Having lost the title on the last day of last season, Borussia Dortmund could be forgiven for suffering from the blues at the start of the 2023/24 campaign. Yet as Friday's win at Hoffenheim showed, BVB are still producing results even if they are yet to hit top form.
Edin Terzić's side may have seemed a tad off their stride at times this season, but they are actually in a healthier position now than they were at the same stage of 2022/23. Currently with 14 points and 12 goals scored to six conceded, they are further along than the 12 points and eight goals scored to seven conceded a year ago.
A 1-0 win over Cologne on the opening day of the campaign was followed by a 1-1 draw at Bochum and a 2-2 tie with promoted Heidenheim – the first Bundesliga point in the newcomers’ season. A three-game winning streak since then, with a 4-2 triumph at Freiburg, 1-0 win over Wolfsburg and Friday’s road victory in Sinsheim have extended their unbeaten record in the Bundesliga to 14 matches – their longest such streak in five years.
Watch: Hoffenheim 1-3 Dortmund - highlights
That certainly suggests there is plenty to be buoyant about, yet head coach Terzić acknowledged that, while his side may not be serving up the haut cuisine he craves, the plate is nonetheless clean at the end of the night.
“There are no teams ahead of us [in the table] tonight,” he said after the final whistle and ahead of Bayer Leverkusen VfB Stuttgart and Bayern Munich overtaking them on Saturday.
“Sometimes you eat things that might not taste so good, but they fill you up – and we go home with our stomachs full tonight. We’re pleased with the way things are developing. This was an important win for us, but there is room for improvement.”
Dortmund have had to renew their team after the significant losses of Jude Bellingham and Raphaël Guerreiro. Marcel Sabitzer has arrived and is slowly finding his feet, while Niclas Füllkrug came in fresh from winning the Torjägerkanone, with the weight of expectation understandably high at a club where Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Robert Lewandowski and Erling Haaland had got the fans used to plenty of goalscoring entertainment.
“I didn’t have an easy start at Dortmund and had a few problems in the first few weeks, but I’m glad things are going better now and I’m starting games. Results like these strengthen us. It wasn’t spectacular, but in the end we’ve won 3-1 in Hoffenheim and that’s what matters.
“We’ve still got to refine the way we combine as a team, but I’ve got some intelligent teammates and I’m looking forward to the coming weeks.”
Dortmund also had to survive the final 20 minutes of the game with only ten men after Ramy Bensebaini was sent off. Spectacular football is even more difficult when you have one man less, which is why Gregor Kobel’s assessment was carefully considered.
“We did our job,” he said. “It maybe wasn’t a particularly spectacular highlight, but that’s not what matters. There were many of us who were there when it mattered tonight and did their jobs.
“It’s no problem – for me, if we keep on winning games, I don’t care if we’re playing boring football.”
Boring is arguably taking it too far, with ruthless and efficient more accurate terms to describe Dortmund's recent run, and those - it is often said - are the traits of champions.
How will Germany line up at Euro '24?
Germany have been drawn together with Scotland, Hungary and Switzerland in Group A for next summer's UEFA Euro 2024. How will Julian Nagelsmann's side line up?
Watch every Dortmund goal so far this season!
Dortmund may have stumbled in the Bundesliga recently but they remain top of their Champions League group and are into the last 16 of the DFB Cup. bundesliga.com takes a look at their season so far…
How do Füllkrug and Kane compare?
Niclas Füllkrug and Harry Kane will be at the point of the respective attacks when Borussia Dortmund take on Bayern Munich in Der Klassiker. How do the two sharpshooters compare?