Borussia Dortmund: The Black and Yellows showing their bright future could be right now
Jose Mourinho said the world’s eyes would be on his Real Madrid side’s captivating win over Manchester United on Tuesday night, but that would have been a discredit to events over in Germany, where Borussia Dortmund are offering their own brand of entertainment. As Madrid battled into the quarter-finals of the Champions League at Old Trafford, Dortmund joined them with a fine display at home to Shakhtar Donetsk.
Their 44-year-old manager Jurgen Klopp, already boasting a decorated coaching reputation enough to make him an attractive proposition to the likes of Chelsea, stepped calmly into the media room after their 3-0 win and in fluent English, announced how “cool it was” to reach the last eight of UEFA’s premier competition for the first time since 1998.
A year before, they had won the trophy with the well-drilled organisation of Ottmar Hitzfeld, which suffocated Manchester United in the semi-finals and nullified Juventus’ majestic creative quality in the final; one will remember the superb job Paul Lambert did in man-marking Zinedine Zidane, but the ease with which Dortmund brushed aside Shakhtar last night will have made a case that the triumph could be repeated in Wembley this coming May.
It is a different dynamic ushered by Klopp, instead of the efficiency of Jurgen Kohler, Mathias Sammer and Martin Kree at the back and the relentless work-rate of Lambert and Andreas Moller in midfield, there is the technical brilliance of Mario Gotze and Marco Reus, the sublime passing of Ikay Gundogan, and the smart movement of Robert Lewandowski. It is a young, slick, fluid unit littered with smart technicians who are fully comfortable on the ball. Dortmund are, to use Klopp’s terminology, a “cool” side.
They were far too cool for Shakhtar, who were exploited by the movement of Gotze, who scored the second after delivering the corner for Felipe Santana’s opener, and Reus off the attacking line led by Lewandowski. The Polish striker used the freedom afforded by Klopp’s loose 4-2-3-1 to drift out to the right to provide Gotze, before Jakub Blaszczykowski, playing on the right, got in on the act to roll home a third following a spill by Andriy Pyatov in the Shakhtar goal.
The Ukrainians were dragged around the pitch by Dortmund’s 54% control of possession, and were picked off by the fluid interchange and understanding Dortmund boast in attack. The Germans had 17 shots to Shakhtar’s 12, the latter figure swelled by Mircea Lucescu’s reckless abandon of an already lost second-half. It became a rout. “I hope Dortmund reach the final as they’re a very strong side” said the Romanian coach, “I believe they deserved to go through, overall, the result correlates with what we saw on the pitch”, the assessment was not too far from the truth.
A third straight Bundesliga title will elude Dortmund this year as they lie 17 points behind league leaders Bayern Munich, despite only losing 4 times in their 24 matches, a large indication of the extent of Bayern’s unrelenting domestic dominance. Yet it has been another great campaign for Klopp and his talented squad, as they finished top of the Champions League “group of death”, outplaying Manchester City and Real Madrid in the process, and to show how dangerous their attacking quadrant can be, they have accounted for 44 of their 54 goals in the Bundesliga this season.
Marco Reus has been a revelation since his £14 million move from Monchengladbach in the summer, having scored 11 goals and providing for 8. The axis of him and Gotze is integral to Klopp’s system of high-tempo pass and move that relies heavily on the combative presence of Sebastien Kehl alongside Ilkay Gundogan, the deep midfield launch-pad who dictate play with both long and short range passing.
A narrow system in midfield allows for easier retention of the ball, while Lukasz Pisczek and Marcel Schmelzer provide the width from full-back. It is a system that is now almost second nature to Dortmund as Klopp has used it 21 times this season, and refuses to deviate from it on the continent where possession is key.
At the back, centre-halves Nevan Subotic and Mats Hummels, who missed the game with Shakhtar, are both perfectly able on the ball, in-keeping with the modern game importance of bringing the ball out on the ground. It is an exciting squad in which every player is a talented ball-player.
Sir Alex Ferguson named Dortmund as the favourites to land the competition he was eliminated from on Tuesday, the same night the German club were making a claim that the Scot maybe won’t be too far from the mark. They will face tougher propositions than Shakhtar as they progress into the latter stages of Europe’s elite competition, but their exciting band of ambitious talents, led by their vernal and amiable coach, will be primed for the tests that will follow.
It could be 1997 all over again for the Black-Yellows.