"The system will need time." That maxim has been repeated mantra -like at Borussia Dortmund since Lucien Favre (pictured above) was installed as the new head coach. After the first seven games under the Swiss coach that has been confirmed: Dortmund under Favre show enormous potential but do actually need time to perform consistently – above all when the team plays in front of their own crowd. In the DFB Cup tie at Fürth and the Champions League game in Bruges, the Black and Yellows had to wait for late goals to beat an inferior opponent on paper and in the league BVB have twice drawn in less than impressive performances away to Hanover and Hoffenheim. It is completely different at home at the Signal Iduna Park: A rousing 4-1 win against RB Leipzig in the opening match, an impressive 3-1 victory against Eintracht Frankfurt and the brilliant 7-0 success against FC Nürnberg catapulted BVB into second place in the table.
Dortmund have seen a relatively big change over after last season's less than impressive performances on the pitch: Sokratis, Sahin, Castro, Schürrle, Batshuayi, Yarmolenko, Durm, Weidenfeller – have all left. Witsel, Delaney, Alcacer, Wolf, Diallo, Hitz – have all come in. And, of course: the change of coaches. Under Lucien Favre, Borussia Dortmund not only want to play successful but also attractive football. That was really absent in the second half of last season. The Swiss coach definitely has the personnel for that in players like Marco Reus, Christian Pulisic and Shinji Kagawa. A central striker has been missing for a long time. Maximilian Philipp, who was supposed to grow into that role, has yet to score this season. Reus, who was also tried out in that position, looked out of place in the centre of the attack and the recent experiment with Marius Wolf also failed. All hopes are now on Paco Alcacer. The 24-year-old was signed just before the end of the transfer window on loan from Barcelona with an option to buy but in his first month at BVB he was often sidelined with minor injuries. In his first outing for Borussia, the Spaniard showed what he could do when he came off the bench against Frankfurt to score a goal and provide an assist with a brilliant diagonal ball. One plus for BVB for the game against Bayer 04: Central defender Abdou Diallo, signed from Mainz in the summer, is available against the Werkself. After picking up a red card against Hoffenheim, he was only suspended for the game against Nürnberg. As the former Leverkusen defender Ömer Toprak it still ruled out due to an injury, a longer suspension for Diallo would have led to a lack of options in the Dortmund central defence during this busy period of fixtures.
The personnel issues around Mario Götze are creating a big stir at Dortmund. Since his metabolic problems last season, the scorer of the winning goal in the 2014 World Cup final, has not really got going again and he is in an everything but easy position since Favre took over the helm. The 26-year-old has not played in the league yet this term and he was not even in the squad for the away game at Hoffenheim or the meeting with FC Nürnberg on Wednesday. And Julian Weigl, another former great hope and Germany international, is not up to speed again after a long-term injury and he has had to play in the reserve team in the Regional League West at times. There is no question the two players can definitely help BVB if they rediscover their previous form – in addition, the current mutterings in the media are not helpful.
The BVB squad does not have as many familiar faces as two or three years ago when Hummels, Gündogan, Mkhitaryan, Dembele and Aubameyang were playing for the Yellow and Blacks. Nevertheless, Dortmund have shown that they do not need to fear any other team in Germany when they are on song. Players like Pulisic and the 18-year-old Jadon Sancho have enormous potential and could make further progress this season – as can the central defenders Abdou Diallo and Manuel Akanji plus the midfielder Mahmoud Dahoud. Even if it could be difficult to repeat the achievements of the recent past in the Champions League, this team can continue to be confident in their ability. The first year under Favre should only be the start of a new era at Dortmund.
The start of the season made it clear: Borussia Dortmund are perhaps not consistent enough to challenge Bayern Munich for the Bundesliga title but Favre's team must be the favourites for the next spot in Champions League positions. If the young players develop quicker under the experienced coach and Alcacer provides the answer to the problems up front then nothing should stand in the way of qualifying for the Champions League again – and surprises in all three competitions cannot be ruled out.
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