I have just returned from my summer holidays, where I had a lovely respite from footie. However, here we are with the season two weeks deep and I am behind. But I am afforded the luxury of making my tactical analysis on two games rather than one, which can be useful.
I decided to spend the first two weeks on BVB’s road and home opener. I was excited to see a few things from these encounters: 1) Rene Adler (injured); 2) Renato(disappointing); 3) Subotic; and 4) Jurgen’s impact(troubles ahead). Of those four things, the only one that panned out was Subotic. What I should have been excited about, other than the man of a thousand nationalities, was Kuba, Kuba and Kuba.
But make no mistake about it, Dortmund are back and on the verge of something great. It might be next year before they crack the top three, but I am convinced that depth is the only thing holding them back from competing with Werder, Schalke and Bayern.
It’s funny that they allowed 3 goals in two games, and yet I found that I have rarely been as impressed with a defense as I was with theirs. But let’s note that this is the youngest defense I have ever seen at this level. Combine the age of all four of their back line and they are still younger than most defenders at AC Milan. Their defense consists of a central pairing of two teenagers, Hummels and Subotic, a 20 year-old left back, Schmelzer, who replaces an icon and a suddenly old right back in 24 year-old Rukavina. And it’s working. Nobody should be able to build their spine around two 19 year olds, but it is just the thing that Klopp has done. And it’s brilliant. Subotic is already looking like the best defender in the Bundesliga. He makes good decisions, carries the ball out well, is willing to get stuck in and is very mature. It’s funny watching the difference between the aged superstar Lucio, who seems to be in a constant state of angered frantic defending and the kid who is a beacon of tranquility. Hummels is looking like the second best, and has phenomenal organizing skills and positional awareness. They are prone to lapses in judgment, such as when they were caught flat-footed on Bayern’s goal, but that is an age thing. If they are this sound at 19, when they hit 24 they are going to be world-beaters.
Let’s give credit to Sebastian Kehl for this too. His tenacious work in front of them provides them with sterling cover. In addition it allows Hajnal the freedom to do whatever he pleases.
When Liverpool was rumored to be after Kuba, my first instinct was “why?” He had a pretty dicey first year, but obviously he has settled. He has been the most impressive player in the league in the first two weeks of the season. He tore apart both Bayer and Bayern, creating two goals, infinitely more chances and scoring one. He has pace, and can thread a cross. He’s working sublimely with Nelson Valdez, who himself seems to be finally settled in Germany, and he and Hajnal are already starting to gel, which is a great sign. In addition, Kuba is a terrific defender. He really helps to keep Dortmund’s left side safe, and most attacks by Bayer and Bayern came down the right channel, especially as games wore on.
With Valdez looking the part, the question becomes who can partner him. With Mladen Petric off to Hamburg, Dortmund are hoping that Klopp can replicate his magic and turn Zidan into a competent forward like he did at Mainz. Klimowicz is a supersub and showed his limitations as a starter in the opening game of the season. Frei’s return will be a boon. There seems to be both potential weakness and strength in their forward line, so time will prove which it will be. I personally think Valdez is going to finally live up to expectations.
A reasonable expectation out of the first two games (considering they hadn’t won an opening match since Reagan was in office) would have been 1 point. The fact that they have four after two tough games puts them in a sound position. They need to learn to close out a game better, as they have allowed late goals in both games. Also we will need to see how they respond to a deficit.
I ranked BVB mid-table, as I felt that they would improve over last season, but Klopp would need some time to build a cohesive unit. He seems to have done that already. It’s too early to pass judgment, but from what I have seen, they are strong enough to actually contend for Europe this year. To make a leap beyond, they will need a keeper and an improvement on Kruska on the left. Otherwise some depth to allow them to cope and they are a side of immense potential. After doing everything I could to avoid their games last year, I am looking forward to watching them this repeatedly year.
It looks like the dark days for BVB are over. I hope this isn’t a false dawn.