A Bosz Start
When Thomas Tuchel left Borussia Dortmund at the end of last season a lot of people saw it as the start of a period of transition for the club. He had just led the club to the DFB Pokal and a respectable fourth paced finish in the Bundesliga. However, troubles with Michael Zorc and Hans Joachim Watzke were enough for the former Mainz boss to consider his position at the club untenable. The search was on for a successor and the man who got the job was, at first, an underwhelming choice.
Lucien Favre seemed to be favourite at first. He had turned around the fortunes of Nice during his short time in France and was still held in high esteem in Germany following successful stints in charge of Borussia Moenchengladbach and Hertha Berlin. He soon ruled himself out though, preferring to finish what he started after leading Nice into the Champions League. Julian Nagelsmann was another who was mooted although many fans were not happy with his inexperience, despite his impressive third-place finish in the league. Peter Stoger, the Cologne manager, was an outsider due to his side’s resurgence in recent years. All three of these were nothing but names on a piece of paper in the end though as the BVB board went for someone who was much more of an outsider.
Step forward Peter Bosz.
How could he get the job? He had taken over from Frank De Boer at Ajax the year before and couldn’t even lead the most dominant side in the history of Dutch football to the Eredivisie. OK he did take them to the Europa League final, where they dominated by Manchester United, and had done a decent job with Vitesse Arnhem. It was hardly enough to earn the hot seat at one of the best clubs in Europe though. What had they seen in Peter Bosz to convince them that he was the man to avoid this transition period and bring the good times back to Westphalia?
Apparently, it wasn’t what they had seen, it was what they felt. ““I got a good feeling. It was a respectful discussion. I am convinced that we can work very well together,” Watzke said. “We had a very, very good feeling about Bosz from the outset, the feeling that something can really grow together here.” That never usually washes with fans. The emotional bullshit is usually seen through a mile off. Plus, with such high stakes to play for the appointment of a manager on a “feeling” is normally scoffed at in the stands and the newspapers.
Bosz didn’t take long to stamp his authority. Max Phillipp and Mahmoud Dahoud had already signed pre-contract agreements in January, so were Dortmund bound regardless of the clubs choice of manager. Bosz got off to a slow start in the transfer market however. Dan-Axel Zagadou was first signing of the Bosz era, brought in from Paris Saint Germain for free. Omer Toprak was the first high profile signing, joining from Bayer Leverkusen for £10 million. It then took until the last week of the transfer window for Bosz to dip his toe in the water again. The flurry started with Andriy Yarmolenko, and ended on deadline day with Jadon Sancho and Jeremy Toljan. A summary of his incoming players would be minimal activity but effective signings.
It wasn’t just incoming transfers that Bosz was dealing with though. First was the ongoing speculation surrounding Pierre Emerick Aubameyang’s future. The Gabonese hitman was being eyed from all around Europe. He remained calm and pragmatic throughout, maintaining that Auba was happy at the club. He ended up staying – Ousmane Dembele was different story however. Dembele made it clear he wanted his move to Barcelona from the outset, eventually going on strike to force the move. Dortmund lost a key player but now had £130 million to replace him. It was disappointing but a masterstroke from a business standpoint. The aforementioned Yarmolenko came in for a mere £15 million and Dortmund haven’t looked back since.
The sense of intrigue around Peter Bosz’s Dortmund was widespread. Many knew that Bosz was coming from a similar environment to the one he was walking into. We aren’t looking at a situation like what occurred at Crystal Palace this summer, where a manager was employed with his main objective being to change the clubs philosophy on the field. Ajax and Dortmund play in very similar styles. Both prefer possession football, both attack and both press high up the pitch. It was a natural progression for Bosz.
Pre-season didn’t go as planned though. It started with a defeat to Reginonal Liga side Rot-Weiss Essen, which was followed by an impressive win over A.C Milan in America. But a draw in Bochum, and defeats to Espanyol and Atalanta had the detractors asking questions already. Was this a step too far for the former Ajax boss? Had he bitten off more than he could chew? Had Watzke and Zorc made a rare error of judgement in giving the job to someone with so little top level experience?
The detractors needn’t have worried. A credible draw with Bayern Munich in the Super Cup (which Bayern ended up winning on penalties) and an emphatic friendly win over Rot Weiss Efurt shook off the cobwebs. They then went on an unprecedented run of results. Wolfsburg were the first victims, dispatched of 3-0 on the opening day. Hertha Berlin were the first visitors to Signal Iduna Park and were sent back to the capital with their tales between their legs. I’m going to save some time here – Dortmund are now 7 games into their league season, have scored 21 goals, conceded only 2 and have 19 points to their name. They sit pretty atop of the Bundesliga, undefeated domestically.
It is fair to say that this wasn’t what people had in mind when Peter Bosz was given the job in the summer. People expected a settling in period, instead he has broken record after record. He has had a better start to the season than his predecessors Tuchel and Jurgen Klopp ever had, and his side went on the longest run of games without conceding a goal in Bundesliga history. It wasn’t supposed to be like this, so why is it?
His tactics have played a massive part. As mentioned earlier, Bosz hasn’t reinvented the wheel here. The formations and roles individuals have remained the same. This is as much Michael Zorc’s and Hans Joachim Watzke’s success as it is Peter Bosz’s. They specifically sought a manager who wouldn’t deviate from the Dortmund way of playing. They picked Peter Bosz because they believed his was that man and, so far, they have been proven right. Bosz’s signings have also played a massive part. They have added quality in depth and provided competition to players like Lukasz Piszczek and Sokratis Papastathopoulos.
The biggest factor in the new manager’s success, however, is his pragmatic approach to management. He remains calm in any situation, never getting flustered, and always has a back-up plan. Ousmane Dembele is trying to force a transfer? No worries. If he goes then we get lots of money and a fine new player to replace him. If he stays then we retain a quality player. Beaten in our first game in the Champions League? Not a problem. We make sure we put that right on Saturday by humbling Cologne 5-0. Injury crisis? That’s fine. We have enough strength in depth to deal with that and an obscene amount of games in the meantime. He takes so much it all in his stride and that is rubbing off on his players.
This run cannot last forever, all good things don’t as the saying goes. When the wheels do eventually come off then it will be interesting to see how Peter Bosz copes. Will his laid-back attitude be of use to him when his side are on a run of defeats, or haven’t scored two games on the run? We will have to wait and see about that. For now, just enjoy this Borussia Dortmund side for what they are the moment. A well-drilled machine put to devastating effect by a manager who is the picture of tranquility.