Editor Axel Falk looks at one of the top teams in Europe and Germany, Borussia Dortmund, and previews their upcoming huge season.
Borussia Dortmund was, when they won the league in 2011 and 2012 and reached the Champions League final in 2013, the essence of hipster football, the team everyone loved, the bandwagon everybody hopped on. This has cooled down and now Borussia from Ruhr is a well-covered, well-supported team in Europe and it isn't at all considered "hipster" or "jumping on a bandwagon" to support them. They have reached European normality, while they've had a few not as normal and rather tough years back home in Germany. It all started with the final in Champions League and Robben's goal. Then Götze left, then Lewandowski left and they crashed and found themselves at the bottom of the table after 18 games, but then they turned it around and almost (!) finished above fierce rivals Schalke in the end. Then Klopp left and Tuchel, an unproven manager at that level, stepped in and took over after the iconic Jürgen. Tuchel has, however, transformed this team into another kind of a machine and has arguably taken them to the next level.
Tuchel's fierce pressing system looks much like Klopp's, but it's even more aggressive, even more fierce. I had the luxury, thanks to editor Ali, to watch Borussia Dortmund rip Tottenham into white bloody shreds in March and left the stadium feeling very optimistic regarding this great club's future. Tuchel hasn't finished what Klopp started, he has started it all over again and he has cerntainly transformed this already aggressive and terrifying beast into a Greek Titan, making unbalanced teams shiver.
Aubameyang, Reus, Schmelzer, American super prospect Pulisic, Kagawa and Weigl were all big parts of last season's success, and even though Borussia have lost a few key players to other big European clubs, their key pressing contingent is still there and that is what matters. Add to that the signings of clever Portuguese left back, or midfielder, Raphael Guerreiro, Turkish wonderkid Emre Mor, the Spanish midfielder Mikel Merino, French wonderkid Ousmane Dembele and the German pressing expert Sebastian Rode and you have a rather complete team with one of the best balanced squads in Europe. Judging from their summer, it would be sensible to predict another downfall in Dortmund, but I beg to differ as their newcomers have not only looked interesting in pre-season, but seem to fit perfectly into Tuchel's system of extreme pressing. Sebastian Rode, Guerreiro and Dembele will all be pivotal for their success this time around.
The fun part with this is that I haven't even mentioned the two arguably biggest signings of the summer for Borussia Dortmund. Having lost both Gündogan and Mkhitaryan to Manchester City and United respectively, they had to bring in a skilled playmaker and a skilled winger. What wasn't obvious to most experts was that Dortmund were after their old star, the loved and hated Mario Götze. With this extremely controversial signing, Dortmund seemed to be back at their best and their team looked rather complete as Reus finally had his partner in crime back. One could only imagine the ripping into shreds we will have the fortune of watching when Reus, Götze and Aubameyang begin to link up with each other on the counters. However, this wasn't enough. André Schürrle was seen as the replacement for Mkhitaryan and Dortmund quickly swooped in and grabbed him, an extremely clever move if you ask me.
Having signed what seems like the majority of Europe's wonderkids, Borussia Dortmund have prevailed, albeit three of their biggest stars left at the end of last season. While this will hurt them, they have brought in replacements at every position and one should not forget Marc Bartra's perfect pre-season. Nobody knows exactly how they will play. Will they play with three or four at the back? How many in central midfield? Where will Götze, Guerreiro and Dembele play? I have no idea, but I will enjoy finding out.
Key player: Julian Weigl.
He's young and relatively inexperienced, but his yesterseason was too good to be ignored and with his diminutive passing from deep, Borussia's pressing and countering was even more effective. We could have chosen Marco Reus, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang or even Gonzalo Castro, but without Julian Weigl, the balance isn't right.
Surprise player: Felix Passlack.
Pulisic has already had his breakthrough, 18 year-old Felix Passlack is the next in line. The young German has almost already surpassed Piszczek at right back and that is certainly a tough task, but with his energy, defensive contribution and very neat and clever attacking passing, Borussia Dortmund have another weapon from the right flank.
Falk's prediction: 1st
Ali's prediction: 3rd
editor, co-founder and lover of most things Augustus Caesar.
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