Leading with three points ahead of their closest rival in the Bundesliga table, and poaching goals effortlessly, joy has been restored to the hearts of Dortmund faithful along with the hope of snatching the title from the hands of six-time champions Bayern Munich.
Here are five reasons why Dortmund could be the 2018/19 season champions.
- Superb attacking options since Klopp tenure.
With 23 goals already in the books this season – seven more than their closest competitors – the Bavarians are a force to be reckoned with in the final third. Christian Pulisic, Jacob Brunn Larsen, Jadon Sancho, Marco Reus and Paco Alcecer have all been in Red-hot form, bringing the kind of enthusiasm lacking at the Signal Iduna Park since the last days of Jorgen Klopp’s era when Ruis was supported up front by Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Pierre Emerick Aubameyang and Robert Lewandowski.
Reus and co are now joined up front by the likes of Mario Gotze, Shinji Kagawa, Marius Wolf and Maximilian Philipp, providing the slam-bang strength that has been missing in recent years.
The same can be said for the whole squad with Marwin Hitz vying for Roman Burki’s no1 jersey, Ackraf Hakimi pushing Lukas Piszczek for the right – back spot and not less than 14 midfielders in the books.
2. Reus leading the pack
Marco Reus has been a critical player at Dortmund, though due to a series of injuries in the past few seasons, he hadn’t contributed much to the club.
But now that he is healthy and in full form, the only player outfield player who has been on the field more than him this season is centre-back Manuel Akanji (602 minutes to 630). The German national is the undisputed talisman and figurehead at the club especially with the departure of former senior colleagues including Sokratis, Nuri Sahin, Aubameyang and Roman Weidenfeller.
And the 29-year-old is evidently comfortable with the responsibility, having been moved from his customary wide – left position to a more central playmaking role.
So far, he has added four goals and three assists to his belt this season which goes to prove that his presence alone on the field helps boost the morale of his side.
The attacker is not just satisfied with winning games; he is also bent on resuscitating his hometown club to its former glory. “When you sign a new four-year contract with a club at the age of 28 or 29, you do so with a specific purpose in mind; it’s about trying to get the team back to the level we were at before. That’s where we all want to be.” He told Bundesliga.com earlier this year after signing a new deal with the club.
3. The Favre’s touch
The architect behind the scenes is the unflappable personage of Lucien Favre. He may not have won any trophies at his previous clubs Hertha Berlin, Borussia Mönchengladbach and Nice, but his accomplishments with each outfit deserve some accolades.
Before the 2007/08 season when he was handed the reins of Hertha Berlin, they had finished in 10th place with just 44 points. Two years later when Favre left, they ended the season in fourth place with a staggering 69 points.
The same thing happened a Gladbach when he took charge in 2010/11; the team was at the bottom of the Bundesliga table, he rescued them from relegation that season and went on to build the side into a regular top-six finisher, qualifying for European competition twice in three seasons.
At Nice, he took a bright side and transformed it into a formidable team. The Ligue 1 club had ended the season before Favre’s entry in fourth place, but in his debut campaign of 2016/17 he took them up to third place with 15 points more than the previous season.
There is no doubt that the Swiss national improved every team he had head-coached. And with such achievements with mid-sized teams, the possibility of what he might do with a giant outfit such as Dortmund sends one’s mind racing.
So what’s the secret? Christoph Kramer – a former Gladbach player – had a pretty exciting answer to this question, “He pays attention to detail like nobody else does. He taught me that if an opponent wants to go past me on his right, I should make the tackle with my left foot instead of my right. By doing that I can be a decisive fraction of a second faster to the ball. Often it’s precisely those kinds of details that make the difference between a second division player and a world-class one.
Reus himself had a similar experience with Favre at Gladbach: “It was great to experience how meticulous a coach can be. He does everything himself, both out on the pitch and in the changing room, and has everything under control. I hope he still works like that. If so, we’ll get Dortmund back in the groove.” So far, so good.
4. History on Dortmund’s side.
While Bayern will be reluctant to step down from their throne without a fight, but there have been some occasions in the past where Dortmund won the title whenever Bayern loses form.
The last time we saw the Bavarians this low in the Bundesliga table was in 2010/11; they were in 12th place having gathered just 12 after eight round of matches. The victors that season? Yepp, Dortmund.
Thanks to the introduction of midfield enforcers Axel Witsel and Thomas Delaney, Dortmund will no longer have to be worried about being overpowered by strong, physical sides.
Reus had praised Witsel after the first round of the DFB cup when he helped Dortmund triumph over fierce Greuther Furth saying that Witsel had “brought character into the game” and that they’ve always “needed a player like him”.
Reus also made remarks on Delaney saying “He’s an outstanding player, the kind of player we’ve been missing in the past, We’ve had players who do the dirty work before, but in the tough games you need a player like him in that position. If the game calls for it, he’ll slide in and switch the momentum in the other direction. Thomas could be very important for us.”
5. Mental strength
All these put together has helped BVB to add a simple but equally important attitude to their game: the ability to change match outcome in their favour.
After suffering an unlikely comeback at the hands of Schalke 04 last season where they saw Schalke fight back from 4 nil down to draw 4 – 4. BVB’s mental ability appears to have increased this season.
On matchday seven they were down 1-0 and 2-1 against Ausburg but later won 4-3, just a few days after winning Bayer Leverkusen 4-2 up from a 2-0 deficit. On matchday 4, Pulisic helped steal a 1-1 draw after trailing one nil behind Hoffenheim. Such flexibility could be an essential weapon in their arsenal throughout the season.