Borussia Dortmund defender Mats Hummels has hailed the impact of January arrivals Erling Haaland and Emre Can for bringing a “new spirit” to the club as they continue their quest for the Bundesliga title this season.
Dortmund have won seven of their eight league games in 2020, most recently a 2-1 victory away to title rivals Borussia Mönchengladbach on Matchday 25 in a hard-fought game that was not always pretty, but one in which Lucien Favre’s side nevertheless managed to succeed.
“We just have a different approach now,” Hummels told kicker after the game by way of explanation. “We were up for the fight again today, we were invested in the tackles and we didn’t allow ourselves to be bullied.
“Even just a couple of weeks ago that would’ve been very different [from us]. There’s a new spirit, which is something we’ve developed in training, and it’s something that the two new guys – Emre and Erling – have made a very, very big contribution to with their style of play.”
The statistics certainly back up Hummels’ claim, with Dortmund winning 57 per cent of all duels against Gladbach, while their tally of 128 challenges won was second only to Wolfsburg (139) of all teams on Matchday 25.
BVB also committed 14 fouls and earned five yellow cards at Borussia-Park; perhaps not ordinarily figures to be celebrated, but for a team that has often been accused of having a soft underbelly in recent years, this new steely side and ability to grind out scrappy wins are much-vaunted hallmarks of champions.
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“It does us a lot of good,” Hummels continued. “Now we have the right mix in the team of creative players and grafters, or people who can do both.”
This new-found mettle will be put to the test over the coming weeks in what looks set to be a season-defining run of games for Dortmund, starting with Wednesday’s UEFA Champions League last-16 second leg tie away to Paris Saint-Germain.
That is followed by what is sure to be a fierce Revierderby against local rivals Schalke on Matchday 26, before league assignments against a resurgent Wolfsburg side and leaders Bayern Munich.
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