Ingolstadt – Borussia Dortmund took their place at the top of the Bundesliga on Matchday 2 for the first time since September 2013.
Then like now, everything was working like clockwork for the Westphalians. Their well-oiled machine was the envy of footballing Germany, and the same fluidity can be discerned from their play under Thomas Tuchel this term.
One of the keys to this summer transformation is the return to form of a group of players whose performances had fallen off the radar last term. With BVB hitting rock bottom after the winter break, some heads had dropped more than others. The arrival of Tuchel has been a breath of fresh air which has lifted morale, on and off the field.
3,000 travelling fans chanted "top of the league!" following Shinji Kagawa's goal which put them three up in an eventual 4-0 win at FC Ingolstadt 04 on Saturday; the Westphalians were back to where they were almost two years ago, and the fans had their tune back. "We could have led already in the first half, and I think given the way we played in the second half, this win was deserved even by such a margin," said Tuchel. "I'm very proud of my team."
He has good reason to be too. Matthias Ginter (l.), a signing from SC Freiburg in 2014, got the ball rolling with his first goal for the club, inspiring him and his team-mates to strive for even more. "We said at half-time that it could all go awry if we put our opponents' defence under pressure without scoring goals," said fellow defender Marcel Schmelzer. "We'd had numerous opportunities that we didn't take and that made it all the more important to keep our cool."
That is something they have learned to do in recent weeks, according to Ginter. "We realised that our attack is always good enough for goals," he said. That realisation was imbued by the mind games of their resident psychologist. "The lads have managed to get the idea out of their heads that just because we don't take our chances, that means we're going to concede," said Tuchel, who even during his time as coach of Mainz showed an extraordinary ability to work on the players' minds as much as their skills.
It seems to be working, particularly with some players who perhaps needed a mental block lifting to get them back to their best. Ilkay Gündogan no longer seems to have his injury problems playing in his mind, while Henrikh Mkhitaryan was once again one of BVB's best with his newfound belief inspiring the team to a sixth win in six competitive fixtures this term. Kagawa has also managed to silence the murmurs that he has never been the same since leaving Dortmund in 2012, and Ginter stuck a muffler in the mouths of those starting to cast him aside as a bad signing.
"I'm feeling good in this new position," he said, having been shifted by the tactically-astute Tuchel to a new wide right position. "You can do a lot in training, but there is no substitute for match practice." With only 15 Bundesliga games last season, the 21-year-old had not been getting much of that, but Tuchel is doing things differently in Dortmund, and everybody appears to be benefitting.