Erling Haaland has left for Manchester City; Edin Terzic has replaced Marco Rose as coach, and he has new signings Sebastien Haller, Niklas Süle, Karim Adeyemi and more to play with. How will Borussia Dortmund line up next term?
How did Dortmund line up under Terzic last time?
Helpfully, Terzic was already Dortmund coach in the 2020/21 season, when he succeeded Lucien Favre in the dugout and steered Die Schwarzgelben to UEFA Champions League qualification and a DFB Cup final triumph over RB Leipzig.
Terzic tried to catch Bayern Munich out in the second Klassiker of that campaign in March by playing a 3-4-2-1 system - it backfired, with BVB losing 4-2 - but in every other league game the young coach played a 4-2-3-1 or similar, and it seems a fair guess that it's a formation he will implement once again.
Haaland was the focal point of the attack that season, and his first full Bundesliga campaign returned 27 goals from 27 starts. He was ably assisted by Jadon Sancho, who was creator-in-chief in the final third before his move to Manchester United that summer.
To his immense credit, Raphael Guerreiro only laid on one less goal than the Englishman from left-back (10 vs. 11), while nascent USMNT star Gio Reyna enjoyed his best season to date, contributing seven goals and eight assists in all competitions at the tender age of 18.
How did BVB line up under Rose last season?
Rose was as reactive as he was active in his team selections, playing a three-man defence in 10 of his 34 Bundesliga games, with most of the other games resembling a 4-3-3 or a 4-2-3-1. A midfield diamond was a common theme, especially earlier in the season.
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An injury-free Marco Reus was a joy to behold, the club captain starting 29 Bundesliga games, his most in nine seasons at the club. He succeeded Sancho as the primary assister with 12 (as well as scoring nine goals), whether playing as a modern, pressing No.10 or lining up to one side of Haaland.
Jude Bellingham was the most-used player, meanwhile. Invariably part of a double pivot under Terzic - with any of Thomas Delaney, Axel Witsel or Emre Can for company - he was given greater license last term, and his goal-involvement climbed accordingly: one every 353 minutes in 2020/21 to one every 190 this just gone.
So what will be different under Terzic?
The first point of difference from Terzic's first spell as coach, and indeed Rose's last season, will be in terms of personnel. Whilst Dortmund will be disappointed to lose Haaland, they have arguably done the most impressive transfer business of the summer so far.
Germany international centre-backs Niklas Süle and Nico Schlotterbeck have been signed from Bayern and Freiburg respectively, while Sebastien Haller has come in as the man to fill Haaland's boots on the back of a blistering 34 goals in 43 games for Ajax last season. That included 11 in eight Champions League outings, with two coming against BVB.
Karim Adeyemi plundered 23 goals for Salzburg last season, from a predominantly central striking position, but adds greater flexibility to the Borussia front line. Cologne's Salih Özcan is also a welcome addition in midfield, especially with Witsel leaving, meanwhile.
Özcan and Bellingham could function more like pistons than pivots, taking it in turns to join the attack, while a fit-again Reyna adds to an embarrassment of riches in the line behind a striker, with Reus, Julian Brandt and Thorgan Hazard also available to call upon.
Süle and Schlotterbeck could populate Germany's central defence for a generation, let alone Dortmund's. The former was in the 99th percentile for progressive passes this season; the latter in the same bracket for shot-creating actions.
Might there be a Plan B?
Terzic could have a magnificent alternative to his trusted 4-2-3-1 available to him. Haller missed just one club game last season due to illness/injury, suggesting he is far more physically reliable than Haaland and will be a focal point to build around consistently. If injury does strike, there's always Youssoufa Moukoko, although he is still refining his craft at 17 and is a different profile of forward anyway.
A fluid front three of say Adeyemi, Reus and Reyna could wreak havoc, though, and Haaland's new club Man City just won the English Premier League without a recognised No.9. A 3-4-3 also unleashes Guerriero and likely Thomas Meunier on the opposite flank, allowing them to attack guilt-free.
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But where it could really come into its own is in defence, where Mats Hummels remains one of the best centre-backs in the world with the ball at his feet, but perhaps, at 33, no longer without it. With Süle and Schlotterbeck either side of him, he could find his range for that fluid front three, with about the best insurance policy possible for company.
Are Dortmund done with their summer shopping? In any case, they've already assembled a mighty squad that provides depth and variability that looks well equipped to give Bayern a run for their money in the Bundesliga next season.
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