The defending champions were due for a let down. Last Bundesliga season was unbelievably good, but playmaker Nuri Sahin left for the bright lights of Madrid (spending most of his time under the bright lights of the physio table, since he promptly got injured.) So there was some question over whether Dortmund would be a factor this season. And the Neons got off to a poor start, whereas Bayern blitzed out of the gate. Game, Set, Match?
Well, Dortmund showed that they are made of sterner stuff, despite having the youngest squad in the Bundesliga. Mario Götze has emerged as the new playmaker, and the other players have all latched onto last season’s form. Götze has stormed into the national squad, and no one even remembers Sahin anymore. The biggest change has been that center forward Robert Lewandowski has forced Lucas Barrios to the bench. The Polish striker has been a force, and Barrios returned from the Copa America injured. With Japanese star Shinji Kagawa back to his pre-injury form, Barrios hasn’t been able to break into the starting lineup. Kagawa is a typical Klopp find. He was a *decent* player in Japan, but nobody really cared about him. I think Dortmund paid about 300,000 euros for him. That’s what you pay for someone out of the 3.Liga. He fits in perfectly in Dortmund’s scheme. He can score goals, but his passing and combining with the other players make him especially valuable. Lewandowski has been a wrecking crew up front, and the Neons have been scoring like last season.
On defense, Matts Hummels and Marcel Schmelzer have emerged as two of Germany’s prime defenders, with excellent skills going forward as well. Brazilian Felipe Santana has been quite effective. The injury to excellent center back Neven Subotic has been covered adequately. “Oldtimer” Sebastian Kehl seems to be enjoying his revival as a defensive midfielder. (At only 31, Kehl and keeper Roman Weidenfeller are the oldest players on the squad!)
Under Jürgen Klopp, Dortmund has played an aggressive attacking style, and although it took a few games to get rolling, they look to be in fine form. With plenty of young talent, this team can only get better. The main problem will be fending off suitors in the January Transfer window. Although Dortmund has recovered from the financial brink of a few years ago, they don’t have the resources (yet) to offer the big contracts that some foreign clubs can. Management has indicated that stars like Götze and Hummels are “not for sale”, but let’s face it, everyone has his price.
My personal feeling is that Bayern will probably be able to hold them off and grab the title, but Dortmund appears to be well on the way of building a consistent challenger to the Bavarian giants.