Season Preview: Borussia Dortmund
In 2014—2015, Borussia Dortmund endured their worst start to a league in the last six years under Jürgen Klopp. With that, their enigmatic manager decided he’d leave come the end of the season. The German team spent most of the early part of the league season struggling for results. The club also endured a heavy injury crisis to key players such as captain Mats Hummels, arguably their best player Marco Reus, Sven Bender, just to name a few. With Dortmund’s relatively thin squad, this left Klopp with little to choose from. Adding to an already dire situation, summer signings Ciro Immobile and Adrian Ramos failed to deliver on their perceived potential, seeing themselves move from potential game changers to squad players. However the club was able to somehow avoid almost certain relegation, removing the feeling of doom and gloom surrounding the team. They elevated themselves from the drop zone into seventh position, with key players returning from injury and Shinji Kagawa, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Ilkay Gündogan helping to steady the ship. Even though it wasn’t the fairy tale ending Klopp had hoped for as his team were unfortunate to lose the German cup final to FC Bayern Munchen on penalties, the way the team ended the season would some solace for BVB fans.
The club wasted no time appointing Thomas Tuchel as Jurgen Klopp’s replacement. He’s a manager with similar philosophy of team building, tactical tinkering and tenacity, which bodes well for the players and means adjustment should be relatively smooth. Dortmund enjoyed a successful preseason winning seven out of eight friendlies, including a comfortable victory over UEFA Champions League runners up Juventus. The club was also able, to keep hold of all key players, tying the likes of Gundogan, Reus and Aubameyang down to long term contracts, a very important factor, considering both Klopp’s departure and how the club has lost its most elite players to title rivals in over the past few season. A show of dedication from these players should be used as an indication of the mindset they intend to have heading into the new Bundesliga season; one that dictates their intention to set right their abysmal 2014—2015 season and reassume their position as genuine title contenders.
Dortmund’s first choice attacking line-up can be hailed as one of the best in the league especially with Reus and Aubameyang leading the scoring up front. However the club remains without any real options on the bench to replace these players’ quality if injuries present themselves, leaving the club with similar problems as last season. Dortmund have quality and numbers in the midfield and defence with the world class Mats Hummels, being the main man in defense. Dortmund are in no real need of any additions in these areas unless a world class option became available to them. Tuchel’s tendency to tinker and Dortmund’s flexible attacking players, the team should pose a real threat in the attacking third due to constant adjustment before, during and after matches, allowing for squad rotation and competition to be in the match day squad.
Regardless of how well Klopp did with the little he had in his early days at Dortmund, Bayern’s financial dominance ensures that they’ll almost always have one hand on the title from the get go and while keeping key players were pivotal to Dortmund, big money additions were necessary. Dortmund have only been able to add Gonzalo Castro to their ranks, in an area of the field where some believe they have enough players. With Immobile leaving on loan and Adrian Ramos underperforming another quality forward would be ideal for Dortmund to make the most out of the new season. The club has used clever scouting to highlight gems over the years and while the players will not always fulfill their potential, it is BVB’s best hope of remaining competitive considering Bayern’s and Wolfsburg’s financial strength. Thomas Tuchel is also a manager known for moulding young players and having little reliance on star names. Based on signings alone, the club can set realistic hopes towards a top four finish but the title, as it has been over the last three years, is a stretch.
Ultimately, Dortmund have enough in the appointment of a new manager and the tying down of key players, to reclaim a top four place and UEFA Champion’s League football. Going beyond that would require serious investment in world class players or unearthing gems, the latter of which the club has been known to do and has the right manager to develop them. Managing injuries considering the little investment is pivotal, as they are simply a few knocks away from a potential crisis yet again, putting everything down to effective squad rotation. In the end, Borussia Dortmund have an opportunity to wipe away last season, slowly put the team back among the elite in the league.