The first half of the 2018-19 campaign was the most fun I’ve ever had watching Borussia Dortmund. The Black and Yellows were flying high in the Bundesliga and went undefeated until the end of December, while only losing 1 Champions League game in that time. New signings Paco Alcacer, Thomas Delaney, Axel Witsel and Achraf Hakimi were all looking bright, while players like Marco Reus and Jadon Sancho were in the form of their lives. At Christmas, Borussia Dortmund were eight points ahead of Bayern Munich, who were struggling to adapt to Niko Kovac’s management at the time. But in the second half of the season, it all capitulated for Borussia Dortmund and they were finally overtaken at the top of the table following a disappointing 5-0 defeat to Bayern in April. After that, a loss to Schalke and a massive slip-up at Werder Bremen meant that the Bundesliga title would go to the club from Bavaria for the seventh straight time, with Dortmund fans left saying “there’s always next year.” Despite the disappointment, this was a phenomenal season for Borussia Dortmund and one that will always be remembered. Here is The Mastermind‘s season in review for Borussia Dortmund.
SEASON REVIEWEmbed from Getty Images
After the appointment of Lucien Favre in May and the club’s fantastic achievements in the summer transfer window, Borussia Dortmund’s season got off to a flying start. Lucien Favre had perfected the 4-2-3-1 and had the perfect mix of players all over the pitch to make the formation work. A 4-1 win to start the campaign against RB Lepizig and a socking 7-0 thrashing of Nuremburg meant that Dortmund were able to start the season off in the right way, but nobody expected them to keep on going the way they did. Dortmund came from behind on several occasions to beat Leverkusen, Augsburg and later, in one of the best games I’ve ever seen, coming from 2-0 down to beat Bayern Munich 3-2 in Der Klassiker. Sancho was beginning to establish himself as a world-beater, Delaney and Witsel were looking like the best midfield duo in the league and Reus was leading the league in goals + assists. If things weren’t going their way, Favre had one of the most talented goal-scorers on the planet in Paco Alcacer, who could come off the bench and make a difference. Before Christmas had even hit, Alcacer had already broken records for most goals from substitute appearances in a single Bundesliga campaign, with 12 goals from 11 appearances, 11 of which came from off the bench. Other highlights from the beginning months of the season included a phenomenal performance and 4-0 win against Atletico Madrid in the UEFA Champions, a 4-0 win over Stuttgart and an incredibly hard-fought 2-1 victory over Schalke 04 in December. After a fantastic 2-1 win over Monchengladbach and back to back victories over RB Lepzig and Hannover 96 to start the second half of the season, the title appeared to be in Dortmund’s hands. But then it all fell apart.
The first time that Dortmund fans began to worry was in a 1-1 draw against Eintracht Frankfurt, a game Die Schwarzgelben should have won. Although Franfkurt were resilient in defense, Reus missed two-clear cut chances and the points were shared. Following that, Reus went off injured at half time in a cup game against Werder Bremen and the team capitulated, losing on penalties. All seemed to be back under control in the next game against Hoffenheim, until Borussia Dortmund devastatingly blew a 3-0 lead to lose the game 3-3. This for me, was the moment Borussia Dortmund lost the title. The two back-to-back draws meant Bayern Munich were back in the hunt and Dortmund’s confidence was ruined. They lacked ideas and energy in a 0-0 draw at Nuremburg, crashed out of the UEFA Champions League against Tottenham and then fell to a 2-1 defeat at the hands of Augsburg. From there, they bounced back with the return of Reus and the resurgence of form of Mario Gotze. A last minute winner against Hertha Berlin kept Dortmund in the chase and three consecutive wins meant it was going to come down to whoever won Der Klassiker. Unfortunately, Dortmund’s inexperience shone through with mistake after mistake at both ends of the pitch, and their former captain Mats Hummels came back to haunt Lucien Favre’s side. Dortmund recovered well with two wins on the spin against Mainz and Freiburg but then it all went from bad to worse in their 4-2 loss to arch-rivals Schalke.
Dortmund never let their confidence hit rock-bottom, but horrible mistakes from Akanji and Burki in the subsequent 2-2 draw with Werder Bremen meant Dortmund would likely lose the title. Der BVB were excellent in their final two matches, with Jadon Sancho’s talent on full display, but Favre’s side would have to settle for second place as Bayern thumped Frankfurt on the final day of the season, meaning they’d finish second with 76 points, two points behind Niko Kovac’s side.
THE PLAYERS WHO MADE THIS SEASON SPECIALEmbed from Getty Images
Many outsiders are looking at the current situation as Dortmund “bottling it”. In truth, this was Borussia Dortmund’s very best season since the Jurgen Klopp era came to an end. Lucien Favre was never expected to win the Bundesliga title in his first season in charge of BVB and nearly accomplished the most incredible of feats with this young, energetic Borussia Dortmund side. Favre, Watzke and co., gamed the transfer market like no other club in world football, signing Thomas Delaney, Axel Witsel and Abdou Diallo for relatively cheap, and securing loans of Paco Alcacer and Achraf Hakimi from two of the top sides in world football, FC Barcelona and Real Madrid. All five players transitioned into Dortmund’s starting 11 seamlessly. Delaney and Witsel formed a formidable partnership in midfield that would be unrivaled in the league, while Diallo proved a useful option at both left-back and centre-back. Hakimi was one of Dortmund’s standout players in the first half of the season and they missed him dearly in the final few months with his broken metatarsal; while Paco Alcacer broke all kinds of substitute scoring records, on his way to bulging the back of the net 18 times in 26 appearances. Only Lewandowski scored more in the Bundesliga this season, with 22. But Alcacer’s goal record is even more impressive considering he played almost 2,000 minutes less than Lewandowski and even broke Gerd Muller’s long-standing record for minutes per goal in a Bundesliga season.
