Graham Ruthven: Dortmund are back in style thanks to emerging stars

Under Jurgen Klopp, Dortmund were the preferred choice of football's savviest chin strokers. Is it time to start worshipping at the Yellow Wall again?

What is a football hipster? It’s a term that, in 2018, gets bandied around a lot, usually reserved for those sort of fans who wear Serie A shirts from the 90s to fives or spend their mid-mornings looking for streams of J-League games, but whatever it truly means, Borussia Dortmund were, not so long ago, deemed to be their team of choice. They were the hipster’s favourite.

Under Jurgen Klopp, Dortmund performed a brand of dynamic, fast and furious football that earned themselves a certain tag. They drew admirers from across the European game, not just for the way they played, but for the way everything came together. Klopp had no Galacticos, there were no big-name, big-money signings. Instead, Borussia Dortmund’s success was more organic.

That was five years ago, though, and five years is a long time in football. Dortmund, in recent seasons, have not been the same force, allowing Bayern Munich to canter to six straight Bundesliga titles. Borussia Dortmund are the only side capable of challenging the Bavarians at the top of the German game and since Klopp left they have failed to hold up their end of the power balance.

Soccer Football – Bundesliga – Borussia Dortmund v Hertha BSC – Signal Iduna Park, Dortmund, Germany – October 27, 2018 Borussia Dortmund coach Lucien Favre before the match REUTERS/Leon Kuegeler DFL regulations prohibit any use of photographs as image sequences and/or quasi-video

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That’s changing though. With 10 games of the 2018/19 season played, Borussia Dortmund sit top of the Bundesliga, two points ahead of Bayern Munich. Lucien Favre was only appointed manager at the Westfalenstadion in the summer, but the impact he has made has been profound. Three wins from three in the Champions League, including a 4-0 thumping of Atletico Madrid, have only further underlined the strong start to the season they’ve made.

But just as was the case with Klopp’s side, Favre’s Dortmund are catching the eye due to more than just their results, as impressive as they have been. The Bundesliga table-toppers are, right now, the most entertaining team to watch in Europe. Defensive discipline isn’t really their thing, but attacking flair certainly is.

In the likes of Jadon Sancho and Christian Pulisic, Dortmund also boast a number of sparkling, teenage talents, with the former emerging as the breakout star of the season in the Bundesliga. Favre hasn’t spent big, there was no transfer market spree in the summer. Instead, he has pieced together a table-topping team from promising youngsters, unfulfilled journeyman and shrewd additions like Paco Alcacer.

Soccer Football – Bundesliga – Borussia Dortmund v FC Augsburg – Signal Iduna Park, Dortmund, Germany – October 6, 2018 Borussia Dortmund’s Paco Alcacer celebrates scoring their fourth goal with Marco Reus and Manuel Akanji REUTERS/Leon Kuegeler DFL regulations prohibit any use of photographs as image sequences and/or quasi-video TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY

Even after all this time, Klopp’s fingerprints are all over this Borussia Dortmund side. He established what has become the modern identity of the club, with Favre building on top of that. It might be a slightly altered interpretation of ‘Gegenpressing,’ but parallels can be drawn between the two Borussia Dortmund side of different eras.

Of course, it’s possible that Favre’s side could fall away. Bayern Munich have toiled terribly early on this season, going four games in succession without a win over late September and early October, and yet they are still only two points behind Dortmund at the top of the Bundesliga standings.

Over time, the Bavarians’ superior squad depth and know-how might see them leapfrog their rivals. It took a monumental achievement from Klopp’s Dortmund side to win back-to-back league titles between 2010 and 2012 and ultimately, that might prove somewhat beyond Favre’s crop. Things might level out over the course of the whole campaign.

Nonetheless, there’s a certain charm to the Black and Yellows this season. It’s in the way they have scored 41 and conceded 13 so far this season, in the way they have gone 14 games unbeaten in all competitions despite flying by the seat of their defensive pants more than once. Borussia Dortmund might not go on to become champions this season, the major honours may still evade them come May, but for the hipsters, that doesn’t really matter. Finally, they have their favourites back.

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