Borussia Dortmund 2017 Pokal Champions!
Years from now this season will be remembered by the title that we won in the end. But soooooooooo much else happened. From a four game stretch where we scored 16 goals, to the highest ever scoring Champions League game, to a tragic bus bombing. Needless to say, this season had it’s ups and downs. It was a long season, lets start at the beginning.
Summer Transfers: Lots of selling, lots of buying
Last summer was a weird one for BVB. We sold three of our best players to other clubs but we were still able to recover. Player of the year Mkhitaryan went to Manchester United, Gundogan went to Manchester City and
captain Hummels went to Bavaria. Many fans were quite mad we sold these important players and got even angrier at who we bought with that money. We picked up Wolfsburg Andre Schürrle and Bayern’s Sebastian Rode and Mario Gotze. Three experienced Bundesliga players but each with lots of doubts about continued quality. We picked up Marc Bartra, a Barcelona product who was only well knows for being destroyed by Gareth Bale. And then a bunch or relatively unknown youngsters: Ousmane Dembele, Emre Mor, Mikel Merino, and Raphael Gurreiro. While there was some hype to gathering some young talent for the team, no one knew that some of these kids would turn out the way they did. Dembele and Raph became two of our most important players this season and all of our youngsters were bought together for a price less then we sold Mkhitaryan for.
Now that we have the gift of hindsight, this past summer was actually good for BVB in the long run. We acquired some great young talent who actually want to stay at the club at least for the next few years.
Hinrunde: Injuries and tough losses overshadow blowout victories
The fall was a much tougher part of the season for us than the spring. We struggled against Leipzig in just our second game of the season. That game would signal how this season would go for both teams. While BVB had almost two whole squads of Bundesliga quality players, injuries haunted us. We had eleven players hurt at a time, making Tuchel’s line up decisions tough. Even though September was filed with joy as we scored 16 goals in four games, October ended up being one of the toughest months we’ve had in the Tuchel era. In addition to some tough losses, we tied Schalke who were struggling to make it out of the bottom of the table at the time.
Our greatest achievement in the fall was winning our Champions league group. While Legia and Sporting are not top sides, we did get put in the group of the defending champions Real Madrid. We managed to fight out ties twice against the Spanish giants, who are now in the UCL Final. Then of course there was the 8-4 scoring showcase against Legia Warsaw. that game was the highest scoring match ever in a UCl group game, a record I’d imagine will stand for a long time.
The two players whose injures negatively affected the first half of the season, were most definitely Reus and Barta. Missing Reus for the entire first half deprived us of our second best goal creator. So many games in the first half, especially in October and December, we struggled to finish our chances. Reus could have made the point difference in this season that had us competing with Bayern instead of Hoffenheim. Bartra only missed a month due to injury, but came back a totally different player. It would not be unfair to say he was at fault for the amount of goals we gave up from mid September on. We went on a streak of 7 games where we gave up the first goal and Bartra was at the center of a lot of that chaos. While he was able to get back to his top form by January, we definitely could have done without a few of the ties and losses we received in late November/December.
Ruckrunde: A bombing and late season drama made the race for Europe close
Our league results in the second half were much stronger then the first half. We had two embarrassing losses to Hertha and Darmstadt, as well as a paddling from Bayern Munich. Yet things were still close in the league, as the season winded down. We were not going to catch up to Leipzig for second and we were fighting with Hoffenheim for third. After ties against Cologne and Augsburg, things were tense with Hoffenheim right around us. It came down to the last game of the Bundesliga season for us to secure third, with an extremely exciting 4-3 victory against Werder Bremen.
Our champions league luck ran out in the second half of the season. After going down 1-0 to Benfica away in the first knockout round of the UCL we trounced them 4-0. Our next series against Monaco was supposed to be a hard fought battle against the two most exciting teams in Europe. Instead a incredibly greedy and obscenely stupid man bombed our team bus on the way to the game altering the course of the season. Marc Bartra, who had been playing at the top of his game in the second half, barley escaped death and was injured for over a month. Our team played the next day and were destroyed on the pitch. Many of the players had not slept and had struggled to sleep for weeks after. The trauma they experienced made the last stretch of the season hard on all of them. While Europe was over, there was one last title BVB could set out to grab - the DFB Pokal. After barley beating Hertha in a penalty shootout we drew Bayern Munich for the semi finals. We managed to actually beat Bayern in our highest quality performance of the season. A 3-2 finish got us into the Pokal final where we played Frankfurt. 2-1 was our last scoreline of the season with Aubameyang scoring the very last goal of the year thanks to Pulisic drawing a penalty. With it, BVB won its first title since 2012.
- The kids are the future: If there is one huge positive we can take from this season aside from the Pokal it is the performance of our youth players. Ousmane Dembele was supposed to be a rough around the edges multi year project. In the beginning of the season he was that, but as the season went on he transformed into one of the best players in Germany. It is clear from watching him this year, that one day Ous will be one of the three best players in the world. Christian Pulisic benfitied greatly from the Reus injury woes. This season we saw the young american blossom into a promising player. While last year Pulisic showed potential, this year we saw a kid who never let up. Even at the lowest points in our season when the whole team was playing badly, Pulisic was a constant. His consistency at his age is astounding. Emre Mor and Mikel Merino still need some work. That being said, they both will clearly be starters in our future. With this many young players who are set to be stars, BVB has a lot to look forward to in the coming years.
- The man in the front: Aubameyang had himself an amazing season. He led the Bundesliga in goals scored and scored his fair share of cup goals as well. While many will remember a lot of the chances he missed when they counted most, without him we are a Europa League team next year. With Auba being almost set to leave this summer, BVB will struggle to find a replacement adequate enough to give us what we need. Auba’s departure should not be seen negativley he gave us his best season so far as well as two penalties that secured UCl and got us a Pokal. If he does leave, he leaves as a legend.
- Backline blues: It is no secret that we struggled on defense this season. The Bartra-Sokratis Center back pairing sometimes worked great, but at other times it was a miserable affair to watch. Our back up center backs were not good enough to play on our team. Ginter gave up a lot for BVB this year, without adding much. His rumored departure in the summer will be good for the club. Bender has injury concerns and is not a reliable option for the future, even though he did play some good games towards the end. In the summer we are getting Omer Toprak, who struggled at Bayer this year. Marcel and Pizscsek are not getting younger but we are deep at the fullback position for the future. Overall our defense is going to need some work for next year.
- Our most important player: Julian Weigl is a freak of nature. He is young and skinny, yet he is a midfield bastion. All of our teams passing and possession starts with him and without him the team players at a much worse level. Back in October he played miserable, letting himself get pressed out of the game. This was a huge reason we struggled so hard, even against a team like Union Berlin. He learned from that and got even better then he already was. For the future, Weigl should be one of our most important players to keep on board, no matter the cost.
- Mr. Manager: Tuchel came under a lot of fire this year. Many criticized his lineup choices whether we won or lost. If one thing is clear with Tuchel, he molds youth into stars. Without Tuchel Weigl and Pulisic would be unknowns. Who knows if Dembele would have turned into the player he was with Tuchel as well. While he does seem to let his passions get the best of him on the field, the players seem to really get along with him. Aside from reports spread by magazines the past few months, Tuchel was the best option BVB had. Tuchel has a lot of injuries to deal with all season, as well as off the field drama to manage. Thomas Tuchel did the best job he could have with the circumstances he was given. Without Tuchel, this team could struggle in the future in the next manager does not shape up. Hopefully Watzke lets him see out his contract. If not, a new manager is just another thing to add onto the summer stress for BVB.