Not since the 2011-12 season has a team other than Bayern Munich managed to win the Bundesliga. But after pushing the twenty-eight-time German league champions right to the wire last season, Borussia Dortmund will be hoping they can achieve the feat they managed more than seven years ago and get their hands-on Germany’s topflight league title next season.
The Black and Yellows came ever so close to toppling the giants of German football in the 2018/19 campaign, reaching a nine-point lead at the top of the Bundesliga towards the end of the year. Dortmund even managed to pull off a huge result against the team from Bavaria, with Marco Reus’ two goals plus a winner from Paco Alcacer cancelling out Robert Lewandowski’s brace when the teams met in November at the Signal Iduna Park. This led to many believing that this would be the year that Dortmund could put a halt to Bayern’s dominance and stop them from winning their seventh consecutive league crown. The turn of the new year saw Dortmund lose that nine-point cushion, but they still looked in control at the top, with Bayern seemingly having doubts about new head coach Niko Kovac as his team looked to struggle to claw their way back into the title race. They did however manage to do so in the end, with Dortmund eventually falling short of the title after various crucial results swung the power in favour of Bayern – such as the 4-2 home loss to Schalke and the 5-0 rout at the hands of Kovac’s men in the Allianz Arena.
Dortmund may have lost in their challenge to become champions, but there is plenty of positives Lucien Favre’s men can take from his first season in charge. The difference of just two points that separated Bayern and Dortmund in the final league standings is the first time since 2013 that Bayern have failed to win the league by at least 10 points. There were also amazing performances from standout stars throughout the season, such as Marco Reus who was named player of the month 3 times and was recently named Bundesliga player of the season. English teenage sensation Jadon Sancho also enjoyed a terrific season, providing 14 assists – the most of any player in the league, whilst Spanish striker Paco Alcacer finished 2nd in the race for the gold boot with his 18 goals being bettered only by Bayern’s Robert Lewandowski. Favre and his team can certainly use this season as a platform to build on a more sustainable challenge next season.
Favre has certainly enhanced Dortmund since in his arrival in July 2018. The season just gone was a definite improvement on the disappointing 2017/18 season, in which they finished fourth and 29 points behind champions Bayern. The appointment of perfectionist Favre was an inspired choice, after the Swiss tactician guided Nice to a remarkable 3rd place finish in France. Since then Favre has made plenty of shrewd signings that have been detrimental to Dortmund’s success, such as the initial loan signing of poacher Alcacer (now completed permanent signing), as well as the deals to bring midfielders Axel Witsel and Thomas Delaney to the Signal Iduna who have been integral to the successful system implemented by Favre. The two defensive midfielders play in the middle of the park, between the lines to protect the defence and link the play. The system has also been important to the captivating form of Marco Reus, with wingers staying wide allowing playmaker Reus to work his magic in the centre with lots of creative freedom. Favre is a huge mentor to Reus, after it was at Borussia Monchengladbach back in 2009 where Favre gave Reus his breakthrough. Favre fell just short of Bayern in his first season at Dortmund but, with a few transfers and improvements in the summer, the Black and Yellows will have a better chance at capturing the title next time out. An opportunity I think they will take.
Dortmund have already made inroads in the transfer market as they plan to improve on their league position. The sale of Christian Pulisic added around €64 million to their transfer funds when the American winger signed for Chelsea in January before returning on loan despite not being a first team regular. With the help of that injection of funds from the sale, Dortmund have already put their money to good use with acquisition of three proven Bundesliga talents for just over €75 million. Nico Schulz makes the transition from Hoffenheim for €25 million after helping them reach a Champions League position as well as establishing himself as Germany’s first choice left-back. Dortmund also made the impressive signings of Julian Brandt from Bayer Leverkusen and Thorgan Hazard from Monchengladbach for a bargain price of €25 million each. Dortmund activated the release clause of 23-year old winger Brandt, who created the most amount of chances in the league last season whilst also having the third highest number of assists. The coup of Hazard, brother of Eden, was also a steal at just €25million after his impressive displays last season saw him reach double figures in both goals and assists for Gladbach whilst also having the third highest amount of take-ons completed.
With the completion of these top signings early on with the prospect of even more to come, Dortmund certainly mean business as they look to claim the Bundesliga crown. They’re building the right foundations for a solid title fight, but can the Yellow Wall go all the way and cement themselves at the top?