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Analyzing Borussia Dortmund’s ambition for 2019-20 season

The 2018-19 season Herbstmeister – (the team leading the Bundesliga table at half way point when the winter break commences) looked well positioned to consolidate on an excellent Hinrunde when the league resumed in late January. Die Borussen had taken the league by surprise losing once to close out 2018 on a high with a six point advantage over Bayern. However, an unstable second half in the Bundesliga saw Borussia Dortmund trip off, the beneficiary – Bayern Munich lifted the Meisterschale for the seventh consecutive season as they celebrated a record 29th Bundesliga title. The hard part for Dortmund was that they lost by margins (2 points). There were many ifs; the ones that come to mind easily were the inexplicable collapse after taking an early lead at home in Revierderby and the frustrating draw at Bremen having led comfortably with two goals against Werder at half time. Nevertheless, Bundesliga fans and neutrals would relish a season that saw the title race go down to the last day.

For Dortmund, it was a season to be proud of considering the previous campaign. There was a feeling they were heading in the direction and the club wasted no time with backing the manager. Quality acquisitions in Mats Hummels, Julian Brandt, Thorgan Hazard and Nico Schulz arrived before the start of the new season. Lucien Favre’s team is now the envy in the Bundesliga and perhaps Europe right now. Mats Hummels return to the club would provide leadership at the back while Nico Schulz arrival gives Favre options in the left side of defense. Brandt and Hazard are amongst Bundesliga brightest attacking talents, they have proven it with their performances at previous clubs Bayer Leverkusen and Borussia Moenchengladbach respectively. Die Schwarzgelben reinvested the money received from the sale of Christian Pulisic wisely as they prepare for another title challenge against the holders.

Lucien Favre first season in Dortmund revealed the coach’s playing philosophy and his team responded with exciting attacking display combined with midfield control and strong defensive cover. There was improvement in the defense but injuries and inconsistency stemming from a lack of leadership exposed the talented young defenders in the ranks when it mattered most. Manuel Akanji and Abdou Diallo; Favre’s preferred pairing are two young center backs that complement each other well, covering for each other when one strides forward to provide a pass for his teammates. However, injuries kept both out at one point or the other and the team suffered in their absence. Thomas Delaney and Axel Witsel were the lynchpin in midfield; the duo provided stability and dominance in the midfield – one that hasn’t been seen at Borussia since the Jurgen Klopp era. Witsel was arguably the bargain of the season; the €20m bargain controls the tempo of the game and had an impressive pass success rate of over 85%. In the final third, Marco Reus absence in the second half of the season hurt BVB baldy. During the first half of the season, the club captain contributed 16 goals and seven assist in all competitions. Marco flourished in his new role as captain, leading his team by example with performance when he was fit. Paco Alcacer’s loan and permanent move was the ideal replacement for the departure of Pierre Emereick Aubameyang. The former Barcelona forward was an instant hit in North Rhine-Westphalia finishing the season with 17 goals in 27 appearances in all competitions. We cannot fail to mention the rise of the young guns – Jacob Brunn Larsen and Jadon Sancho. The former, an academy graduate while the latter arrived from Manchester City were youngsters that excited fans at Signal Iduna Park with their attacking talents – trickery, dribbles, eye for goal. Sancho rapid rise afforded Dortmund the opportunity to cash in on another starlet Pulisic with the English sensation seen as his perfect replacement. Last season might have ended in slight disappointment but it served as the platform for a rebirth as Borussia Dortmund aim to take on Bundesliga perennial champions – Bayern Munich.

For Dortmund to make up the two points and more which proved to be the difference last season as well as progress further than the Round of 16 exit in both the Champions League and DFB Pokal, the club has spent over €120m on new players to improve the squad. The manager has swung into action as he tries to integrate his new team and it has yielded positive results so far. Lucien Favre’s team has been in rip-roaring form in pre-season; with victories against Seattle Sounders, European champions Liverpool, Udinese and FC St. Gallen, they look very good. It has been a perfect pre-season for BVB and its fans; they won all six of their pre-season games this summer, beginning with a 10-0 rout of minnows Schweinberg. They scored 30 goals in their six pre-season matches this summer and look pretty solid and ready for the new campaign.

Borussia Dortmund should start the new season with a very effective and dangerous team, but their lofty ambitions will be tested this weekend against Bayern Munich in the DFL Supercup at the Signal Iduna Park on Saturday as both teams will be looking to lay down a marker for the season to come.

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