Dortmund - The breaking news on 23 April, on the eve of Borussia Dortmund's UEFA Champions League semi-final first-leg meeting with Real Madrid, was met with widespread incredulity among the Yellow-Blacks' massive following. Mario Götze set to join Bayern Munich? That sounded every bit as wrong as 2+2=5.
"We're obviously disappointed beyond measure," club CEO Hans-Joachim Watzke acknowledged after the imminent transfer of the German game's No1 football Wunderkind was confirmed. Amidst the resultant uproar, head coach Jürgen Klopp had his work cut out getting the focus firmly back on the Euro-summit with the men from Madrid.
Fast-forward to the present day, however, and little if any of that general downbeat sentiment remains. Götze, currently , has long since pulled on the red shirt of BVB's great domestic rivals, while in Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Sokratis, the Ruhr district outfit have acquired three highly impressive new faces of their own. And - such is the fast-moving nature of the top-level professional game - Spiderman is already well on the way to claiming the place in the hearts of the Yellow-Black faithful once held by Super-Mario.
Götze returns to the Signal Iduna Park as a Bayern player for the first time on Matchday 13 and in the interim, Dortmund fully intend to continue 2013/14 as they have started - namely by radically improving last season's points return against opponents clearly inferior on paper. As the only side in the division yet to drop a point going into the international break, Klopp's men could scarcely have gone about the task more efficiently. Indeed, this is only the second time the club have ever managed to win their first four matches in the top flight. On the previous occasion, under Matthias Sammer in 2001/02, they incidentally went on to win the title.
New faces in the groove
While happy and "proud of our maximum haul," goalkeeper Roman Weidenfeller is every bit as aware of the team's potential for further improvement as sporting director Michael Zorc, who observed that, "We're not the kind of team who tend to hit the ground at full-speed going into the season." Someone should have informed the new signings of that. Alongside Aubameyang's debut Bundesliga hattrick, Mkhitaryan has chipped in with two goals of his own, while youngster Jonas Hofmann, while already a couple of years on the books, has had the same kind of fresh-faced impact, finding the net once and earning a couple of penalties into the bargain.
Sokratis has already proved his worth as a top-drawer back-up to Neven Subotic and Mats Hummels and more generally, the defence - which leaked 42 goals last season, compared to Bayern's admittedly record-breaking low total of just 18 - is showing promising early signs of tightening up its act. Like the defending champions from Munich, BVB have conceded just twice in their opening four matches.
Hummels and Subotic have both won more than 70 percent of their direct tussles so far and all-in-all, only the Eintracht Frankfurt defence have a better statistical record man-on-man. And should the opposition breach the back row, they still have to get past Weidenfeller, who has kept out 75 percent of all efforts on his goal. That said, skipper Sebastian Kehl was undoubtedly speaking for the coach as well when he noted that, with the biggest games yet to come, "It's still too early to claim we've solved that problem."
The 'Götze problem,' by contrast, is already one for the history books. The Dortmund fans have new heroes to cheer on, alongside their battle-hardened favourites of course. And if the team's campaign start is a taste of things to come, the sums will very likely all add up again when it matters most - next May.