How do you mend the broken hearts of the SchwatzGelb faithful after that Champions League final loss? You go out, restructure the entire team, and spend a hat full of money. After the loss to Benfica, I was determined that BVB, with the right investment, could become a world class team now, and for the future. For one season and (possibly) one season only, I broke with my own imposed rules, and whilst my focus was purely on the long term, I sacrificed my precious spending limitations in order to gain instant gratification. My investments were huge by my usual standards, but everyone brought in had huge potential, and could take the team to a new high instantly.
Going into the window, the biggest transfer story as far as BVB went was the signing of Leon Goretzka from arch rivals FC Schalke 04. To give context, Schalke had accepted my first speculative offer, having made a habit of selling their best players, and with Goretzka being one of the best German youths out there, who was I to say no? To be fair, my faith would be restored throughout the first half of the season, as Goretzka instantly became one of the first names on the team sheet.
Alongside Goretzka, Aleksander Dragovic and Joshua Kimmich had deals confirmed before the end of the second season, moving from Barcelona and Bayern respectively. With these three coming in, I ideally wanted to move a few fringe players on, for their and our own good. Players like Gonzalo Castro and Sven Bender made low fee moves to other, clubs, whilst an €18m bid from Roma for Shinji Kagawa was too hard to turn down, especially when I knew his game time this coming season would be limited. Jakub Blaszczykowski also left the club, on a free, which I felt was fair considering his loyalty to the club, moving to Besiktas.
It was then that things took a turn for the crazy. It soon became apparent that Pierre Emerick Aubameyang was a wanted man, with Real Madrid chasing the explosive forward. His career plans were to always move to the Spanish giants, and with him asking me to accept a bid for him, I was left between a rock and a hard place. Aubameyang was going. It was probably the right thing to do, but I needed to act quickly to bring in some real quality up front. For me, there was only one answer…
€80m later, and the Robert Lewandowski was back in the schwatzgelb of BVB. A world class player without a doubt, and whilst Aubameyang would lose his pace in a few years, and thus his threatening attribute, Lewy’s intelligence and technical skills would allow him to continue playing long into his 30s. It was done, and whilst the fans would question the worth, I had no doubt that he would be someone who could make a difference for us, and who could provide a moment of brilliance out of nothing.
I’ve always been obsessed with creative midfielders. I love Nuri Sahin and Julian Weigl, and when a bargain appears for such a player, I find it hard to resist, which can sometimes lead to me being over stocked in midfield. This was certainly the case this time, when it became apparent that Pierre-Emile Højbjerg was also available at Bayern. A midfield option of Højbjerg, Goretzka, Dahoud and Weigl was too much to handle, the potential there being ridiculously huge. Within minutes the deal was done…a third player bought from Bayern this window.
Then came the Argentine wonder Agustin Madoery. I’d scouted this lad for a while, and every scouting report which came back stated that this kid had “potential to be one of the best in the world”. I was sold…another option for midfield? What could go wrong? €4.7m for a player who could be the best in the world? No question.
My aims were to win the league for a 3rd season, but to also improve in Europe…after the bitterness of the final loss; I was determined to win the thing…hard I know. We went through preseason with style, then opening the season with a 2-1 win in Leipzig over RB Leipzig in the Super Cup.
A resounding 6-0 win in the cup over minnows Baunatal, followed by a 1-0 win over Leverkusen on opening day saw us start the season well…if not a little bit lacklustre in places. We were playing fine, but struggling to put away chances. As expected, the quality of Lewandowski proved instrumental, with Lewy scoring in the majority of our fixtures, all the way to the winter break. We were strong in the league, only losing to Bayern away. But it wasn’t until a 4-1 win over Mainz that I felt our BVB TOTAL tactic was at 100% efficiency. From then on, in every game we seemed deadly on every attack. It was glorious to see, with the new boys really embedding themselves into the squad. Goretzka and Højbjerg especially impressed, and Dahoud showed himself to be extremely consistent, perhaps grabbing the assist of the season in a match against St Etienne in the Champions League.
An unfortunate defeat away to Leipzig saw them get retribution for the Super Cup, but going into the winter break, we sat atop the league, with Leverkusen chasing in second.
The Champions League campaign was strong, with us making it through the group without a defeat. The midweek matches gave us a good chance to play our rotated squad, and I was insistent on giving the young American Christian Pulisic a chance. He had impressed well in the US squad during the Gold Cup, and was being hailed the world over as “The Next Big Thing…” He also felt he was deserving of a bigger part in the team…and in the depression of Marco Reus being out for the rest of the season, I saw the opportunity for the kid to shine.
And shine he did. Oh my god. He took his place and ran with it. In the space of 14 appearances, he scored 3 hattricks, totalling 16 goals, becoming not only the top scorer for the club, replacing Lewy, but the Bundesliga’s top scorer going into the break. He’d have games where he was ineffective, only to score a tap in, and then become unstoppable. His team work with new vice-captain Felix Passlack on the right saw the Passlack receive the highest number of assists in the team. And with an average age of 22, I genuinely have the impression it can be a force for years to come. But Pulisic…oh my god. What a star.
A good first half to the season on the whole. A rather lacklustre start replaced by a totally brilliant display in nearly every match, with new stars breaking out into club icons. Whether we can maintain the form into the latter parts of the second half remains to be seen, but with top class players in and coming into the team, there is now always a fantastic alternative if something isn’t working. I’m excited for Madoery, and for Pulisic to solidify his position, even if it does mean we say goodbye to Henrikh Mkhitaryan.
What do you think? Have we done well? Did I do right to overstock on midfielders?
You can follow the BVB adventure on twitter @VRFussball.
Thanks for reading!