As one of the most popular clubs in the world, it isn’t surprising to have witnessed Borussia Dortmund’s rise over the past decade. Since 2010, the club have won the Bundesliga twice, finished runners-up twice and have reached a Champions League final only to be defeated by a late Arjen Robben effort. This success was attributed to their former coach Jurgen Klopp, who revolutionised the game with his Gegenpressing tactic, or in more simple terms, immediate ball recovery. There were concerns about whether Dortmund would be able to be successful again after Klopp left the club, but the future looks extremely bright and they are already being considered as one of the best sides in Europe once again.
Thomas Tuchel was already seen as one of the brightest coaches in Germany after his successful spell leading Mainz, and Dortmund opted to give him the job in the hope that he would follow in the footsteps of Jurgen Klopp. There were a lot of comparisons drawn between the aforementioned Klopp and Tuchel in the summer, given they both managed Mainz before moving to Dortmund, but they play different styles. Tuchel talked about building on what Klopp had set out, and he has followed through on his words.
The team still use the pressing methods of Klopp to retrieve the ball, but the attacking philosophy is very different. Dortmund relied on counter-attacking under Klopp, using their pace in forward positions to try and capitalise quickly after winning the ball back through Gegenpressing. However, Tuchel prefers his side to keep the ball as shown by the increased average possession this season of 60%, compared to 52% in the 2013/14 campaign.
In recent years, it has proven difficult to replace coaches who have left a big legacy, as seen most prominently at Manchester United. Tuchel has made it look easy, restoring Dortmund to one of the most feared sides on the continent after a disappointing final season under Klopp. He has made small changes to the style of play and brought in a few new players, but he hasn’t done anything drastic. In an age where clubs are relying on the transfer window more and more, it is refreshing to see a young coach do a lot of work on the training ground to revitalise Dortmund.
The form of Henrikh Mkhitaryan has highlighted Dortmund’s change of direction. He managed only three goals and four assists last season and it felt like he was never fully trusted by Klopp to deliver when it matters. He has been indispensable under Tuchel, normally operating as on the left wing and he has repaid the faith with nine goals and ten assists in the Bundesliga. This has been the Armenian’s best season in the yellow of Dortmund and he will only grow under the tutelage of Tuchel, as the new coach likes to use the wings as the main avenue of attack, unlike Klopp who preferred to use central areas.
Last season, Dortmund were massively disappointing, and flirted with relegation for large periods of the campaign. It was expected that star players Marco Reus, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Mats Hummels would all leave for Champions League clubs. Dortmund aren’t just any club though and the squad knew that they would rise again. The managerial change freshened things up and the team are as dangerous as they have ever been. They are pushing Bayern Munich in the league, while they remain firm favourites to win the Europa League but must first overcome Liverpool, the current team of their former manager. Although Tottenham played a weak side in the first leg of their tie against Dortmund, the manner of which the German side dispatched them with ease shows that they are once again one of Europe’s premier clubs.
Dortmund are one of the few clubs which are run extraordinarily well, and they don’t rely on big amounts of money to secure success, which is admirable in the modern game. They have once again sourced one of the most talented young coaches in Europe and after Pep Guardiola leaves Bayern, they will believe in their ability to regain the league title. After a year of disappointment, Dortmund are back and next season they will compete for both the Bundesliga and the Champions League.
Featured Image: All rights reserved by Luis Eder Caporal Valencia