Sometimes in life change, no matter how gut wrenching and heart string tugging, is required for progression. That is the position Borussia Dortmund found themselves in at the end of last season. The seven year premiership of Jürgen Klopp had ran its course. Two Bundesliga titles, a DFB Pokal cup, two DFL Supercups and a Champions League runners-up medal, ensured the Klopp era was the second most successful in the history of BVB, behind Ottmar Hitzfeld’s side of the 1990s by just a single Arjen Robben goal at Wembley in May 2013. However, after around half a season in the relegation zone in the most recent campaign it was clear a change was required, despite the turnaround to 7th position at the season’s climax.
Bavarian Thomas Tuchel takes over the reins from Jürgen Klopp, and like Klopp, joins Dortmund from Mainz. In five seasons at the Karnevalsverein (Carnival club) Tuchel established Mainz as a mid-table Bundesliga side, as well as achieving the club’s highest ever Bundesliga finish (5th) and guided the Rhineland-Palatinate side twice into the Europa League. During his Mainz tenure, Tuchel was courted by both Schalke and Bayer Leverkusen, but chose to stay on each occasion.
It’s not overly hard to see why the Dortmund hierarchy identified Tuchel as the ideal Klopp replacement.
Tuchel the tactician:
Tactically Tuchel draws many comparisons with Klopp, as does his exuberant touchline manner. Klopp’s familiar blue print of gegen (or counter) pressing is one also enacted by Tuchel’s Mainz sides, and the Bavarian has made it clear that he will continue in this vein at the Westfalenstadion. He wants Dortmund to press high up the pitch to win the ball, and when in possession to target the opponent’s box with maximum velocity. Tuchel’s brand of this high tempo football is not identical but incredibly similar to Klopp’s, therefore it should not be too hard for the players to adapt.
The high octane action is not just reserved for on the pitch either. Again, like Klopp, Tuchel is one of the most passionate managers in the country, and shows bursts of unbridled and rampant displays of passion. Tuchel is a football purist and insists on his players playing with a smile on their faces. Sounds familiar, right? Provided this is backed up with performances and results, Tuchel seems like a man that the Südtribune will take to, as this energetic persona is almost expected in Dortmund now.
Tuchel the tinkerer:
Gauging what we can from this embryonic point of Tuchel’s rein, it is clear that he is not averse to trying new formations and changing player’s positions. This is perhaps where he differs from Klopp, and Dortmund fans may witness new and changing formations over the course of the season. Thus far in pre-season Tuchel has tinkered with the 4-1-4-1, 4-4-2 diamond and 4-2-3-1 formations; but most notable has been his efforts to move left sided attacker Marco Reus into a more central striker role. Reus and Aubameyang could pose the new strike partnership for the black and yellows, but both have been previously deployed in wider positions. The extent to which they adapt and cause problems for opposition defences is probably in direct correlation to the success of Dortmund’s season. Reus and Aubameyang are, frankly, the only two worthwhile striking options for Tuchel. Ciro Immobile is on-loan at Sevilla following a mediocre season and Adrián Ramos has so far flattered to deceive. One struggles to shake the feeling that there is still a Robert Lewandowski shaped hole in this Borussia Dortmund side. Midfielders such as Henrikh Mkhitaryan,Kevin Kampl, Shinji Kagawa and Jakub Blaszczykowski need to contribute assists and goals to alleviate pressure from these makeshift forwards.
With the transfer window in full swing, it is paramount that Dortmund retains the service of stars such as Marco Reus, Mats Hummels and lkay Gündogan. If at all possible, Die Schwarzgelben, should shake the tag of a selling club, if for no other reason than to make Tuchel’s job that bit easier. It remains to be seen if Tuchel can fill the boots of Klopp. His energetic passion and style of play will certainly endear him to the BVB faithful, and it is likely that he will be given adequate time to prove himself. An improvement on 7th position must be the aim, and if new signings Julian Weigl, Gonzalo Castro and Roman Bürki have an immediate positive impact, then so much the better. That said, let’s not expect Dortmund to set the Bundesliga alight next season, or indeed the season after that. Bayern München seem to have an impregnable position at the top of the pile for the time being, and sides like VfL Wolfsburg and Borussia Mönchengladbach are also hitting their respective strides. European qualification must be the aim, but luckily for Tuchel, Borussia Dortmund are not a club motivated solely by silverware, rather passionate and attractive football coupled with a good hammering of Herne West (or Schalke if you prefer) in the Revierderby. Here’s to a fresh start under Thomas Tuchel.
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