The old adage that good things come in threes certainly rings true at Borussia Dortmund at present.
Dynamic midfield trio Marco Reus, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Ilkay Gündogan put on a clinic in BVB’s demonstrative 3-1 win away to Borussia Mönchengladbach on Matchday 18, each player capping a superlative individual display with a goal and assist.
"We all played brilliantly and can be very proud today," Gündogan told the media after the game. "More than anything, the way we played gives us confidence for the coming weeks. It's down to a lot of training and hard work, but obviously it's even more fun when you're successful. We want to continue in the same vein, so that we come out on top in the weeks ahead."
The early bird
Dortmund’s upcoming opponents FC Ingolstadt 04, for one, must be quaking in their collective boots at the thought of facing one of European football’s most electric midfield triumvirates. The understanding they share is telepathic, their movement dynamic and their passion for the game irrefutable.
Against Gladbach, it was Reus - back to his expressive best after a spate of niggling injuries - who set the tone with the opening goal. The Germany international forward has scored the first goal on five occasions already this season, each time paving the way for a Dortmund victory. Indeed, Die Schwarz-Gelben have been victorious in all seven games in which the 25-year-old has found the net in this season’s Bundesliga.
What is more, Reus also brings an abundance of creativity to the table. He laid on a seventh Bundesliga goal of the season for Mkhitaryan, who responded in kind with an assist of his own for the glue that binds Tuchel’s counter-attacking ensemble together, Gündogan. The midfield duo’s return to prominence has, however, been something of a work in progress.
The assist machine
As well as adapting to the demands of the Bundesliga and Dortmund’s high energy game, six-time Armenian Footballer of the Year Mkhitaryan has had to address a lack of consistency and end product since leaving FC Shakhtar Donetsk in summer 2013. His debut season promised much, but 2014/15 was shrouded in question marks.
Yet, having been involved in at least one goal in eight of BVB’s last nine games and already boasting more combined goals and assists (16) than last season (seven) - not to mention a Europe-leading 17 assists in all competitions - he has answered his critics emphatically.
For Gündogan, meanwhile, overcoming a chronic spinal problem has been the biggest hurdle of his still young career. The 25-year-old Germany international was arguably the standout performer during BVB’s run to the final of the 2012/13 UEFA Champions League final, but his progress was stopped in its tracks shortly thereafter.
The former 1. FC Nürnberg midfielder was restricted to just one Bundesliga appearance in 2013/14, and only began to show signs of his former self midway through the following campaign. Now, however, the fully-fit midfield synergist is once again being talked about as the finest in his class.
Recipe for success
Dortmund’s majestic triangle: it is the gift that just keeps on giving. With 17 goals and 13 assists between them, Reus, Mkhitaryan and Gündogan have had a direct say in an impressive 60 per cent of BVB’s Bundesliga-high 50 goals so far this term. Statistically that makes them the Bundesliga’s most prolific midfield three of the current campaign.
In their pursuit of honours in the Bundesliga, DFB Cup and UEFA Europa League, Dortmund appear to have the necessary formula in place to deliver a first major title since their Bundesliga and DFB Cup-winning heroics of 2011/12. And that is before any mention of leading goalscorer Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.