The appointment of experienced boss Peter Stöger as BVB manager came as somewhat of a shock to the footballing world following the sacking of the up-and-coming coach Peter Bosz in December of last year, just days after he was dismissed by Köln sitting bottom of the Bundesliga table following a superb previous campaign.
Since then, a type of resilience and stability not seen in the Black and Yellow for years has emerged after losing just 1 in 12 competitive games (the only defeat typically being to rivals Bayern Munich in the DFB Pokal) and climbing back up an incredibly tight table to a respectable position, challenging the likes of Eintracht Frankfurt, Bayer Leverkusen, RB Leipzig and rivals Schalke 04 by the time matchday 25 rolls around and making it through to the next round of the Europa League in dramatic fashion in the dying moments to clinch a tasty tie against Salzburg in the next phase.
Despite the loss of top scorer Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to Arsenal for a rumoured £60m, confidence is flowing back into BVB as they once more look to push on again.
What exactly has happened to improve the team? Let’s take a look!
Reshuffling the pack
First of all, the addition of Chelsea striker Michy Batshuayi on loan has given a fresh focal point to the team and his 5 goals and 1 assist to start off have allowed him to slide right into the side with ease as well as showing the world what he can do leading the line. His typical centre forward know-how, including excellent hold-up play and finding space in the box, has resulted in him being one of the Bundesliga’s most feared strikers already.
The return of Marco Reus following yet another period on the sidelines has also injected confidence into all at the Signal Iduna Park due to his qualities for the club both on and off the pitch.
As well as this, the partnership of the ever-brutish Sokratis Papastathopoulous and the level-headed Ömer Toprak has flourished at the back and for the first time since Mats Hummels left BVB, the team looks defensively solid.
Most interestingly of all, a young 17 year-old winger by the name of Jadon Sancho (who joined from Manchester City on a free in summer) has almost set the division on fire since coming into the team. The calm yet ferocious ability he possesses has shocked full backs everywhere and the England youth international has everyone talking, even back home. He is graciously staying humble at the moment and has Stöger to thank for his chance at the back end of last year.
Those changes all allow the typically successful 4-3-3 formation to be played with simplicity rather than the shoe-horning style Bosz was implementing.
Whilst the often shaky but brilliant Roman Bürki keeps goal, an experienced back four of ?ukasz Piszczek, Sokratis, Toprak and Marcel Schmelzer allows for the rest of the team to be more creative and relaxed than in recent years.
In the middle of the park a perfectly contrasting trio has been formed, consisting of young, yet seasoned professional Julian Weigl, who is incredibly calm in most situations and can both intercept and spray the ball around with ice in his veins. Next to him on the right-hand side is Gonzalo Castro who manages to use his impressive energy to buzz around the pitch all game and produce moments of magic for the team, whether it be tough tackles or spectacular screamers - similar to his understudy Mamoud Dahoud. Then on the left-hand side it’s the tricky Mario Götze (who has only recently recovered from a serious health issue), the intricate Shinji Kagawa or tenacious Raphäel Guerreiro, who all can offer whatever the team needs in certain situations.
The three-pronged forward line consisting of rising star Christian Pulisic, Batshuayi and Reus all combine for blistering counter attacks that are part of the club’s DNA.
A 4-2-3-1 formation (used by Jürgen Klopp and Thomas Tuchel in the past) has been seen in the Europa League. It means that Weigl or the more footballing and less physical Nuri Sahin can hold with the pro-active Castro or Dahoud next to him. In front of them and behind Batshuayi, any of Kagawa, Maximilian Phillip, Pulisic, Reus, Sancho, Andre Shürrle and Andrey Yarmolenko can be played in different positions depending on their opponents. The 3-4-3 formation used last season seems to have been dropped and the more traditional systems persisted with.
On the fringes are the likes of Manuel Akanji, Eric Durm, Alexander Isak, Sebastian Rode, Jeremy Toljan and Dan-Axel Zagadou (and not forgetting the loaned out players) all await their chances - in spite of some of them being injured or out of favour even in a currently niche squad.
Transfer dealings - past and future
Some deadwood needed to be cleared out at Dortmund and that process began in the January window, particularly in defence. Due to tough circumstances for the past few months, centre back prospect Marc Bartra left for Real Betis towards the end of the window. Also, long time servant but recently injury-ridden Neven Suboti? left for St. Etienne fairly under the radar.
In terms of what is to come, the permanent deal of Batshuayi has already been talked about publicly by the club’s directors of football. The sad truth is that whenever Dortmund produce talent they are never a club to keep hold of it for long so this loan could just be a flash in the pan. That means transfers are hugely important to the club’s revenue rather than the team’s management - a stance heavily debated over the last few campaigns in the native region of North Rhine-Westphalia.
Sometimes forgotten, a goalkeeper could well be brought in to either challenge Bürki through the rough times, unlike club legend Roman Weidenfeller, or simply be used a project.
Just in the last week or so, chief executive Hans-Joachim Watzke has also discussed their desire to sign a ‘“Xabi Alonso type of player” in terms of stature and playing style. The loss of Sven Bender and Sebastian Kehl was a blow but the club were hoping to find and unearth someone like Weigl who can be successful but thus far some fans aren’t convinced. Options wise, players such as Emre Can, Leander Dendoncker, Fabinho and Grabit Xhaka have been speculated by journalists but a more lucrative and experienced signing may be the answer to the Dortmund board's wish.
Moreover, Watzke entertained the idea of the team being overhauled in the summer transfer window and also Stöger extending his contract past the end of this season as he is still only interim and young up-and-coming bosses have failed in their eyes so far.
What do you think of the upturn in form for Dortmund and what does the future hold? Comment below!