But it wasn’t just the new signings that helped to transform Borussia Dortmund this season. Every single player had an improved campaign from the last time out with Peter Stoger and Peter Bosz. Marco Reus had arguably his best season ever and remained fit for the entire campaign for the first time since 2013-14. The captain scored 17 goals with 8 assists in 27 appearances and was at the heart of everything good Dortmund created all season long. Jadon Sancho was the standout star of the squad despite being only eighteen years old for the majority of the season, and was the only BVB player to play all 34 Bundesliga matches, leading the league with 14 assists. Manuel Akanji, Roman Burki, Raphael Guerreiro, Dan-Axel Zagadou and Jacob Bruun Larsen all improved and had stellar campaigns and Lukasz Pisczcek arguably looked like the best right-fullback in world football for the first half of the 2018-19 season. Every single player stepped up to the plate and made this a fantastic season for the club. Although it’s a shame Dortmund couldn’t win the Bundesliga title, this season will be one to remember.
3 KEY PLAYERSEmbed from Getty Images
Nearly every Dortmund player deserves a mention for their performances this season. Mario Gotze had the best season he’s had since returning to Signal Iduna Park, Axel Witsel solidified his reputation as one of the best central midfielders in world football and loanees Achraf Hakimi and Paco Alcacer seamlessly transitioned into Favre’s system from two of the best clubs in the world. But these three are The Mastermind‘s players of the season from Borussia Dortmund.
3. Thomas DelaneyEmbed from Getty Images
When Borussia Dortmund signed Thomas Delaney, I questioned whether it was the kind of move that could take Der BVB to the top of the table. As it turns out, Thomas Delaney was one of Dortmund’s key figures as they spent the majority of the season at the summit of the table. His box-to-box, hard-man style of play complimented pass-master Axel Witsel so well in midfield and he linked up brilliantly with whomever it was that played alongside him on the left, improving an area that had always been a problem for Borussia Dortmund since the days of Sebastian Kehl and Marcel Schmelzer. An interesting mix of aggression and fight with grace and elegance in possession, Thomas Delaney could be seen every single game making important contributions in both attack and defense. The Danish midfielder surprisingly scored 3 goals with 5 assists, while doing his dirty work with 69 tackles and 57 interceptions in 30 Bundesliga appearances. Thomas Delaney was absolutely immense for Borussia Dortmund this season and his dominance in Dortmund’s midfield could continue for another four or five years, alongside Axel Witsel who still has a couple more good years left in him as well.
2. Marco Reus
Marco Reus had arguably his best ever season at Borussia Dortmund and it nearly culminated in the club he loves so much almost winning the Bundesliga title. With 17 goals and 8 assists in 27 Bundesliga appearances, Reus was nearly unstoppable in 2018-19 and played such an important role in Favre’s 4-2-3-1. Whenever he was away to injury or suspension, Dortmund missed him deeply and failed to pick up points. Even when he didn’t score or assist, the club captain never had a bad game and always made a difference on the field. His link up play with Jadon Sancho, Raphael Guerreiro, Mario Gotze and Paco Alcacer was some of the best football we’ve ever seen at Signal Iduna Park and brings so much hope and promise for the future of this club. Marco Reus is still only 29-years old and coming off of this season has re-established himself as one of the very, very best footballers in the world.
1. Jadon SanchoEmbed from Getty Images
What more can be said about Jadon Sancho that hasn’t already been said? The 19-year old Englishman could seriously be a future best player in the world, Ballon d’Or winner. So talented with the ball at his feet, Sancho reminded so many Dortmund fans of one-season-wonder Ousmane Dembele, but achieved even more remarkable feats than the Frenchman. Playing at eighteen years old at one of the best clubs in the world, swapping flank to flank game by game, is not easy. But Sancho was the only Dortmund player to feature in all 34 Bundesliga matches and led Europe’s top five leagues in assists per game, with 14 in 34 appearances. As if his assists weren’t enough, Sancho was the star man of the season, leading Dortmund to several victories including a crucial 2-1 win over Schalke, and scored 12 goals. He also led the league in successful take-on’s, with 112, by quite some margin. This was unsurprising given that every time he had the ball at his feet he was either bamboozling defenders, winning fouls or providing assists. Sancho’s incredible form earned him a couple of call-ups to Gareth Southgate’s England and with his performances for his nation, the future certainly looks bright for Jadon Sancho and wherever he wants to go next. He appears to be staying at Dortmund next season but if he continues to play like this, Dortmund will certainly support one of the most talented youngsters we’ve ever seen come through the ranks here. Jadon Sancho is without a doubt Borussia Dortmund’s player of the season and just might pick up the award for Best Player in Germany as well.
CONCLUSIONEmbed from Getty Images
Although the season ultimately ended in disappointment, Borussia Dortmund had one of their best and most memorable seasons ever. The players were all fantastic and truthfully, every single player played their part in this title chase. If a few strange things had just gone their way, Dortmund would certainly be champions of this fantastic 2018-19 campaign. Marco Reus, Jadon Sancho, Thomas Delaney, Axel Witsel and Paco Alcacer are just a few of the names fans will remember from this fantastic season, but the club as a whole, including manager Lucien Favre were absolutely impeccable all season long. We didn’t win the title, but it was an amazing season for Borussia Dortmund and certainly one to remember forever.
Thanks for reading and see you soon!