Dortmund Rebooted: Will summer signings be final pieces to Bundesliga title puzzle?

Gabriel Tan Gabriel Tan

FOX Sports Asia football editor Gabriel Tan assesses if Borussia Dortmund’s four summer arrivals will be the final pieces to the puzzle in their bid to win the Bundesliga.

They came so close to ending a seven-year wait to win the Bundesliga last season, holding a nine-point lead at one stage and – even after relinquishing that advantage – battling it out with eventual champions Bayern Munich until the final day.

And having come so close, the target for Borussia Dortmund in the 2019/20 season has to be getting their hands on the Meisterschale.

DFL Supercup Highlights – Borussia Dortmund vs FC Bayern Munchen

Never mind the fact that Bayern – on paper at least – still have the strongest team in the entire competition and are widely regarded as German football’s dominant side by quite a fair margin.

Last term, Dortmund proved that they gap is slowly but surely closing and, this year, they could be even nearer to matching their title rivals – especially having beaten them 2-0 a fortnight ago to claim the DFL-Supercup.

Already boasting the likes of Marco Reus, Jadon Sancho and Paco Alcacer, Dortmund’s savvy recruiting over the summer has seen them strengthen all over the park with four big-name arrivals.

Here, FOX Sports Asia takes a closer look at three new faces, and one not so new, that could be the final pieces to BVB’s puzzle.

JULIAN BRANDT

 

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After a slow start to his 2018/19 campaign, Julian Brandt really came to the fore for Bayer Leverkusen following the winter break as he was fielded by Peter Bosz in a new central midfield position.

Despite being deployed further away from goal, the 23-year-old actually increased his output and finished the league campaign with seven goals and 11 assists.

Although he was linked to a host of clubs, including European champions Liverpool, Dortmund moved to quickest to activate his rumoured release clause of €25million.

With BVB coach Lucien Favre favouring a 4-2-3-1 formation, the engine room duo of Axel Witsel and Thomas Delaney largely focused on winning possession and controlling the tempo before allowing the likes of Reus and Sancho to do the damage in the attacking third.

Brandt could yet be tasked to occupy one of the three offensive options behind the main striker, but Favre now has the option of a more creative outlet in the heart of midfield.

NICO SCHULZ

 

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With over 350 appearances for Dortmund, Marcel Schmelzer has been a loyal servant at the club but he is now entering the twilight years of what has been a decorated career that reaped two Bundesliga titles.

Raphael Guerreiro and Achraf Hakimi have both provided competition for the left-back spot, but the former has contributed more playing further forward while the latter looks set to be deployed on the right.

All of that makes the capture of Nico Schulz from Hoffenheim arguably the shrewdest piece of business BVB have done in the off-season.

Defensively sound yet comfortable on the ball, Schulz was one of the Bundesliga’s most-consistent left-backs in his two years with Hoffenheim and should immediately slot into the starting XI.

MATS HUMMELS

 

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A player that needs no introduction at the Signal Iduna Park, Mats Hummels returns following a three-year stint with Bayern after being displaced by Niklas Sule as the champions’ first-choice centre-back but still with plenty to offer at the age of 30.

A key member of the team that won back-to-back titles under Jurgen Klopp, Hummels – at his peak – was one of the best defenders in the world and returns with the added incentive of having something to prove, following a disappointing 12 months that began with Germany’s shock group-stage exit at the 2018 FIFA World Cup.

Dortmund’s biggest shortcoming last season was arguably in defence with Manuel Akanji having to fill in all across the backline, Julian Weigl being used as an auxiliary centre-back, while precocious talent Dan-Axel Zagadou’s lack of experience was exposed in the big matches.

Hummels’ experience should provide a steadying influence in a talented but raw team, and it would be quite the fairytale if his homecoming coincided with a title triumph.

THORGAN HAZARD

 

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when you score your first goal for @bvb09 ⚫💛😁

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It is one thing to poach the best player from one of your rivals, but it’s another thing completely to get the deal done for a relatively modest fee of €25.5m.

And what Dortmund did to Leverkusen with Brandt, they also did to Borussia Monchengladbach with Thorgan Hazard.

Since moving to the Germany in 2014, Hazard has established himself as one of the Bundesliga’s livewires and finished last season with ten goals and ten assists.

Left wing was a tricky position for Favre in 2018/19 and it was the aforementioned Guerreiro – naturally a defender – who played out the campaign in the role, after youngster Jacob Bruun Larsen had initially been given a chance to showcase his abilities.

There are few greater masterstrokes than signing one of the league’s top players to address a problematic position.

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