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Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is helping Borussia Dortmund mount a serious challenge to Bayern Munich. - © © gettyimages / Lars Baron
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is helping Borussia Dortmund mount a serious challenge to Bayern Munich. - © © gettyimages / Lars Baron

Borussia Dortmund threaten to end Bayern Munich's Bundesliga dominance


Having made a blistering start to the new season, leaders Borussia Dortmund are already looking like serious title contenders, and will be relying on their free-flowing attacking football to try to break Bayern Munich's iron grip on the Bundesliga crown.

If there was anyone left in Germany who had lingering doubts about Dortmund's title credentials, they have been swept away by the start Peter Bosz's men have made to the 2017/18 campaign.

After a devastating attacking display against Borussia Mönchengladbach that included a hat-trick for Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, the nay-sayers were confounded again as Dortmund disposed of Augsburg on Matchday 7 to rack up a fourth successive victory and pull five points clear of the record Bundesliga champions atop the table. In that quartet of wins, they have scored 18 times, conceding just twice. Things could not be going more swimmingly if Peter Bosz's squad donned trunks and dived in at the deep end for a spot of front crawl.

It is clearly very early days, but there is a genuine sense that Dortmund may finally have assembled a squad capable of ending Bayern's Bundesliga supremacy. Over the past five years, the Bavarians have simply been in a league of their own, winning the championship by margins of 25, 19, ten, ten and 15 points. While there is still every chance that they will go on to claim a sixth consecutive league title, the battle promises to be much tighter than in recent seasons.

Since their last title win under Jürgen Klopp in 2011/12, Dortmund have sometimes struggled to keep hold of their star players - and worse, they have often ended up strengthening their main title rivals. Mario Götze, Robert Lewandowski and Mats Hummels have all made the switch to Bayern, and while the former eventually returned to Dortmund in 2016, the club lost Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Ilkay Gündogan in the same transfer window.

This summer was a slightly different story. Although they sold Ousmane Dembele to Barcelona, BVB made sure the deal happened on their terms, and the €105 million (plus bonuses) that they earned from the sale of the France international was around ten times what they paid to sign him from Rennes. The next most expensive player to leave was Matthias Ginter, for Gladbach - and ask him which side he would rather have been playing for when the Foals were taken apart 6-1 on Matchday 6.

Watch: Aubameyang stars as Gladbach are swept away.

Dortmund also made some shrewd signings, starting with Maximilian Philipp. The former Freiburg winger scored a brace in the 5-0 home win over Cologne, and seemed to enjoy it so much that he repeated the trick six days later against Gladbach. Andrey Yarmolenko opened his account in the UEFA Champions League defeat to Tottenham Hotspur, while Mahmoud Dahoud looks a solid addition to an already impressive midfield boasting the likes of Julian Weigl, Gonzalo Castro and Christian Pulisic. Ömer Toprak, Jeremy Toljan and promising French youngster Dan-Axel Zagadou also provide depth in defence.   

But perhaps most importantly of all, the club managed to keep hold of Aubameyang. If there is one player around whom Dortmund can mount a genuine title challenge, it is surely the Gabon captain, who has already netted 12 goals in all competitions this season.

At 28, the talismanic striker is one of the squad's senior figures and a leader in the dressing room - his open, easy-going personality makes him approachable, while his goal-scoring prowess commands respect. If last season's top scorer in the Bundesliga enjoys another prolific season - and early indications suggest that he will - it is Dortmund who will ultimately reap the benefits.

New coach Bosz has also settled in beautifully at the Signal Iduna Park. The Dutchman - who guided Ajax to last season's UEFA Europa League final - has got Dortmund off to a record-breaking start in 2017/18. Although Gladbach's Lars Stindl prevented them from setting a new club record of six full consecutive games without conceding, BVB have notched up their best-ever goal difference - +19 - after the first seven games of a Bundesliga season, and a club record points tally. Bosz has encouraged his men to push higher up the pitch in his 4-1-4-1 formation, and so far it is working like a charm.  

It has helped Dortmund, of course, that Bayern have - by their own stratospheric standards - made a somewhat disappointing start to the campaign. With the arrivals of James Rodriguez, Corentin Tolisso, Niklas Süle and Sebastian Rudy, the record champions' squad looks stronger than ever, but after Carlo Ancelotti's removal as coach and the gaps left by the retirements of Philipp Lahm and Xabi Alonso yet to be completely filled, Bayern are still to settle into their season. Worryingly for them, they perhaps will not fully do so until Manuel Neuer returns from injury in January.

With their Matchday 3 defeat to Hoffenheim and two successive draws — at home to Wolfsburg and then at Hertha Berlin on Matchday 7 — the Bavarian giants now have to cling to the hope they can become only the ninth team to lift the Meisterschale having been at least five points behind the league leaders after seven games. The last team to do so? Ironically, it was Dortmund in 2011/12.

Only a fool would write Bayern off. But don't shout it too loudly: we may just have a title race on our hands.

Andy Smith

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