Dortmund - Three warm-up matches, three wins and no goals conceded, and all with new signing Kevin Kampl playing a prominent role in the team. BVB's winter appears to have been a productive one.
Rough with the smooth
Coach Jürgen Klopp should have a smile stretching from ear to ear, yet he does not. His side's toils during the first half of the season have tempered his judgment on what seems to have been a revival over the winter.
"We're heading in the right direction," Klopp said after his side's 1-0 win at FC Utrecht on Wednesday. "But we still have a lot of work to do, and I don't get the feeling we've got to where we want to be yet."
The Westphalians have arguably been most impressive in attack, with Marco Reus back from a long-term injury and forging an instant understanding with winter recruit Kampl, setting up the Slovenian in style for his first goal in black and yellow. "That goal was fantastic," grinned Klopp, before reiterating other concerns. "There were many good moments, but overall not enough shots on goal."
The 47-year-old had more cause for complaint, however. With Sebastian Kehl and Sven Bender both having picked up injuries during the mid-season hiatus, protecting his defence is a source of consternation. Taking their places as the defensive midfield duo against Utrecht were Nuri Sahin and Ilkay Gündogan - two distinctly more attack-minded individuals.
"It can work if we manage to keep our formation compact, but if we don't do that and if we go forward too soon, then the gaps become too large," said Klopp, evidently still tinkering with his tactics. His subsequent experiment involved Matthias Ginter in a central midfield, a role the Germany World Cup winner had performed ably at former club SC Freiburg.
When it matters
"Yesterday was his best warm-up game for us. In front of the defence, things looked good," said the Stuttgart-born tactician, who has one more opportunity - against Fortuna Düsseldorf - for experimentation before Borussia travel to Bayer 04 Leverkusen in a tricky opener to the Rückrunde. Klopp is keen to defend a proud record so far this winter, but realistic enough not to read too much into his team's current form.
"Three clean sheets is nice, but this is not the Bundesliga," reminded Klopp. "We're not fickle." It will be at the BayArena on 31 January that a shut-out would be worth something to the side languishing second-bottom in the table; not before.