Borussia Dortmund have had an incredible start to the season, and with Bayern struggling many are starting to wonder if this could be the year that Der BVB reclaim the Bundesliga throne.
In the past couple of years, the Bundesliga has been dubbed a “two horse race” between Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund or a terrible league that Bayern dominates year in year out. This season, however, might have a twist. After seven games into the season, Dortmund look like a real threat as they carry the essentials to win the league.
New season, new look. Although they didn’t splash the cash with a big money signing like James Rodriguez, Dortmund did make some noise over the summer. First off, ex-Ajax manager Peter Bosz was announced to be the replacement for Thomas Tuchel. His last season at Ajax proved to be a great one, with the Dutchman taking Amsterdam’s team to the Europa League final and just missing out on the league title on the final day. On top of the announcement of Bosz, pre-announced signings Mahmoud Dahoud and Omer Toprak both joined the German side as expected, and several more signings were added on, including Jadon Sancho, Dan-Axel Zagadou, Andriy Yarmolenko, Jeremy Toljan, and Maximilian Phillipp. These players add depth, which is something you could argue Dortmund lacked last season. Ousmane Dembele may have left for a hefty fee, but the bumblebees look to have worked their way around it, and still play the beautiful football they have been for the past couple of years.
So, what has changed with Peter Bosz? Under Tuchel, Dortmund played a really high backline. This led to conceding goals due to agile strikers getting in behind, someone possibly being played onside because of the threat of a striker getting in behind, and ultimately, playing sloppier at the back. With Bosz in charge, we’ve seen a lot less of that. As a result, Dortmund have conceded only 2 goals so far in the Bundesliga. Their positional play has also really shifted opposing back lines out of position, resulting in players like Weigl and Gotze breaking lines with one simple vertical pass. This isn’t to say that Tuchel’s team didn’t do the same, but “Boszball” seems very promising, and Bosz’s squad is averaging 3 goals a game and creating chances nearly at will. Lastly, we’ve seen less squad rotation under Bosz than we have with Tuchel. Tuchel dropped points in the past multiple times because he didn’t start his best lineup, and it hurt the team as a result. With Bosz, he’s made sure that the team is as strong as possible, not risking points being dropped against lower half teams.
Maximilian Philipp has been one of the standout signings for Dortmund so far this season, and there’s no surprise as to why. With the absence of Marco Reus, Philipp has successfully replaced the end product normally found in the German international. 6 goals + assists in 7 league games is fantastic, and that’s not all. He’s been played out wide, but often plays the role of a second striker, drifting inside to get on the ball and support Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang up top. With that being said, his hold up play, making forward runs to give Auba space to work with, ability to find the net, and his chance creation make him the perfect replacement for Reus, who is sidelined until March. He’s adapting to Bosz’s style very quickly, and if Philipp can continue his early success, defenses will have a tough time marking this man and keeping him off the scoresheet.
Another player who Der BVB are hoping will continue to break out this season is the American hero who goes by the name of Christian Pulisic. After a very promising 16/17 in the Bundesliga and the Champions League, the youngster is looking to replicate that success and develop even more under Bosz. Pulisic will obviously have to compete with Yarmolenko for his spot, as no one is guaranteed a starting position on the team. However, this will be a learning experience for him. Having a player who’s performed in Europe’s biggest stage to train with will give him more mentorship and having a guide will always help a youngster progress in his career. The American had a great Super Cup vs. Bayern and played a big part in the team’s early win against Wolfsburg. The big question is how consistent will he be, and how many games will he start in his preferred position.
The club is progressing well so far, but another factor that lends to their title credentials is the apparent decline in Bayern’s side. Bavaria’s team has been underperforming quite a lot. Carlo Ancelotti’s been sacked and it’s for a couple of reasons. First off, his players seemed disorganized on the pitch, resulting in more reliance on individual brilliance. Not to say that there’s anything wrong with individuals getting the team 3 points here and there when they have a world class squad. The problem is that there’s no structure; philosophy without tactics is a shambles. On top of that, he lost control of his players with his actions. After announcing his XI vs. Paris Saint Germain, he walked away. Boateng wasn’t in the squad, but Carlo told him otherwise. Robben, Ribery, Muller, and Hummels were four other people who were fed up with him as well. Regardless, he’s gone now and Willy Sagnol is the interim manager until further notice. With very little experience of managing, he might have a hard time at first, and this could stagnate the progression of the team, especially summer signing Corentin Tolisso.
It may only be 7 games into the season, but Dortmund have shown that they’re capable of winning the league. Lots of improvements have been made over the summer and it’s clearly showing on the pitch. Consistency may be a question, but for now, it looks like it’ll take a lot to dethrone Dortmund from being top of the table.