After following up their 7-0 demolition of Nuremberg with a magnificent comeback win over Bayer Leverkusen, Borussia Dortmund are showing the impact Lucien Favre has had on the team's play, as the performances bore all the hallmarks of the Swiss coach's style: bold, exciting and young.
When he was appointed in the summer, Favre had clearly laid out his plan. "Of course my wish is that we can play through our entire team, starting from the goalkeeper, finding intelligent ways to get to the goal," he had announced when he was unveiled as Peter Stöger's successor. "We want to play high up the pitch, and we have to be able to counter. A team that can’t counter is not a great team. It will take time because it doesn’t take just one week or one month."
He was wrong. For once.
Exactly a month after his Dortmund side opened the 2018/19 campaign with a rip-roaring 4-1 success against RB Leipzig, Favre planned the 7-0 lesson dished out to Nuremberg on Matchday 5. It was a merciless 'Welcome to the big boys' playground' for the newly promoted side, but it was also a 'Welcome Favre's Dortmund' as the team provided what every yellow-and-black-clad fanatic packed into the Signal Iduna Park had hoped — dreamed even — that their new coach could coax them into delivering.
Watch: Dortmund destroy Nuremberg on Matchday 5
If you're still breathless, you're not alone.
The visitors appeared to have bounced back off the ropes following Jacob Bruun Larsen's early opener, but the peerless Marco Reus had them on the back foot again before the break. Two goals the product of precise one-touch pinball that left their opponents punch-drunk even before the ball had hit the back of the net. "After that, we ran riot," said Reus, accurately summing up a 90-minute performance that was as good as anything Dortmund have produced in recent memory.
If Jürgen Klopp's BVB played "heavy metal football", Favre's Dortmund are modern jazz: there's a lot of room for improvisation and individual expression, but it's within a well defined framework that ensures all the pieces fit harmoniously.
Anyone who doubted that formula would work should have looked at Favre's track record with both Hertha Berlin and Borussia Mönchengladbach, and could have added FC Zürich and Nice too if they needed further proof that he can not only talk a good game, but can talk his squad into playing one too.
"We played very very well, we moved the ball well," said former Dortmund captain Sebastian Kehl, now head of the club's licensed player division. "Those who have just come into the side played really well. That made me really happy. It doesn't matter whether it's Bruun Larsen, Pulisic, Zagadou or Hakimi, the young players were really good on Wednesday and with our extremely effective super-sub Jadon Sancho, showed the great quality and talent that lies in the BVB squad."
"We have a lot of young players who need time, despite their huge potential," Favre insisted after the game despite having seen 18-year-old Sancho replace Bruun Larsen and promptly score his team's sixth and set up the seventh. "The experienced players are also important for us." Enter the likes of Marcel Schmelzer, Lukasz Piszczek and Axel Witsel to provide a heady, high-quality blend that surely will make Dortmund a major force to be reckoned with. And of course, Reus.
Gladbach fans will no doubt feel a pinch of nostalgia when they see how the 29-year-old played. He may be older now, but the Dortmund captain's display, which brought him his 99th and 100th competitive goals in a BVB shirt, had all the fresh-faced brio and exquisite ability he showed so excitingly at Borussia Park. Who was the coach then? Ah yes…
His side did that against Nuremberg — they did everything quicker against Nuremberg — but Leverkusen provided a much sterner test on Matchday 6. It is a testament to the resilience and belief that Favre has instilled in his side that they were able to come from two goals down at half-time to win a remarkable match 4-2.
While it was Bruun Larsen who got Dortmund back in the game with his second goal in three appearances, it was the introduction of Sancho and Paco Alcacer that will have given the Leverkusen defenders nightmares. The Englishman raced the length of the pitch before combining with Reus for the equaliser, and the Spaniard then struck twice in nine minutes to hand Favre's men a famous victory. With such weapons at his disposal, the Swiss technician can take BVB far this season.
"We have always said that with a new coach and a new philosophy, you need a bit of time," explained Reus. Yes, you do Marco, but only a month it seems.