Borussia Dortmund have a lot to be excited about for next season: Erling Haaland and Emre Can will have their first full campaigns in Black and Yellow, while Thomas Meunier looks like a shrewd replacement for Achraf Hakimi. How will Lucien Favre line them up?
Dortmund began the season as the favourites to knock record champions Bayern Munich off their perch having run the Bavarians to within two points of the title in 2018/19. Bolstered by the summer arrivals of Mats Hummels - who returned after three seasons at Bayern - as well as Thorgan Hazard and Julian Brandt from Borussia Mönchengladbach and Bayer Leverkusen respectively, expectations were understandably high.
They got off to a flying start, too, beating Augsburg and Cologne to the tune of eight goals scored and just two conceded to lead the table after the first two rounds of fixtures. But using the same 4-2-3-1 as the previous campaign with the new personnel somehow didn't click into to gear thereon, and after Matchday 12's 3-3 draw with Paderborn - which would have been a defeat if not for Marco Reus's injury-time equaliser - Favre switched to a more fluid 3-4-3.
The result was an attacking sight to behold. With two mobile defenders either side of him, Hummels - still perhaps the best centre-back in the world when in possession - was able to dictate play from deep, completing 90 percent of his passes from his quarter-back role. Achraf Hakimi and Raphael Guerreiro were positively unlocked as wing-backs, the former ending the season with five goals and 10 assists. There was no catching Jadon Sancho, though. The young Englishman thrived as a winger in both systems, and completed the campaign with a hand in 33 Bundesliga goals, and 39 in all competitions.
As if Dortmund needed any more attacking potency, Haaland arrived in January and duly set about knocking down records as easily as any defender who dared to get close to him. Reus's goal against Paderborn was one of nine he scored in the Hinrunde, but injuries - as they so often have in his career - waylaid his season, and he only notched two more in the Rückrunde. By then, Haaland, a natural No.9, had already hit the ground running. The Norwegian began with a 23-minute hat-trick against Augsburg and had five Bundesliga goals inside his first hour of play.
Critics might point out that Dortmund ended last season 13 points off Bayern's title-winning pace, but ahead of their second Klassiker meeting at the end of May, Die Schwarzgelben could have closed the gap on the league leaders to a single point. Joshua Kimmich's chip edged the tie, and BVB ultimately cantered over the line in second, still three points clear of third-placed RB Leipzig.
So, what does that mean for next season? Despite the overall gap in points between Bayern and Dortmund last term - and the one between Roman Bürki and his goal line on Matchday 28 - the prevailing wisdom is that Favre won't fix it, because fundamentally, it isn't broken. It's a safe bet to back a 3-4-3 over the previous season's 4-2-3-1 - BVB averaged a scoreline of 2-2 with the former and 3-1 with the latter in 2019/20.
A full season of Haaland should prove a nightmare for opposition defences, and some genuine competition for Bayern's Robert Lewandowski in the Torjägerkanone race. Alongside the big Norwegian in the final third is an embarrassment of attacking riches. As well as Reus and Sancho, BVB boast Hazard, Brandt, and even a Gio Reyna who, at 17, looks to be on the same trajectory at the Signal Iduna Park as American compatriot Christian Pulisic once was. Former Juventus man Can's blend of steel and silk - he scored the Goal of the Season against Leverkusen in February - complements central midfield partner Axel Witsel's perfectly. The acquisition of Jude Bellinghham, an England U21 box-to-box midfielder, from Birmingham, adds more healthy competition in the role.
Dortmund surely have more transfer business to do, and they have shown a willingness to sell stars at the top of their game in recent seasons - think Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to Arsenal or Ousmane Dembele to Barcelona - but Die Schwarzgelben have an unerring ability to replenish their team. Dembele's place in the side became Pulisic's; when he left for Chelsea, Sancho was ready to seize the spot-light. Aubemeyang was a fan favourite but who among the Yellow Wall is missing him now Haaland is tearing it up?
It is this shrewd player acquisition which has already plugged another potential gap. Dortmund didn't own Hakimi - he was on a two-year loan deal from Real Madrid - but he nonetheless chose to join Inter Milan at the conclusion of that agreement. BVB's solution? Sign Belgium right-back Thomas Meunier on a free from UEFA Champions League regulars Paris Saint-Germain.
Whether they can go one better for the first time since 2012, only time will tell.