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.
Reus admitted Nuremberg "were not very aggressive" despite their resolutely defensive set-up, but Dortmund's hefty 73 percent ball possession was anything but sterile as they combined all the best facets of Favre's coaching leitmotif: solid at the back, quick passing, sharp movement, and — above all — clinical finishing.
The side, who outshot their opponents an almost ludicrously one-sided 19-4, also carried another telltale Favre trait: youth. Larsen turned 20 the day after the man who set up his first Bundesliga goal, Christian Pulisic, barely a week before kick-off. At the back, Dan-Axel Zagadou and debutant Achraf Hakimi are both 19, Manuel Akanji is 23 and Maximilian Philipp is only 24. At an average age of 24.7 years, it was Dortmund's youngest starting XI of the season.
It may not be as baby-faced as the Zürich team that Favre twice guided to the Swiss title in a career-defining period in the mid-2000s, but many of his Dortmund first team are still in the infancy of their football careers which suggests — promisingly for them, ominously for others — they will only get better.
"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…
Favre's influence on Reus is undeniable. Favre said the pair had not had any contact since going their separate ways at Gladbach, but the connection the player had with the man he describes as "the best coach ever" has clearly not been lost.
Of course, the spectre of Reus' X-rated injury record casts a shadow of doubt over the praise gushing in the Germany international's direction, but — fingers crossed — if he stays fit, his will be a pivotal role in a season that is simply bursting with promise.
There is room for improvement of course. Even after dismantling Nuremberg, Favre insisted, "We still have a lot of work to do," and before the game had demanded that his attack-minded team spare a thought for when they are forced to defend. "When we have the ball, we have to be ready to think about what we do if we lose the ball, we have to anticipate it," he explained. "We have to do that quicker."
Watch: Dortmund's remarkable comeback at Bayer Leverkusen!
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.