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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Three talking points as Tottenham secured top spot with a Champions League win over Borussia Dortmund
Tottenham ensured that they progressed to the Champions League knock-out stages as Group H winners after coming from behind to see off Borussia Dortmund in Germany on Tuesday night.
Dortmund – who were reliant on Real Madrid dropping points at Cypriot minnows APOEL Nicosia in the evening’s other fixture to stand any chance of progressing to the last 16 – took the early advantage when Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang finished smartly from Andriy Yarmolenko’s clever flick.
Mauricio Pochettino’s side nearly crafted an equaliser before the break, only for both Christian Eriksen and Eric Dier to be denied in the space of a few minutes after superb work by ‘keeper Roman Burki.
But it didn’t take long for the visitors to draw level in the second-half, with Harry Kane afforded too much space on the edge of the box as he arrowed an effort into the corner with his first real chance.
Son Heung-min’s effort 15 minutes from time, a fine curling finish after tenacious work from Dele Alli, then sealed the turnaround and condemned the hosts to a shock early Champions League exit.
Tottenham bounce back after derby disappointment
After Saturday’s harrowing and disappointing defeat to old foes Arsenal, manager Mauricio Pochettino summed up Tuesday’s performance perfectly by labelling it as the ‘perfect reaction’.
It is hard to disagree with the Argentinian either, with his side displaying far more grit, determination and character at the Westfalenstadion to forget about their Premier League defeat and come from behind to beat a strong Borussia Dortmund outfit, securing their surprise status as Group H winners.
It seemed like they were suffering a North London derby hangover of sorts when Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang fired the hosts in front on the half-hour mark, but Spurs dug deep and showed that they are aiming to do more than just make up the numbers in the Champions League this campaign.
All of a sudden they burst into life after the break, with Harry Kane and Dele Alli – who were both anonymous at the Gunners – getting involved more and causing problems for a tiring home defence.
It was the former who levelled things up when Kane’s neat low drive found the back of the net, signalling his sixth Champions League goal in five appearances this season, whilst Alli was influential in assisting both goals, seeing off two Dortmund defenders before laying off to Son Heung-min for his winner.
It wasn’t a match that needed to be won, considering Tottenham had already secured their safe passage into the knock-out stages, but the manner of victory will no doubt send out a message across Europe.
Dortmund’s decline ends in Champions League exit
Yet, whilst Tottenham will be buoyant and nervously await the draw for the last 16 next month, Borussia Dortmund will be reflecting on where things went wrong after a dismal European outing this season.
Despite having a number of world-class individuals in their ranks – Aubameyang, Shinji Kagawa, the young Christian Pulisic, Mario Gotze and the injured Marco Reus are all part of the squad at the disposal of manager Peter Bosz – it’s been a stuttering season both in Europe and domestically too.
Their inability to beat Cypriot minnows APOEL Nicosia across two matches all-but put an end to any aspirations of knock-out football, and it seems that the Europa League will now be their next destination.
Add this to their woeful Bundesliga form of late, losing four of their last five matches and drawing the other one to leave them nine points adrift of the top of the table, and warning signs are now flashing.
It’s all a stark contrast to 2013, the year that the German side fell narrowly short in the Champions League final, and it’s clear for all to see that something is fundamentally not right just four years on.
The fact that Aubameyang – who was left out of the Dortmund squad for their Bundesliga defeat at Stuttgart last week after being sanctioned by Bosz – barely celebrated a sublime goal tells its own story of the club’s affairs, and it seems that the head coach could be walking on a very fine tightrope.
Pochettino’s conundrum after Aurier impresses
One thing that was clear from Pochettino’s team selection on Tuesday, other than the clear fact that he was looking for a quick response to the Arsenal defeat by selecting a strong side, was that summer signing Serge Aurier seems to be the preferred right-back option for the Champions League this season.
The £24 million man may have garnered a reputation for being a bit erratic but, contrary to some of his rash moments this season, he played with an element of maturity and care on Tuesday evening.
He certainly warranted his selection at Dortmund, always offering an outlet on the right-wing and constantly finding himself with a wealth of space to run into behind their captain Marcel Schmelzer.
Aurier’s delivery was generally accurate too, forcing the Dortmund defence into last-ditch blocks inside their own area with Kane lurking, whilst he kept things compact alongside Davinson Sanchez at the back.
It would no doubt have hurt the Ivorian to have been omitted from the side for the mightily impressive win over Real Madrid after playing in Tottenham’s opening three European matches, but on Tuesday’s showing he’s laid down a marker for rival Kieran Trippier ahead of the knock-out stages.
