In six competitive games under Thomas Tuchel, Borussia Dortmund have scored 20 and conceded three – crucially, they have won all six.
The latest, a 4-0 win over newly promoted Ingolstadt, was little more than what most expected of the German giants, but the manner of victory may mean more to Tuchel than three Bundesliga points.
After going in goalless following a frustrating first half in which they created many opportunities, Dortmund came out with similar intensity and fixed themselves into cruise control once Matthias Ginter scored a first goal in BVB colours.
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On numerous occasions last season, this same side often lost from comparable situations and Sunday’s victory is another step to vanquishing memories of a disastrous 2014/15.
They lie atop the Bundesliga for the first time in two years; the days and hours leading up to 6pm on August 31 may determine whether Dortmund could be there come May 2016.
RETENTION OF KEY PLAYERS
In many respects their transfer activity – or lack of, with regards to outgoing players – during the transfer window so far has played a pivotal part in Tuchel’s lightning start.
Those who underperformed during Jürgen Klopp’s swansong – GiveMeSport looked at one of those, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, last week – have shone under the new manager when they could so easily have moved away from Signal Iduna Park.
İlkay Gündoğan and Mats Hummels, both heavily linked to Manchester United, look revitalised under Tuchel. The latter admitted to comfort eating during their disastrous Hinrunde that led to weight issues, but the 26-year-old is returning to his best.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, reportedly courted by Arsenal throughout the summer, is relishing a lone strike role while Marco Reus opted to renew his current contract in February instead of moving on.
This pales in comparison to previous seasons when BVB lost influential players four years on the bounce in Robert Lewandowski, Mario Götze, Shinji Kagawa and Nuri Sahin – the latter two have since returned.
It is highly unlikely anyone else will leave at this stage and Tuchel’s appointment has generated enough enthusiasm to guard against any departures.
FORWARD DEPTH REQUIRED FOR TITLE PUSH
But despite retaining key players, Dortmund require additional firepower if they are to mount an unlikely challenge to Bayern’s crown.
Gabon international Aubameyang leads Dortmund’s attacking quintet and will remain the number one striker but manager Tuchel lacks options beyond the pacy striker, not helped by Ciro Immobile’s crumbling reputation and subsequent loan move to Sevilla.
Had the Italian striker developed as many hoped in Westphalia, Tuchel would have a third striking option alongside Adrian Ramos. But the €19.4m move from Torino turned sour as Immobile netted just three times in the Bundesliga before moving over to Spain amid rumours of a rift, leaving the striker cut off from the squad.
Ramos had an equally disappointing return, netting just two League goals from 18 appearances.
The prudence of German clubs in the transfer window leaves a last minute addition as an improbable prospect. Big money moves are uncommon at the best of times, not least when selling clubs tend to raise their prices towards the end of a transfer window.
Reus can play as the furthest forward if required and Tuchel is lucky in having an attacking midfield full of creativity and goals at his disposal.
But should Aubameyang get injured or when he is inevitably rested with a Europa League campaign to contend with, is there a Plan B? Ramos offers a chance of a physical approach though looks out of his depth at Dortmund’s level.
The next week could define Dortmund’s year and they ought to be brave. Another striker could give them an eminently possible chance of hoisting Bayern off their perch. Whether they chase a potentially season-defining striker remains to be seen.
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