Jurgen Klopp had seven unbelievably successful seasons here. We will now try to create a new chapter at a high level. Klopp created a great foundation. We must build on that. This, taken from Thomas Tuchel’s first press conference as Borussia Dortmund manager in June, is textbook spiel. Nine months on, the quotes have more substance.
Tuchel has taken on one of football’s toughest successor jobs, used Klopp’s superb foundation, and made enough subtle changes in a short space of time to make Dortmund a force again.
Their current position is a familiar one. They sit second in the Bundesliga, five points behind Bayern Munich with nine games remaining having held them to a 0-0 draw at home on Saturday, and on Thursday they host Tottenham in the Europa League last 16 first leg.
But since incessant talk surrounding Pep Guardiola’s future was settled on February 2, the Bundesliga title-race has been blown wide open. Bayern have slowed down, a trait not peculiar to Guardiola’s reign in Germany in the latter stages of a season, dropping seven points in six games having surrendered just five in their previous 19.
A second-gear Bayern from January onwards has made no difference to the title’s destination in the previous two seasons. But Tuchel’s Dortmund are convincing many in Germany that the gap can be narrowed to set up a much-needed tense finale, one not seen in the Bundesliga since 2010/11.
Why are they convinced? Because Dortmund are not merely riding a wave of form. By bravely building on Klopp’s foundation but keeping much of the same playing personnel, Tuchel now has a robust side capable of mixing it with Europe’s finest once more.
They have 58 points from 25 games, a tally they have matched only once in Bundesliga history, in their title-winning campaign of 2010/11.
Tactically, Tuchel has Dortmund pressing at every opportunity still, but with the aim of stabilising the game rather than being the focal point of attack a la Klopp. They run less, pass far more, and use the wide channels as an attacking outlet rather than stifling the central areas.