Borussia Dortmund: Back in black…and yellow

by Albinko Hasic

Borussia Dortmund and its fans have grown tired of silver. Three out of the last four years, they have finished runners-up to their rivals in red, Bayern Munchen.

Meanwhile the Bavarians have set a Bundesliga record by winning their fourth league title in a row, as well as three of the last four Deutscher Pokals (German Cups).

 

As Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Ilkay Gundogan followed long-time manager Jurgen Klopp for the Premier League, many were expecting the same old story.

To make matters worse, one of the club’s leaders, Mats Hummels packed his bags for Bayern, echoing that old sentiment, if you can’t beat them, join them.

But then Borussia Dortmund, and manager Thomas Tuchel, sent a message: we are back, and we are ready for a fight. How was this messaged conveyed? Through a quiet transformative revolution in the club.

Tuchel re-signed a former talisman in Mario Gotze, and one of the best Bundesliga players in recent years, Andre Schurrle.

He replaced the slow and aging Hummels with 25-year-old Barcelona surplus Marc Bartra who has been trending upward with his development.

A swoop for Sebastian Rode, also 25, shored up the midfield. Tuchel also invested in the future by signing 19-year-old Ousmane Dembele from Stade Rennes, and Emre Mor, the same ago, from FC Nordsjælland.

Tuchel capped it off with a signing of one of the most promising wingbacks and star players of EURO 2016, Raphael Guerreiro (22).

 

But Borussia’s resurgence hasn’t been all about transfer signings. Truth be told, Tuchel has been repairing and reinvesting in the club since he took over for Klopp in 2015.

He was able to bring Dortmund back to Champions League football by finishing second, after the 2014/2015 season that saw the club dip down to seventh place in the league.

He’s been a manager unafraid to promote young players like U.S. national team player Christian Pulisic and encouraging their development.

This has helped cement a deep bench which a long season, and Champions League football, will call for.

Tuchel, with his latest signings, is now ready to challenge Bayern for the Bundesliga crown once again.

Despite the fact that many Dortmund fans still harbor negative feelings about Mario Gotze, his return could have a transformative quality to a team that has long struggled to find that next gear in pursuit of championship gold.

Gotze, who spent the last three seasons languishing on Bayern’s bench as surplus, was one of the premier players for Dortmund during their recent heyday when the club claimed back-to-back Bundesliga titles in 2010 and 2011.

The 24-year-old contributed 31 goals and 44 assists in 116 matches for the team in black and yellow.

His partnership with teammate Marco Reus was something to behold, as the duo carved the competition apart with quick runs and cerebral passing.

Gotze has returned to a team that will once again trust him with a starting role, something he has been craving for quite some time, being football-starved at Pep Guardiola’s Bayern.

Even though the fans still haven’t forgotten or forgiven his betrayal three years ago, he has said all of the right things.

Now is the time for him to prove himself, not only to regain their trust but also to repair his legacy as one of the premier attacking midfielders in the world.

 

Andre Schurrle, the second big-name signing for Thomas Tuchel, is a Bundesliga household name with stats to boot.

He was one of Wolfsburg’s standout players in their recent run of success, balancing assists with goals.

Dortmund’s lead striker, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is truly a world star, coming off of a 39-goal season across all competitions.

With the added support, and Gotze’s inventive play, and enough wing-power to start their own air battalion, Aubameyang may outdo himself in the coming year.

In addition to established stars like Reus, Aubemayang, Schurrle, Gotze, and Kagawa, Tuchel has balanced leadership and experience with exciting youth prospects like U.S. talent Christian Pulisic (17) and Felix Passlack (18).

Pair them with signings such as Dembele, Mor, and Guerreiro and you have an incredibly deep and balanced roster, built on speed.

As Jose Mourinho told MUTV following Dortmund’s 4-1 preseason trouncing of United, “It was like Formula 1 against Formula 3”.

The defensive side to Dortmund’s game may still present problems for the Westphalians.

However, Tuchel has done a good job of replacing Hummels with upward trending players with a more athletic and agility based style, complimenting the wingers to ensure a more fluid transition between defense and attack, and vice versa.

Of course, Bayern Munchen have their own ideas about who the toughest kid on the block will continue to be.

If Carlo Ancelotti has his way, the big red bullies will continue to dominate the domestic competition, despite a lack of big-splash signings this offseason, only adding Renato Sanches from Benfica and Mats Hummels from their enemies up north.

It remains to be seen if the Bundesliga is transformed once again from the added fire power in Dortmund’s camp, but with Gotze’s return, and Borussia Dortmund’s transfer revolution, the story of the 2016 season may very well be one of reclamation.

Whether this takes the form of a Bundesliga crown, only time will tell.

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