FEATURE | Three things we learned as Borussia Dortmund top the Bundesliga

Borussia Dortmund was handed yet another life line by Bayern Munich in what has proven to be as unpredictable of a title race as the Bundesliga has seen in many years. The latter are experiencing erratic performances on the pitch and chaos outside of it with rumours swirling regarding the position of CEO, Oliver Kahn.

This time, however, Dortmund would overcome its hunger to disappoint and turn in arguably its most complete performance of the entire campaign. The 4-0 demolition of Eintracht Frankfurt saw Edin Terzic’s squad regain their position on top of the domestic table with just five matches left to play. The result featured positive performances from all areas of the pitch. Here are three things we learned from Dortmund in route to a potential first Bundesliga title since the 2011/12 season.

Donyell Malen has finally arrived in Dortmund

There was never any doubt in regard to the level of talent that the former PSV Eindhoven winger possessed. It’s why Dortmund were convinced that a transfer fee of €30m was suitable in the midst of the financial restraints in play. Malen had struggled to maintain any consistency in his form since that arrival. Often finding himself as a fringe player.

That narrative has been completely rewritten in the second half of this season under Edin Terzic. He’s electrified this Dortmund attack with intensity in his attacking engagements that was missing before. That hunger has also been met with a touch of class in front of goal that had only previously been seen in flashes here and there.

He’s now become a seemingly irreplaceable fixture in this Dortmund squad and the timing of his rise couldn’t have been any better in the most literal sense. A strong chemistry, most notably displayed against Frankfurt, has formed between the Dutchman and the mercurial Karim Adeyemi. The duo will no doubt feature as headlining acts in attack for the Black and Yellows down the final stretch of this title race.

Karim Adeyemi’s athleticism can unlock any defence

The 21-year-old Germany international initially struggled with fitness issues in the early stages of the season but has produced its most jaw-dropping individual moments when fit. Adeyemi’s pace, athleticism, and manner in which he can flip a game on its head in attack is probably only rivalled in defence by Bayern’s Alphonso Davies.

Many will recall the way he breezed past the most expensive Premier League player in history, Enzo Fernandez, enroute to an audacious goal against Chelsea in this year’s UEFA Champions League. Against Frankfurt, he assisted both of Malen’s goals. The first coming from a headed challenge that saw him demonstrate that his athletic ability isn’t confined to dribbling scenarios.

The second, however, was just that. ESPN’s broadcast even displayed a brilliant sequence in which Adeyemi’s pace with the ball at his feet was too much for match referee, Deniz Aytekin, to keep up with as the veteran official understandably struggled to keep up with the play. There is no area on the pitch in which Adeyemi’s agility cannot create danger out of nothing. Terzic will rely on this reality and hope for an injury-free run to close the campaign.

The mentality of the team is impossible to dissect

The typical story has been well documented for years now. Bayern impose themselves on the rest of the Bundesliga for most of the campaign, inexplicably stumble, and Dortmund fail to take advantage. While Saturday’s five-star performance against a limping Frankfurt side was impressive, Terzic will be preaching focus and humility like never before in its aftermath.

The astounding collapse against relegation threatened VfB Stuttgart had appeared to be the final straw for this Dortmund team. Somehow, the utter madness of the situation in Bavaria had plunged to alarming new levels in the wake of a shock defeat for Thomas Tuchel’s men at Mainz. Still, Dortmund’s ability to take advantage of the situation was rightfully questioned. If not laughed at.

But credit is due to Terzic and the ability of his staff to instil a hunger and fire in the minds of those criticised players that took the stage in front of an absolutely rocking Westfalenstadion. The occasion felt like a cup final due to the obvious scenario at hand and opportunity lying in wait.

Dortmund now faces a final leg of a gruelling, inconsistent, and heart stopping season while the coveted Meisterschale’s glimmer is within reach at an unfamiliar late stage. If the last 10 years of Bundesliga history has taught supporters anything it is that Die Schwarzgelben take as much pride in flipping a script as the Yellow Wall religiously anticipates its every chapter. With five of them remaining, it’s anyone’s guess as to which version of Borussia Dortmund will show up.

GGFN | Reece Edwards

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