Klopp’s new signings have Dortmund dreaming of glory

When Arjen Robben slotted in Bayern’s winning goal in the Champions League final at Wembley last season, many thought Borussia Dortmund’s fairytale had come to an end.

Those who believed defeat in North West London marked the last chapter of a short but successful cycle for Jurgen Klopp’s men pointed at the departure of Mario Gotze to arch-rivals Bayern Munich as the beginning of the end for Dortmund.

News of Gotze’s defection to Bavaria had struck Dortmund only days before the Wembley showdown and with Robert Lewandowski desperate to swap the Westfalen Stadion for the Allianz Arena, odds were stacked against the club from North Rhine-Westphalia.

An astute tactician on the pitch, Klopp had shown remarkable nous in the transfer window in recent seasons, but entering the summer as European runners-up, Dortmund could no longer count on any sort of surprise factor in the transfer market, nor they could count on the same financial strenght available to their Bavarian rivals.

In customary fashion, however, Klopp conducted his business with the same efficiency with which his team applies one of the “quick transitions” so dear to the former Mainz manager.

Having retained Lewandowski, Dortmund replaced Munich-bound Gotze with Armenian international Henrikh Mkhitaryan, signed from Shakthar Donetsk for £24m, after he deemed Champions League football at Dortmund more appealing than turning out at Anfield every second week.

The 24-year-old has been almost a like-for-like replacement for Gotze and has got his Bundesliga career off to a flyer, netting three times in his first four games and registering one assist in the process.

Much like the previous owner of the black and yellow number 10 shirts, the Armenian is not afraid to take on his direct opponent – he averages 0.8 dribbles per game – while his four shots per game suggest Dortmund should not miss Gotze’s contribution in front of goals.

Of the midfielders Klopp has utilised in the Bundesliga so far this season, only Sven Bender and Nuri Sahin have a better pass completion ratio than the former Shakthar Donetsk playmaker.

Who needs Gotze? Henrik Mkhitaryan has been Dortmund's creator in chief this season

Mkhitaryan, however, wasn’t Klopp’s only purchase this summer as the Dortmund manager splashed £11.5m on Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who netted 19 goals in Ligue 1 with Saint Etienne last term.

If there was one weak link in Dortmund’s exciting machine last season, was that the 2012 Bundesliga winners had no obvious replacement for Robert Lewandowski, who took upon himself the bulk of goalscoring duties.

With the arrival of the Gabon international, however, not only have Dortmund found a man capable of offering a valid alternative to Lewandowski, but they have also acquired a player able to deputise for either Marco Reus or Jakub Blaszczykowski as wide man in Klopp’s front three.

Deadly. Aubameyang has scored five goals in as many matches despite averaging less than three shots per game

 

The former Saint Etienne player has proved an instant hit at the Westfalen Stadion, netting five goals in his first five appearances for the club – of which only three have been starts – and have come from a meagre 2.8 shots per game.

Aubameyang’s unselfish approach is illustrated by numbers which suggest the former AC Milan academy product place more emphasis on creating chances for his team-mates – 19.6 passes per game on average – than on personal glory – he’s attempted only 0.8 dribbling per game – making him the ideal player for a system like Klopp’s.

Aubameyang and Mkhitaryan will both be in the team tonight as Dortmund open their Champions League away at Napoli, a side by many tipped to emulate the Germans and become this season’s dark horses.

Gotze might be gone but Dortmund are alive and kicking and behind the affable smile, Klopp has his sights firmly set on the final in Lisbon.

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