It has been nine years since Borussia Dortmund last won the Meisterschale, and Die Schwarzgelben will be looking to stop Bayern Munich from completing 10 straight years of winning the league title. While Borussia Dortmund have had some really good teams fall short, there is nothing to say that this current squad cannot get the job done.
Why Borussia Dortmund Can Win
This team has a ton of talent on it, and with the right man in charge, Die Borussen could push all the way to a championship. Starting at the top, BVB boast one of the finest attacks in Europe with holdovers such as Erling Haaland and Marco Reus still leading the attack. While Jadon Sancho has moved on, there is a lot of optimism surrounding new striker Donyell Malen who arrived this summer from PSV for €30M euros. New coach Marco Rose looks poised to play with two strikers up top coupled with a high intensity pressing game that will not only get the best out of Dortmund’s young legs, but will also create loads more chances for the players. Under former coach Lucien Favre, Dortmund’s possession style and intricate build up play could be beautiful to watch and could beat anyone on their day. However, that style was predicated around lots of passing angles and didn’t seem to create enough easy chances for the players. Far too often, that style left the defense exposed when players were not on the same page (Stuttgart 5-1 Dortmund).
While Bayern have made great signings in the transfer window, the fact remains that they have just overhauled their defensive line, and may be switching to a different system at the back. In contrast, Mats Hummels and Manuel Akanji will be entering their third year together as a central defensive pair and have already shown the ability to successfully switch between a 2 or 3 man defensive line. Akanji has made a quantum leap in his game this past year with his passing and positional play, add that to Hummels’ ability with the ball, and Rose has the best two passing CB’s in Germany which will pay huge dividends given Rose’s penchant for quick direct passing through the lines. Of course, Rose can also call upon the best left back in world football right now as well in Raphael Guerreiro. RG13 proved to be one of the best ball-progressing full backs in Europe once again, and his eye for a killer pass will be even more deadly given he will have two fast strikers making runs in behind all year.
Borussia Dortmund’s midfield went through something of a renaissance as well this past year, or at least the second half of the season. The emergence of teenage English sensation Jude Bellingham was better than anyone could have imagined. Jude started on opening day and only got better as the season progressed, playing through his ups and downs culminating in a masterful two leg performance in the Champions League against Manchester City in April. Bellingham’s performance caught the eye of every club in Europe where he and his midfield partner Mahmoud Dahoud outplayed Manchester City’s midfield over 180 minutes, and supporters should expect that personal growth to continue given Bellingham is a year older with top flight experience now under his belt. Dahoud had a strange start to the season, used sparingly by Favre before his sacking before a disagreement with Edin Terzic saw the German maestro left at home for an away match in January. However, a rare start in Seville saw Dahoud instantly become a starter and he and Jude have made for a slick midfield capable of winning and retaining the ball while eyeing killer passes going forward. Axel Witsel has also returned from injury, and Thomas Delaney may still stay with the club, but there has been a shift in the midfield since the beginning of the year and Rose will most likely stay with it more often than not.
Fans of Dortmund have also been screaming out for a new goalkeeper even before Roman Weidenfeller lost his starting job to Roman Burki years ago. Burki has never truly won over the supporters, and the board finally did something about it during this transfer window. The Dortmund hierarchy purchased another Swiss keeper, Gregor Kobel from Stuttgart this while retaining backup Marwin Hitz as Burki continues his search for a new club. With Kobel, fans feel they finally have a number one and given that he is only 23 years of age, he could be the man between the sticks for BVB’s rise back to the top. Inconsistent goalkeeping has plagued Dortmund, especially in head to head matches against Bayern, but BVB finally pulled the trigger and got their man and Kobel should serve as a long awaited upgrade over his Swiss compatriots.
