One of the most impressive things about Peter Bosz’s first few months in the job as Dortmund manager has been how quickly his appointment brought stability to the squad. As May was coming to a close, and just three days after another DFB Pokal trophy win, the club fired manager Thomas Tuchel, and it looked as though a summer of big changes was ahead. Star man Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was unsettled and looked to be leaving, perhaps followed out the door by a number of the squad’s best players. Despite Tuchel’s reputation as an innovator and one of the brightest young minds in football, his Dortmund sides had trouble producing consistency through entire seasons, and his frequent clashes with the board sealed his fate. Peter Bosz quickly arrived from Ajax a week later and things quickly settled down.
Bosz’s classic 4-3-3 with a high press is easy for his Dortmund players to pick up, as they were exposed to a very similar setup under Tuchel’s predecessor, Juergen Klopp. The addition of players like Mahmoud Dahoud and Omer Toprak allow the team to return to playing more 4 man back-lines and a triangle in midfield during the upcoming season, although the team may opt to use a back 3 at times, as last year’s porous defence necessitated. The team has already shown elements of the fluency and energy that their new manager demands.
When a figure of such prominence in a club hierarchy as Hans-Joachim Watzke speaks, it tends to be important. The Dortmund CEO was able to shed some light on part of the reason why Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has stayed at the club for another year, claiming that AC Milan were disrespectful in their approach for him. With buckets of money flowing into the transfer coffers of the Rossonieri, they had put the Gabonese striker’s name on a short list of strikers that they were looking to target, which became public. Aubameyang’s transfer window was publicly declared shut shortly after thwarting the Milanese attempts
Watzke also stated that the Dortmund squad is still too big. Though he did not mention any names, speculation has been rife for quite some time which players may be on their way out, likely on loan. The most prominent player who has been tipped for a possible move away is young Spaniard Mikel Merino.
Arriving from Osasuna last season with buckets of potential and a reputation for fine passing ability, Merino quickly shrank into the shadows, with some fans forgetting that he even played for the club by the end of the season. Given his lack of playing time, it is unsurprising that he has asked for a fresh start this season. In Spain, Athletic club appear to be the most interested party, but they would vastly prefer to make the move a permanent one, not just a loan. Despite barely seeing the pitch for Dortmund last season, the club will be keen to keep hold of him and his tremendous potential that caused the club to snap him up only a year ago.
Elsewhere it is speculated that Emre Mor could leave on loan for a bit more game time of his own. An incredible talent with the ball at his feet, Mor does not yet have the passing ability or sense of teamwork that make a successful wide player in Dortmund’s starting XI. Standing at just 5’7, it is supremely unlikely that Mor could supplant Aubameyang for a run of games at centre forward either. In reality, at this point Mor’s best position is behind a striker in a support role, where he could use his quickness and ball control to create lots of chances. However, with Peter Bosz preference for a 4-3-3, that position may not exist at Dortmund next season. Mor is a rare talent, so only a loan move should even be considered by the club. He could be joining players like Sebastian Rode and Nevin Subotic in an attempt to pair down the squad size a bit.
In a surprise story, it has emerged this past week that former manager Thomas Tuchel almost joined rivals Schalke this summer. Schalke CEO Christian Heidel admitted in a report that it would be hard not to be interested in the reputable manager, even going as far as saying Schalke had considered him this summer. In one of those displays of genuine respect for a rival that only seems to happen in Germany, Schalke ultimately decided against it, maintaining instead that they did not want to get in the middle of a rift between a club and manager, only likely to escalate if such a move were to occur.
Finally, with the news that Dortmund will be holding on to Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and, likely, Ousmane Dembele as well, is it time to start talking about a title challenge? Yes Bayern Munich are as good as ever, and after signing Corentin Tolisso, have recently assembled a box to box engine room as good as any in the world to go along with their mesmerising wide play. With all of the talent that Dortmund possess, two of the most perfect need-meets-availability signings in Dahoud and Toprak, and a returning Mario Gotze, they will have as good a chance as any in the league to challenge the Bavarians. With that said, new manager Peter Bosz is fantastic with young players and his 4-3-3 fits this team to the letter. It might be in the best interest of Bayern Munich to start hot this season, because, in this author’s humble opinion, they may well have a yellow and black train barrelling down on them at the end.