For six consecutive seasons, Germany has seen Bayern Munich win the Bundesliga, often without breaking a sweat. They even defeated Borussia Dortmund 2-1 in the 2012/13 Champions League final to further establish themselves as the nation’s football superpower.
Since winning the league in 2010/11 and 2011/12 with Robert Lewandowski and Shinji Kagawa emerging as star players as 22-year-olds, Borussia Dortmund have gone dormant. But, ten games into the 2018/19 Bundesliga, Borussia Dortmund stood atop the table with seven wins, three draws, a mighty 30 goals for, and only ten goals against. Putting in traditionally Bayern Munich-like performances, BVB have become a go-to team for the daily football predictions.
With a four-point cushion over the reigning champions, what has caused this shift back to Borussia Dortmund, and is it sustainable for the duration of the campaign?
Defence wins titles
Bayern Munich’s greatest asset over their ongoing dynasty in Germany has been their defence. With Manuel Neuer in goal, the current batch of Joshua Kimmich, David Alaba, Niklas Sule, Mats Hummels, and Jerome Boateng hold the fine tradition of having one of the best defences in Europe. Having Javi Martinez sitting in front also helps the stability of the group. In fact, in 2017/18, only VfB Stuttgart, Paris Saint-Germain, and Eintracht Frankfurt were able to score more than two goals against the Bavarians, with the team conceding only one goal every two games in 2015/16 according to Bundesliga.com.
Ten games into the 2018/19 season, the most goals that any of the top four clubs had conceded was 12 by Borussia Monchengladbach, followed by Bayern Munich with 11 against, Borussia Dortmund on ten conceded, and RB Leipzig holding their opponents to just nine goals. While fans attend games to see goals, it’s the defences which mark the difference of a legitimate title contender. In match previews, it can be seen that Borussia Dortmund are now being seen as a team that are very hard to score against despite their exciting set of attackers, with their young defensive corps that includes Manuel Akanji, Dan-Axel Zagadou, Abdou Diallo, the on-loan Achraf Hakimi, and Raphael Guerreiro.
BVB’s attack is the envy of Germany
While Bayern Munich’s ageing attack has scrapped its way to 18 goals in ten games, Borussia Dortmund’s young guns have put up 30 goals in ten games, only being shut out on one occasion in the opening ten games of 2018/19. One of their best investments to enhance their attack has been Axel Witsel. As reported by Goal, Belgium head coach Roberto Martinez says that the club deserves “tremendous recognition” for signing the midfield maestro. The central midfielder’s ability to transition his team from defence to offence is incredible, and while he only has three goals through 15 games, his impact has been huge.
Another shift which has greatly benefitted the team as a whole and the player at hand is the seemingly permanent move of Marco Reus to attacking midfield from his traditional place on the wing. Over the past few years, Reus has been recognised as a top-class player held back by multiple long-term and niggling injuries. At this point in the season, it appears as though the less explosive role in the middle of the park suits his body better, with his stat line of nine goals and seven assists in 15 games further solidifying that point.
Both 29 years old, Witsel and Reus make up some of the older outfielders of BVB, with young players like Jadon Sancho, Christian Pulisic, Jacob Bruun Larsen, Mahmoud Dahoud, Maximilian Philipp, and the defenders mentioned earlier all coming in at 24 years old or younger, and playing very exciting football. It’s because of this mix of top players in their prime, as well as incredibly gifted young players, that Betway has seen Borussia Dortmund soar into 11/4 to close the gap on the 2/7 Bayern Munich to win the Bundesliga, as of the 6th of November. Better still, Mario Gotze has appeared to discover his former BVB form from before he moved to the reigning champions and returned, and there’s still the experienced Japanese playmaker Shinji Kagawa to fully recover from his ankle injury.
Bayern Munich rebuilding too slowly
While Borussia Dortmund are enjoying the fruits of their latest youth movement, Bayern Munich have seen many of their already small batch of younger players come down with injuries. With nine of their 19 senior outfielders aged 29 or over and only five under 24, per One Football, it’s clear that the Bayern Munich dynasty is starting to age out the picture. To make matters worse, younger stars in Kingsley Coman and Corentin Tolisso have both suffered long-term injuries.
The Bundesliga-winning crop of Bayern Munich stars is ageing, and the young guns of Borussia Dortmund appear set to take advantage of the slow rebuild process at the Allianz Arena which is beginning to show its cracks. While the reigning champions still boast a wealth of class and have the ability to push for the title once again, if Lucien Favre can keep his players level-headed, focused, and consistent, they might just snap the six-year rule of Bayern Munich.