Changes At The Top
Has there ever been a coaching carousel like the one that happened this summer in the Bundesliga? Seven of the top eight finishers in the 2020-21 table have new bosses in charge of the squad (Urs Fischer of Union Berlin is the lone holdover), and each of them will be hoping to get off to a great start to ensure they meet or exceed the seasons targets. Obviously, goals are different for each club, nevertheless, getting points on the board early in the season can build momentum and cohesion within any club, regardless of the talent level and size. One needs to look no further than back in 2015-16 in England, when Leicester City completed a magical season by winning the Premier League after a brilliant start to the campaign. Their 5000 to 1 odds at the start of the season seemed generous given they barely escaped relegation the season before. However, smart recruitment, good coaching, and perfectly timed talent development came together to create a magical season. Every club starts the season with that same dream and with uncertainty across the landscape of Germany’s top flight, clubs will be looking to pounce.
Will History Repeat Itself?
For the usual top three finishers of Bayern Munich, RB Leipzig, and Borussia Dortmund it is no different. While these clubs fancy their chances to lift the meisterschale, especially Bayern, all three have new coaches, injured players, late arrivals, and several other questions heading into the opening weekend. In fact, it was just three seasons ago when these clubs went through a very similar process heading into the 2018-19 campaign. Bayern replaced Jupp Heynckes with Niko Kovac, Dortmund replaced Peter Bosz/Stoger with Lucien Favre, and Leipzig replaced Ralph Hassenhüttl with Ralf Ragnick. It would be Die Schwarzgelben who would get off to a flying start that season, seemingly invincible early on despite having a very thin squad in regard to quality. Bayern experienced many growing pains and in-house turmoil with the new direction and Dortmund appeared to take full advantage. Unfortunately, a 9 point lead in the table was cut to 7 just as the clubs headed into the winter break before Bayern ruthlessly emerged to take the title on the final day. Regardless of the outcome that particular season, new BVB boss Marco Rose knows that a great start will be needed to defeat the Rekordmeister and bring the coveted league title home.
What Should We Expect?
The current narrative surrounding Borussia Dortmund seems to be very positive heading into the season, despite a host of injuries and late arrivals from summer tournaments. Rose is a Jurgen Klopp disciple, and he hails from the Red Bull coaching tree of high intensity, aggression, and a direct passing game to constantly pressure opposing back lines. If Rose can get this Dortmund team on the same page, they will be a lot to handle for any European club. What is the difference between Rose and the others? That is the question of course, but Rose has gone into clubs with great expectations and been able to win immediately. His direct passing through lines suits players like Guerreiro, Dahoud, Hummels, and Akanji and the pace up top with Haaland, Malen, and Moukoko means Rose has strikers to break lines and get on the end of passes for chances. Not only that, but the youth of Dortmund provides a great foundation for the high pressing game with the likes of Haaland and Malen up top coupled with Reyna, Dahoud, and Bellingham in the midfield covering ground and cutting passing lanes for the opposition. Even Hummels and Reus have done really well when working in a high press throughout their career, so one should expect that Rose’s style could be implemented very quickly given the squad he has.
Likewise, Dortmund will be hoping that Julian Nagelsmann and Jesse Marsch struggle in that regard, much like Bayern and Leipzig did three years ago. Nagelsmann seems to be overhauling Bayern with a tactical revolution that will most likely be very effective, but could take time. As we mentioned, Bayern also have changes at the back and there could definitely be a period of struggle for the Bavarians early in the season. Leipzig have lost several of their best players and new coach Jesse Marsch has many things to sort out during his maiden Bundesliga season. Losing Dayot Upamecano and potentially Marcel Sabitzer means Leipzig will be without the leaders they have looked to over the last few seasons. Given they have a lot of talent and new striker Andre Silva, one could expect Leipzig to still have a good season, but not without some growing pains of their own.
Need For A Fast Start
While Dortmund ended up falling short three seasons ago when similar changes took place, they still had every chance to win the title and were still in it on the final day. One may believe that BVB will be able to push Bayern all the way this year again, and in Rose Dortmund have a fiery coach who will refuse to let his team slip up like they did three years ago. Of course, everything will be made easier if Dortmund can get off to a great start this weekend against Eintracht Frankfurt at the Westfalenstadion. While a few upgrades could always be used, Rose has the tools and the style to take Dortmund to the top of the league especially given all the changes at surrounding clubs.