Considering the question marks hanging over the head of boss Pochettino about whether Kyle Walker could be replaced it’s certainly not a bad dilemma to have, and a bit of healthy competition between two viable wide options could prove key for Tottenham as the season goes on.
Analysing Tottenham striker Harry Kane’s two-goal heroics against Borussia Dortmund
Much had been written about Harry Kane’s barren August, in which he failed to score. However, the drought is well and truly over now September has arrived. Since finding the net for England during the international break, the 24-year-old has rediscovered his scoring boots in spectacular fashion.
His brace against Borussia Dortmund in Tottenham Hotspur’s opening Champions League Group H clash was as impressive as it was timely, providing his side with the perfect start to their European adventure and banishing the Wembley Stadium hoodoo.
It’s no secret that Tottenham are heavily reliant on Kane (perhaps overly so) to be their chief attacking threat, but he rarely lets them down. Manager Mauricio Pochettino will be relieved that his star man is back to his best.
The England striker had a hand in all three of their goals against Dortmund, setting up Son Heung-min for the first before netting either side of half-time to ensure Spurs sent home their supporters happy.
Both goals underlined Kane’s natural ability as a finisher, which has earned him the Premier League’s Golden Boot trophy in the previous two seasons. His first was a carbon copy of Son’s, cutting in from the left and unleashing a rasping drive that beat Roman Burki at his near post.
Perhaps the Dortmund keeper’s positioning was questionable, but such was the power and pinpoint accuracy of Kane’s strike that it would have taken some stopping wherever he had been stationed.
Although Dortmund looked vulnerable at the back, their attacking prowess had caused Spurs problems all night and a 2-1 lead seemed precarious. So Kane’s second of the night was mightily important because it effectively killed off the game.
After being put through by Cristian Eriksen, Kane still had work to do to create enough space to get his shot away. Once again, the accuracy was such that it left Burki with little chance of preventing it from nestling in the back of the net.
Kane could have completed his hat-trick before he was substituted to a rapturous reception from the Wembley faithful, but the damage had been done. Everyone knows Kane likes to shoot from all areas of the pitch, but opponents seem powerless to stop him.
His two goals from four efforts – as well as an assist – represented an excellent night’s work for a man who has grown in stature to become one of the most prolific strikers in Europe. Kane will remain fundamental to Spurs’ hopes of honours this season, both domestically and in Europe.
“The Wembley curse is over” – Three things learnt from Tottenham 3-1 Borussia Dortmund
Tottenham may face a tough Champions League group including Real Madrid and APOEL alongside Borussia Dortmund, but they could not have gotten off to a better start than with a 3-1 home victory over the Germans.
Son Heung-Min raced clear in the opening minutes to give Mauricio Pochettino’s side the lead, but that lead was quickly pegged back after Andriy Yarmolenko looped an effort over Hugo Lloris and into the corner of the net.
That sparked Harry Kane to life, shrugging off two challenges before firing the ball into the back of the net for a third goal inside 15 minutes. After that the game calmed down as Kane’s second goal midway through the second half put the tie to bed.
A late sending off for Jan Vertonghen, who saw a second yellow for a flailing arm, marred things slightly but Spurs still got off to a dream start at Wembley on Wednesday night.
Here are three things that The Boot Room learnt from the game…
The Wembley curse is over
The tag of a Wembley curse has dogged Tottenham at the start of this season, not helped by defeat to Chelsea and a draw with Burnley, but there is no more emphatic way to put an end to such concerns than by wiping the floor with a difficult Champions League opponent.
Tottenham got off to a dream start through Son Heung-Min and even after conceding an equaliser they reacted well to rapidly re-take the lead. Such a win will give a huge confidence boost and Spurs fans will hope that it will remove any Wembley hoodoo too.
Dortmund continue to disappoint
Gone are the days when Borussia Dortmund were a force to be reckoned with in Europe under Jurgen Klopp, but their performances at Europe’s most elite level have been underwhelming for some time. At Wembley, they once again failed to deceive.
For all their possession and time on the ball in the Tottenham half, they failed to create many clear cut chances, with even their goal coming courtesy of an inspired strike from distance. Defensively they were poor too, with Tottenham scything the back four apart on the counter attack. Mauricio Pochettino will be confident of qualifying from a tough group on the back of that display.
Fernando Llorente offers an entirely different option
He may only have got a few minutes, but right from the off it was clear that the Spaniard’s introduction for Harry Kane would give Tottenham a different dimension in attack. Spurs immediately went for a more direct style with Llorente giving a real focal point in attack.
It’s likely that Llorente will have to wait until the Carabao Cup clash with Barnsley next week for his first start in Tottenham colours, but such aerial presence and power could come in handy against sides like his former team Swansea, who his new club face this weekend.
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