in their youthful side while the added experience of Axel Witsel adds balance to the squad. “The substitutes made the difference in the end. Jadon Sancho, Axel Witsel and Paco Alcacer added new impulses. The 2-1 was a well-crafted goal and after retaking the lead, the team was playing very well,” said Zorc following their win against Eintracht Frankfurt on matchday three. “Jadon Sancho hit the ground running after coming on.”
Of course, this is only the beginning for Borussia Dortmund and Favre and although an unbeaten start to the season and impressive performances suggest that things are going well, it’s still early days as to how BVB will finish the season. They’re only two points behind Bayern Munich – who drew with Bavaria rivals FC Augsburg – but the meeting between in November will give us a real statement as to where Borussia Dortmund are in their progression.
1 | Schalke’s dire start to the 2018/19 Bundesliga campaign continued with yet another defeat, this time at SC Freiburg. Wholesale changes by Domenico Tedesco didn’t prove worthy while the German-Italian has matched Markus Weinzierl, his predecessor, of five losses on the bounce to start their season. If these early performances are anything to go by, their upcoming games against 1. FSV Mainz 05, Fortuna Düsseldorf and Werder Bremen could prove tougher than what they should be.
2 | Bayern Munich dropped their first points of the season away to Bavarian rivals FC Augsburg. Felix Götze, Mario’s brother, equalised for Augsburg four minutes from time before dedicating the goal to his older brother. “We’ll always support each other,” said Felix. “He’ll be happy for me and I’ll always be happy for him. The goal proves that we Götze’s are capable of many things. Mario will come back stronger, like he was before. The goal was for him.”
3 | Bundesliga and 2. Bundesliga stadiums had an eerie silence to them on matchday five, also known as English Woche (English Week). Fans are protesting kick-off times in a nationwide boycott which included being silent for the first 20 minutes as fan groups are growing increasingly frustrated at the seemingly growing commercialisation of football in Germany. These protests carry on from last season when fans threw tennis balls and toilet rolls on the pitch, delaying kick-offs during mid-week games. If they continue, then surely a reaction is needed.