Stuttgart - Borussia Dortmund coach Jürgen Klopp looked genuinely surprised when asked if wistful thoughts of former striker Robert Lewandowski passed through his mind during BVB’s 4-1 DFB Cup first round victory over Stuttgarter Kickers on Saturday.
That the 47-year-old replied in the negative had much to do with the wealth of attacking options at his disposal and his side’s performances in their two competitive fixtures so far in 2014/15, the first of which was last week’s 2-0 Supercup success over Lewandowski’s current employers FC Bayern München.
In Stuttgart on Saturday, Adrian Ramos was a tireless presence spearheading Dortmund’s 4-2-3-1 formation, eventually being rewarded for his efforts when he netted BVB’s fourth shortly before the final whistle. Yet even his commendable display was overshadowed by the trio of attackers playing just behind him.
Marco Reus came through 57 minutes unscathed on his comeback from injury and could feature in the starting XI once more in Dortmund’s Matchday 1 encounter with Bayer 04 Leverkusen next week. His interplay with Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Pierre Emerick-Aubameyang, who grabbed the other three goals between them, was an irresistible combination of speed, one-touch passing and a desire to hurt the opposition with every attack.
After the game Klopp described the latter duo as “exceptional footballers” and said the team were benefiting from the fact the pair had not participated at the World Cup in Brazil this summer, and were therefore able to undergo the entire pre-season training regime. The coach was particularly delighted with Aubameyang’s interception and finish to put the side 2-0 up in Stuttgart after latching on to a wayward backpass.
Klopp cited that moment as evidence that the Gabon international had now “digested our playing style” and is “constantly improving his play when we don’t have the ball". The BVB supremo argued that Aubameyang would not have scored that goal last season because he would have turned his back on the game rather than immediately putting the opposition under pressure - a key feature of the Dortmund philosophy.
And so while losing Lewandowski is undoubtedly a huge blow, his departure has afforded Klopp the freedom to experiment with more attacking varieties. Ominiously for the rest of the Bundesliga, he still has Ilkay Gündogan, Jakub Blaszczykowski, Jonas Hofmann, Ciro Immobile and Dong-Won Ji to call on, none of whom even made the pitch on Saturday.