The 2019-20 season started well for Borussia Dortmund. They not only managed to strengthen their squad by acquiring Mats Hummels, Julian Brandt, Thorgan Hazard, and Nico Schulz but they also beat Bayern Munich in the Super Cup. Following that, the Black-and-Yellows recorded victories against Uerdingen in the DFB Pokal and Augsburg and Cologne in league play. It was the start the BVB were hoping for, strengthening preseason talk of this being the season in which BVB lift the Meisterschale for the first time since 2012.
But then the first obstacle arose when Lucien Favre’s team lost 3-1 at Union Berlin. It was a game that indicated the multitude of problems present in the team. A couple of draws and inconsistent results followed, putting BVB’s title credentials under serious doubt.
Of the problems at the club, the most-striking were defensive issues. The team was struggling to keep clean sheets and see out games. While Manuel Akanji was the one blamed by the majority of spectators, the whole defensive unit was shaky. Fullbacks Raphaël Guerreiro and especially Achraf Hakimi, while great at going forward, were time and again caught out of position leaving the center backs exposed. It was then that Favre decided to change his backline to a back three, and we started to witness some change in that area.
Despite the positive effect that change in formation has brought to the team, there were still individual mistakes that cost the team. The 3-3 draw against RB Leipzig and 4-3 loss at Leverkusen were prime examples of how the team was struggling to hang on to leads.
Despite the aforementioned problems, there were plenty of great individual performances that made BVB fans excited. The amazing form of Jadon Sancho and Julian Brandt’s excellence in a deeper role alongside Axel Witsel were things to be optimistic about. Indeed the team managed to string together some amazing home performances in the league.
In what was regarded as the team’s best January transfer window, BVB managed to acquire highly-rated teenage striker Erling Haaland and midfielder Emre Can, who brought experience and maturity to the team. The two players have had a positive impact since their introduction. Gio Reyna is also another exciting talent that has been getting minutes in the second half of the season and has been impressive.
After back-to-back losses to Werder Bremen and Bayer Leverkusen, BVB have put on three amazing performances. They dominated Eintracht Frankfurt at home and won 4-0. That was followed by an amazing showing against Paris St. Germain in the first leg of the final-16 tie in the Champions League. On Saturday, the Black-and-Yellows managed to put their underwhelming away performance aside to beat Werder Bremen 2-0.
With Witsel and Can forming a great partnership in midfield, which is also providing adequate cover for the backline, BVB have looked sharp in defense in recent games. Given that this aspect of their game has been their weak spot throughout the season, the current improvement is vital in their push towards the top of the league. Haaland just keeps on scoring and now has nine goals in the league while Sancho is providing the creative spark BVB are thriving off of. The young Englishman has 13 league goals and 14 assists. Hakimi also managed to get his assist numbers into double digits with ten.
Generally, it has been an encouraging performance from Favre’s side in the last couple of games. As always, the question is whether they will keep this form and deliver in the big and decisive games. With their current setup, BVB are more than capable of challenging anyone, and the optimism that was felt at the start of the season can bear fruit if consistency is achieved.
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