From seven points adrift of Europe with seven games to play to DFB Cup winners and UEFA Champions League qualifiers, how did Edin Terzic turn Borussia Dortmund's season around?
The BVB slide was a disappointing one, especially considering their pre-season expectations of a title tilt for a squad brimming with talent.
But Dortmund weren’t clicking as they had hoped, despite a rampant start that saw the team score 13 goals and concede just twice in five wins from their first six.
Erling Haaland’s efforts in front of goal had largely powered that early form, but it only served to mask deeper issues in the team, and Terzic went from being Favre’s assistant to becoming his successor.
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"We have to remember the way they have made a difference in the past. The boys are good, they know that. We will bring them back to that form, bit by bit,” the 38-year-old told reporters after stepping into the role.
As his first point of business, Terzic set about re-instilling belief in the players, resulting in goalkeeper Roman Bürki saying his appointment added “a little more life” and “fire” at the Signal Iduna Park.
Reus was another who immediately took note and, following the 2-1 victory over Werder Bremen in Terzic’s first game in charge, the Dortmund captain said his new boss had “given us the belief that we’re a good team when we do everything together as a unit.”
Roll the calendar forward five months and that same faith played an integral role in Dortmund lifting the German cup for a fifth time.
“He still believed in us and motivated us again for every game,” Reus reaffirmed to Bild am Sonntag after their dominant 4-1 win over Leipzig in the showpiece. “You can now see what’s possible with this solidarity.”
It was a first major trophy of Terzic’s coaching career, and in his first major role. An enormous accomplishment for a man who had previously watched on from the stands as a Dortmund fan and, in hindsight, was the perfect fit to breathe new life into a club he adores.
“When he took over the team in December, it was half dead,” reflected CEO Hans-Joachim Watzke. “And he brought it to life, that’s a huge achievement at his first coaching station. He is a Dortmund boy, he feels the club, he breathes the club.”
Each and every player has bought into Terzic’s passion, as well as his commitment and desire to improve the side. And it’s difficult to find a member of the squad who hasn’t raised their game since he took over.
Of just the names previously mentioned, Reus has four goals and an assist from his last six in the league, all of which have resulted in victory. Meanwhile Haaland, who says he has benefitted from “talking a lot” with Terzic, has added 22 goals in all competitions under the tactician, while he and Sancho ran riot as they both bagged braces in the cup final.
Again, it’s subtle changes that have led to those upticks in output, with Reus starring either ahead of or as part of a midfield three, and Sancho going from two goals in 16 Bundesliga appearances from the right-flank to six from nine on the left.
"It's just small adjustments," Terzic told ESPN about Sancho’s improvement.
And his impact goes beyond that headline front-three. The likes of Jude Bellingham, Emre Can, Mahmoud Dahoud and Lukasz Piszczek are all major beneficiaries of a new lease of life under their caretaker coach.
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The trio of Bellingham, Can and Dahoud have created a perfect blend of industry and ingenuity, which has laid the foundations for Dortmund’s recent improvement.
This switch to 4-3-3 has allowed Dortmund to have an extra man in midfield, and take charge of matches as a result, with Can tasked with winning the ball back, Dahoud given the responsibility of distributing it to the attacking trio and Bellingham linking all areas of the pitch with his lung-bursting runs up and down the park.
Like Can and Dahoud, Piszczek was also brought in from the cold and has added invaluable experience to a side now perfectly balanced by youthful exuberance and older nous. That has added stability in defence to their potency in attack, lifting Dortmund from fifth – seven points behind Eintracht Frankfurt – after defeat at the hands of Die Adler on Matchday 27, to third - and four points clear of Frankfurt – six games later.
If Piszczek epitomises the latter, Bellingham is a perfect example of the former and the 17-year-old is rapidly developing into one of the most exciting box-to-box midfielders in Europe.
It’s safe to say Terzic has been left impressed, and his role in Bellingham’s progress cannot be understated: "I have nothing but positive things to say about Jude Bellingham. We're really satisfied with him. I personally have a very close relationship with him. What he's shown… has been outstanding, especially considering he's only 17 years of age.”
Terzic has been equally impressive in his own breakout season in the top-flight and will not only leave incoming incumbent Marco Rose with Champions League football to enjoy next term, but also crucial momentum to take into the 2021/22 campaign.
And Terzic – who signed a long-term extension to his existing contract to serve alongside Rose as of next year – will continue to play a significant role in building on said momentum.
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