- Dortmund finished runners-up in Tuchel's first season.
- Weigl, Mkhitaryan and Aubameyang thriving.
- Calibre of summer signings bodes well.
Stepping into the shoes of a man who won two Bundesliga titles, the DFB Cup and reached the final of the UEFA Champions League was seen by many as a formidable task, but Thomas Tuchel has made the job look easy.
Building on the high-pressing style that defined the Jürgen Klopp era, the 42-year-old has added polished possession-based football to the equation to take Borussia Dortmund's game to a whole new level.
Ball magnets and pass masters
"It was pretty clear to me early on in pre-season that the players really wanted to have the ball and that they had the quality to develop," Tuchel recalled midway through his first season as BVB head coach. "That's why our game automatically moved in that direction."
The statistics underline the former 1. FSV Mainz 05 boss' point. In 2015/16, Dortmund averaged 61 per cent possession compared to 54 per cent under Klopp in 2014/15. Die Schwarz-Gelben's passing game also improved significantly, with 85 per cent of all attempted passes finding their mark compared to 77 per cent a year earlier.
Julian Weigl personifies the evolution. Few saw the former TSV 1860 Munich captain breaking into the first team so soon, let alone earning a place in Germany's final UEFA Euro 2016 squad, but the 20-year-old has surpassed all expectations. Indeed, the metronome-like midfielder was on the money with a team-leading 91 per cent of his attempted passes in his debut season at the club and set a new Bundesliga record for most touches (214) for good measure.
Tuchel's confidence in his players coupled with his tactical versatility has also brought the very best out of Dortmund's mercurial attacking talents. Be it as part of a 3-4-3, 4-1-4-1 or 4-3-3 formation, Armenia international midfielder Henrikh Mkhitaryan blossomed, registering an eye-watering 23 goals and 32 assists in all competitions on his way to being voted German sports specialist magazine kicker's Bundesliga Player of the Season.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, meanwhile, was transformed from turbo-charged right winger to the complete goal-scoring article, finishing only second to FC Bayern München's Robert Lewandowski in the scoring charts on 25 goals for the season. All told, 'Mkhi and Auba' had a direct hand in 62 of Dortmund's league-high 82 Bundesliga goals - a number which outstripped the club's 2014/15 Bundesliga tally by 35.
BVB's efforts did not produce any silverware, but they came pretty close. After finishing some 33 points off the pace in 2014/15, Dortmund reduced the deficit to ten in a title race that was not decided until Matchday 32 of the 2015/16 campaign. A 5-1 drubbing at Bayern's Allianz Arena was all part of the learning curve, with subsequent goalless draws - the second of which ended in a penalty shoot-out defeat in the DFB Cup final - further evidence of their progression under Tuchel.
That accelerated development has continued into the close season with the recruitment of exciting young talents Marc Bartra, Ousmane Dembele, Raphael Guerreiro, Emre Mor and Sebastian Rode. If Tuchel can do with them what he has achieved with Weigl, Dortmund will be in an even stronger position to redress the domestic title balance in 2016/17.
Karol Herrmann/ Christopher Mayer-Lodge