Dortmund - Six months can be a long time in football. Just ask Borussia Dortmund, who are currently proving week by week how things can change from one season to the next.
The Westphalians' 3-1 win over Hertha Berlin on Sunday took Thomas Tuchel's men to the top of the Bundesliga heading into the two-week hiatus due to internationals. It is a far cry from where they were just half a year ago, when they were propping up the rest of the division.
Counting their UEFA Europa League qualifiers and DFB Cup first-round tie, BVB have won eight games out of eight since Tuchel picked up the reins in the summer, and there is no sign of the bubble bursting. Dortmund are playing with the confidence and congeniality of the team which won the Bundesliga in 2011 and 2012, and success after success is breeding their newfound confidence.
"It was really important for us to start the season well and we've managed that, but we've got to carry on taking each game as it comes," said Shinji Kagawa to bundesliga.com. The Japanese winger is emblematic of BVB's recent resurgence. His best form has returned, and so too has a smile on his face. "I'm enjoying myself a lot. I'm learning lots of new things all the time and it's really fulfilling for me. When we're so flexible in the way we combine and work together up front, then we can dominate our opponents."
'We deserve to be top'
A dominant brand of football has always been Tuchel's mindset, yet that he has been able implement it so quickly at his new club has caught many by surprise. He has succeeded by bringing the fun factor back to the only team to consistently challenge FC Bayern München's Bundesliga dominance in the past seven seasons.
"We're really enjoying our football and that's why we're also deservedly at the top," said Matthias Ginter, yet another to be flourishing under the new coach. "Now we've got to sustain this momentum. I'm pretty optimistic because we've got a big squad and we should be able to master the many, many games we'll have up to the winter break."
'Got to keep working hard'
It would appear the black clouds which covered the Dortmund skyline in 2014/15 have been dispersed, but the league can be unpredictable and fortunes can turn fast, so caution is therefore being conveyed in equal measure to confidence. "It's definitely a great feeling, but only three games of the season have been played and we've still got to keep working hard," warned Ginter.
"We go to Hannover 96 after the international break, then we've got Bayer 04 Leverkusen in Dortmund and we're certainly not going to be given anything away. At the moment, we're just happy that we've started with three wins, but we also know how hard we had to work for these points."
The former SC Freiburg player has also benefitted from a tactical change under Tuchel. Used predominantly as a central defender or deep-lying midfielder in the past, his shift to right-back has not only seen him open his Dortmund account this season - and add a further assist at the weekend - but also return to the Germany national team.
"I like playing there, and clearly I'm quite well suited to it too," he said. "I played there for the first time in [a Europa League qualifier against Odds BK] Norway. It's a mixture of playing as a defensive midfielder and centre back. You've got to cover plenty of ground like a midfielder, but also combine quickly like a defender. So it's a good blend for me."
Tuchel's tinkering is therefore delivering optimal results, and Sunday's win was further evidence of how times have changed. "2-0 is a very dangerous score – your opponents only have to score one and they're right back in the game," explained Ginter. "Last year, conceding a goal like we did would definitely have made us feel nervous. Now we're far more stable than we were last season. We've learned not to lose our composure and just to carry on playing our game."