Thomas Tuchel couldn’t have had a bigger task than following the charismatic and fan favorite Jürgen Klopp as Borussia Dortmund manager. But that didn’t seem to trouble the former Mainz man one as he started his career at BVB with 11 wins from his first 11 games. Not only that but he also managed to challenge Pep Guardiola’s Bayern throughout the season with the Bavarians having to wait until Match Day 33 to lift the trophy with only one game to spare. His quest for silverware was tragically ended at the Anfield, ironically by Klopp and he lost the DFB Pokal title to Bayern on penalties after a spirited performance from his side in Berlin. His first season was a success and it could have even been better.
But the first real problem for Tuchel started off the pitch. The much dreaded transfer window arrived and took Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Ilkay Gündogan and Mats Hummels, three of Tuchel’s key players, with it. Back to square one! The squad had to be rebuilt and Sporting Director Michael Zorc didn’t disappoint. Seven new signings were made. Two of the incoming yellow-blacks were World Cup winners. Mario ‘The Prodigal Son’ Götze and Andre Schürrle. Euro 2016 winner Raphael Guerriero, former Barcelona man Marc Bartra, Bayern forgotten man Sebastian Rode and exciting young talents Ousmane Dembele, Emre Mor and Mikel Merino rounded out the group of talented newcomers joining BvB last summer.
The thought behind these signings was to build a squad that would challenge for a title, not now but in the long run. A team of young players assembled who would want to stay in Dortmund and give their best for the team, grow together as a successful unit and not run away at the first sight of a big move. Tuchel and his team would’ve been excused for an underwhelming Hinrunde after the major overhaul and the long list of unfortunate injuries to key players the team had to endure, but that was not the reality. Modern football’s obsession with immediate success was hard on the made-over team, who were 6th in the league during the winter break.
The rotation system which was working perfectly during Tuchel’s first season started backfiring in the second. Inconsistency was the hallmark of much of the season. A team that managed to go toe to toe against Madrid at the Santiago Bernabéu or who beat Bayern at the Allianz Arena was losing to bottom club Darmstadt and drawing to Ingolstadt.
All of these factors put pressure on Tuchel. Question arose concerning his abilities to build a squad less reliant on the talent molded by his predecessor. ESPN FC’s pundit Craig Burley labelled Tuchel as a so-called great coach whose greatness he hasn’t seen yet — a criticism that epitomizes the hasty, harsh and sometimes boorish nature of today’s football as a media-driven business buoyed by the constant stream of opinion by talking heads, but also emphasizes a simple question — where are the trophies Tuchel has won?
Fast forward to March and BVB are flying high again. After a remarkable performance against Benfica on Wednesday the team is now in the quarterfinals of the Champions League. They are 3rd in the league and are looking to face Bayern in the semifinals of the DFB Pokal, assuming Tuchel’s boys can get by Sportfreunde Lotte in their weather-postponed Round of 16 Pokal matchup. Exciting football and positive results are back in Dortmund at the right moment of the season.
And with success comes another worry. Just when things look bright again there is always that fear of losing key figures of the team. This time it’s the manager. Tuchel has been linked with the Arsenal and Barcelona jobs over the past few weeks. The 43 year-old who still has a year left on his contract wasn’t willing to comment on any of the speculations but it wouldn’t be a surprise if he walks away in the summer.
Tuchel is one of the best tacticians in the game but a move abroad at this stage might come too soon for the young manager. I’m hopeful one day he will join the group of elite mangers and be as successful as his best buddy and inspiration Pep Guardiola but this stage of his career might not be the right moment to go abroad. Tuchel needs BVB as much as they need him. There is still unfinished business in Dortmund with the current squad yet to fulfill it’s potential and Tuchel yet to win a major trophy.
The right time to move may come in two or three years after a bag of experience. and some new silverware in Dortmund’s trophy case. But for now Tuchel is the right man for Dortmund and Dortmund the right club for him to keep growing as a manager.
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