OPINION | Borussia Dortmund are entering a new era with a clear vision of how they want to be perceived

The countdown to the start of the 2022/23 Bundesliga season is coming to a crescendo, with the German top flight set to see its first game played on the August 5. During the summer, Borussia Dortmund has seen ample turnover in terms of players and managing personnel in the hopes of making this season a far more competitive one for Die Schwarzgelben.

The theme of this summer’s transfer window for Dortmund has been one of “total rebuild” from the ground up. The club has seen an influx of new signings set to promote stability, cultivate internal competition, and improve key areas on the pitch that the club were found lacking in the season prior.

In addition to all the new faces set to compete for a starting XI spot, sporting director Sebastian Kehl heads into his new role alongside head coach Edin Terzić. Terzić replaced Marco Rose a year after winning the DFB Pokal with Dortmund as interim coach in the advent of Lucien Favre’s sacking. Considering both Terzić’s commitment and love for the club, in addition to his previous exploits while in charge, the excitement around his appointment has been unsurprising.

All of these changes have signalled that Borussia Dortmund are entering a new era as a club with a clear vision of how they want to be perceived in the coming years; as a club with ambitions to overthrow the hierarchy in German football, dominated predominantly by Bayern Munich. The signings they have made are a testament to that. In Niklas Süle, Dortmund have managed to sign an important player from the Rekordmeister, on a free transfer no less. Süle has come to Dortmund expressing his desire to be a leader for his side, which he believes can directly challenge Bayern. Süle’s overall talent and experience as a serial winner with his former club should go a long way towards helping propel Dortmund in the right direction.

Alongside Süle, Dortmund also managed to sign Nico Schlotterbeck from Freiburg. Schlotterbeck is heavily considered as part of the present and future of the German national team. He and Süle will likely be the first choice central-defensive pairing for club and country, which puts additional emphasis on the necessity for the two to form a strong and prosperous partnership. In Schlotterbeck, Dortmund are getting a very talented, strong and dynamic defender that, alongside Süle, could go a long way towards eliminating Dortmund’s defensive woes that so arduously hampered them in season’s past.

Dortmund have additionally brought in Salih Özcan as an addition to their midfield, which is a further defensive reinforcement. The Turkish international comes to Dortmund with a relatively minuscule transfer fee of around €5 million, a fee that may prove a bargain for the player if his performances of FC Köln last season are anything to go by. The player will be tasked with screening the back line and throttling any threatening chances that the opposition may come the way of Dortmund’s new look defence. The midfield was an area that looked noticeably thin, or easy for the opposition to break down. Özcan will add a level of steel and grit that will be pivotal in helping recover the ball and then start counter attacks for his new side.

On the offensive end of the field, Dortmund have brought in some significant talent as well. Sébastien Haller and Karim Adeyemi were both brought in to help smooth over the loss of Erling Haaland to Manchester City. The former is regrettably dealing with health complications that the entire football community certainly hopes he recovers from soon. During his time with Ajax, he was a clinical player, scoring 34 goals and providing nine assists across all competitions. The latter is a rising German talent who is known for his pace, dynamism and finishing ability. Both will make this new look Dortmund attack a force to be reckoned with once they integrate with their teammates and build some chemistry on the pitch.

So far this preseason, the team has played five friendlies against both German and Spanish opposition. Of these games, the expected first team have only played the last two against Valencia and Villarreal. The games resulted in 3-1 and 2-0 defeats respectively, which don’t bode well for Terzić ‘s side, especially at face value. Dortmund had strong showings in the first half of each game, pressing well and showing a great deal of energy on the ball, which led to comprehensive chances to score. The second halves would see Dortmund’s intensity drop, which would lead to sloppy passing and chances for the opposition to capitalise on, which they would, and although Dortmund would indeed have chances of their own, their failure to capitalise would come back to haunt them.

Dortmund’s current deficiencies can be chalked up, at least in part, to the fact that there is a large amount of new faces in the team, each of which is attempting to integrate at the same time. Just as Dortmund’s defensive players are attempting to get organized, the front line will also surely need time to get on the same wavelength.

The other factor to consider of course is the attitudes and form of the old guard, as they too were responsible for the results in question. Donyell Malen, for example, is in his second season for Dortmund and is still struggling to find the clinical edge that made him such a coveted signing last summer. Raphaël Guerreiro, on the other hand, has still shown glimpses of brilliance going forward but lapses when it comes to his defensive duties. Mats Hummels has also failed to look entirely himself so far and Julian Brandt is still struggling to reach the form he was in when he first signed for Dortmund during the Lucien Favre era.

While Dortmund’s preparations so far have not gone as smoothly as one would have hoped, there are glimmers of hope and progress being made. As mentioned, Dortmund’s pressing under Terzić can be very impressive and make the side look much more stable at times, but the fact remains that drops in intensity and wastefulness in front of goal need to be addressed before the season begins. Dortmund will be without Haller until further notice, which means that the other players in the squad will have to step up and attempt to be more clinical going forward.

There is somewhat less to worry about on the defensive end of things despite the performances so far, as Terzić now has the personnel to be more flexible in his defensive setup. Terzić has already tinkered with playing both a back three and back four, which was almost impossible last season due to both the amount of injuries and the players at Marco Rose’s disposal. This flexibility will allow Terzić a higher level of adaptivity and more creative license to put together a well-oiled back line. This will be helped by Özcan’s eventual return to fitness. Dortmund’s depth is far improved, and many expect that the team will be able to better adapt to situations and varying circumstances in the coming season. 

Borussia Dortmund kick off their competitive season on Friday in their opening game in the DFB Pokal against 1860 Munich, which will their first real, competitive hurdle. The match itself shouldn’t be an extremely difficult one for Dortmund, however it will very important for them to look back at their performances and work to eliminate their overall lack of clinical finishing so that they are not taken by surprise by their opposition. Despite the rocky start, there is every reason to be excited for this new look Dortmund side, as they have amassed the personnel to form an exemplary team for fans to enjoy this coming season and for many more to follow.

Brian Szlenk

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