2019-20 Borussia Dortmund Bundesliga preview
Background image: Marco Verch, CC BY 2.0
Bittersweet sums up Borussia Dortmund’s 2018/19 campaign. On one hand, they continued to display the bright, attractive attacking style that's thrilled the Bundesliga and Europe for the best part of this decade. On the other, the light burnt out before BVB reached their intended destination. Lucien Favre's men stumbled through a dark second half of the campaign, ultimately giving the title back to holders Bayern Munich rather than providing it with a new home after six years at the Allianz Arena.
Well, not really a new home. When you think about it, the Westfalenstadion is like a summer residence for the world's most coveted hubcap. Since 1993/94, the Bundesliga shield has spent 17 years in Munich and five in Dortmund. Over that time, only Kaiserslautern, Stuttgart and Wolfsburg, for a single season each, interrupted the hegemony.
Unhappy with losing their way, Die Borussen installed several new lights in the squad, hoping it will burn brighter and longer. Even in current market conditions, many European heavyweights can learn efficiency from Dortmund. They pulled off real coups for relatively discounted fees. The other exciting Hazard, Thorgan, signed on from Borussia Monchengladbach for €25.5 million while the more industrious Nico Schultz was also wooed in from Hoffenheim for the same amount.
Die Schwazgelben saved a half-million when they inked Julian Brandt from Bayer Leverkusen for only €25 million. La Masia product Mateo Morey arrived on a free transfer.
Paco Alcacer’s deal was made permanent with a €21 million fee. That feels dirt cheap after a 19-goal, two assist campaign. The Spaniard already has two goals this campaign, with Bayern's first DFB Pokal match and the DFB Supercup already contested.
That said, Dortmund's biggest summer transfer involved a hero’s return for Mats Hummels. The centre-half returned from Bayern for €30 million in a quintessential defensive acquisition.
Hummels arrives as Abdou Diallo’s replacement. The Frenchman sealed a €32 million exit to Paris Saint-Germain. Maximilian Philipp was sold for €20 million to Dinamo Moscow. Promising youngster Alexander Isak joined Real Sociedad for €6.5 million. Sebastian Rode also left for Eintracht Frankfurt for €4 million. The saddest farewell had to be for Shinji Kagawa’s departure to Real Zaragoza for €3 million after his second stint with the club.
Meanwhile, Jeremy Tolijan [Sassuolo], Omer Toprak [Werder Bremen], Andre Schurrle [Spartak Moscow], Felix Passlack [Fortuna Sittard] all left on loan. With a NetSpend of €56 million, BVB arguably did the best business in the Bundesliga.
With all the changes, BVB remains BVB. The core remains intact and the same philosophy guides the club.
Roman Burki kept ten league clean-sheets last season, often coming to their rescue to sugarcoat his backline's mistakes. Achraf Hakimi acted as a breath of fresh air down the wings while Manuel Akanji shone through as Favre's strongest defender. Axel Witsel’s dynamism in midfield both protecting the centre-halves and sparking counterattacks made him last season's best signing. Jadon Sancho evolved his world-class skills, contributing regularly [12G,14A] in a breakthrough season. Der BVB displayed thick skin in refusing to sell, even swaying Sancho from Manchester United’s keen interest. Finally, Marco Reus’ assuring presence always amped up that x-factor, while Paco Alcacer made Barcelona regret letting him go so cheaply.
While 2018/19 ended in disappointment, there were so many positives. Favre trusted the next generation of stars at the Westfalenstadion. With Reus finally healthy for a full season, the side had a strong, capable leader on the pitch. Dortmund became an absolute nightmare for the opposition.
Injuries and a weak defence allowed Bayern to steal back their title. Favre addressed the backline in the summer. If the DFB Super Cup victory in which they outwitted and outworked Bayern Munich proved anything, it won’t be easy to derail Favre’s juggernaut this time.
Ending Bayern's reign is the primary goal but progression deep into the Champions League is also on the cards. A strong start to the season is quintessential. Augsburg visit on Matchday One but BVB also have crunch games against Borussia Moenchengladbach, Eintracht Frankfurt and Schalke 04 in the early doors. Bayern are notoriously better in the season's second half so Favre will want his team to stake itself to another lead.
Of course, the crucial step will be not to let it erode again.