After a tough 2014-15, Borussia Dortmund looked back to their ominous best in their Bundesliga opener against Borussia Mönchengladbach yesterday, winning 4-0 to start the new campaign with a bang in front of a sell out Signal Iduna Park crowd.
Thomas Tuchel may well have taken over at the Ruhr Valley outfit from long-serving trainer Jürgen Klopp, but the bulk of the Dortmund squad remains the same as the contingent from last term – largely due to their top players committing to the club.
Although Mönchengladbach were a yard or two off the pace and a fraction of the side that overachieved last term to qualify for the Champions League, the hosts were impressive in victory.
It was an excellent all-round team performance, but three individual player performances stood out to suggest that Dortmund are on the right track to power their way back amongst German and European football’s elite.
Aubameyang thriving in number nine role
Ever since the departure of Robert Lewandowski to Bayern Munich, there has been the feeling of a void in the Dortmund attack.
Players like Adrián Ramos and Ciro Immobile were signed to take the Pole’s place but have ultimately failed to live up to the hype and as such Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has made the striker’s position his own.
The Gabon international is versatile enough to play in a number of positions but thrived on the right flank in his first season with the German club.
Moving into a central role took time to adjust to last term, but the African forward was a rare bright spark in an otherwise forgettable campaign and ended 2014-15 with 16 Bundesliga strikes.
Against Mönchengladbach, Aubameyang’s pace was too much for the visitors to handle, while his movement off the ball was highly impressive.
He took his goal superbly with a towering header, while his link-up play with his fellow Dortmund attackers was a joy to watch.
Although a different type of striker to Lewandowski, Aubameyang has all the attributes to be one of Europe’s most feared centre forwards, with Dortmund now having a number nine worthy of replacing the Pole.
Weigl fits into midfield seamlessly on Bundesliga debut
Of the starting XI that took the field for Dortmund, ten were players with international caps to their name, while one had never played in the German top flight before; picking the odd man out would have been a tough task due to Julian Weigl’s impressive debut.
The 19-year-old prodigy signed for the Signal Iduna Park outfit from second-tier 1860 Munich over the summer and was somewhat surprisingly selected ahead of Sven Bender in Tuchel’s side.
However, alongside İlkay Gündoğan, the young German looked assured and confident in a Dortmund midfield that consistently won the 50-50 collisions against their opposite numbers.
The men in yellow and black have unearthed superb central midfielders Gündoğan and Nuri Şahin over recent years, plucking them from relative obscurity and turning them into international stars.
Weigl’s composed performance is a real bonus for the side and gives Tuchel an extra option; it appears Dortmund have another star of tomorrow ready to flourish in the big time.
Mkhitaryan amongst the goals
The season before joining Dortmund, Armenian star Henrikh Mkhitaryan netted an incredible 25 goals from midfield for Shakhtar Donetsk; the German club thought his introduction would add a real attacking threat from deep.
However, despite netting nine times in his first season in the Bundesliga, the 26-year-old went off the boil last term and was distinctly low in confidence in front of goal – only finding the net three times.
Although both of the eastern European’s strikes yesterday were gilt-edged chances created by others, the fact that Mkhitaryan netted a brace is a promising feature of Dortmund’s win.
If the Signal Iduna Park club can help the playmaker re-find his lethal touch in front of goal this term, alongside Reus and Aubameyang, Dortmund’s attack will take some stopping.