Dortmund - The loss of prized asset Mario Götze to league rivals FC Bayern Munich earlier this summer may have caused a collective gnashing of teeth at Borussia Dortmund, but that has since given way to optimism following the Yellow-Blacks' subsequent moves in the transfer market.
Attackers and have been largely responsible for that about-turn, although the arrival of defensive stalwart Sokratis Papastathopoulos and the pre-season blossoming of young midfielder Jonas Hofmann have likewise lifted the mood.
“We've brought in some useful players who can help us improve,” coach Jürgen Klopp surmised. Indeed, while Mkhitaryan is not only technically top-class, he is also an accomplished finisher, while the gazelle-like Aubameyang is able to play anywhere in attack.
With Dortmund's front line previously limited to Robert Lewandowski and back-up Julian Schieber, Klopp now has considerably more options available to him as he plots BVB's path towards Bundesliga, DFB Cup and UEFA Champions League glory.
Competition for places
Added quality, increased competition, more alternatives – that is also what new signing Sokratis brings to the club. The centre back will keep the established defensive duo of Mats Hummels and Neven Subotic on their toes, while his uncompromising style of play makes him a strong contender for a place in the back four. He may even have to step in for Lukasz Piszczek at right back, who is out for six months following a hip operation.
Left-back Marcel Schmelzer is now the only player in the Dortmund ensemble without an immediate replacement - the only gap in an otherwise strong squad. Defensive midfield is a particularly strong area, with Ilkay Gündogan, Sven Bender, Nuri Sahin and Sebastian Kehl all contenders for starting berths.
So what can the Dortmund faithful expect to see from their heroes this season? The now customary pressing high up the pitch, the hounding of opponents in packs and swift breaks forward are a given, but attention will also be paid to a defence that leaked 42 goals last term, with almost a third coming from set-pieces. That particular kink has yet to be completely ironed out, as even in pre-season BVB suffered from momentary lapses of concentration to concede from dead-ball situations.
The club’s hierarchy have set qualification from the Champions League group stage and third place in the Bundesliga as the minimum requirements this campaign, although Klopp is adamant “we want to be up there and challenge for every trophy.” It would be a brave punter to bet against them picking up the odd piece of silverware to go alongside the .