Dortmund boosted by Super Cup success
Borussia Dortmund defeated Bayern Munich 2-0 to claim the 2014 German Super Cup on Wednesday. If you were to ask Bayern fans, the result is probably irrelevant, given that it appears Bayern's Javier Martinez will be out for a while with a knee injury, if the early diagnosis is to be believed.
For the black and yellows, it was anything but irrelevant since they won a trophy, which could wipe away the recent 4-0 loss to Liverpool -- not that they would need to make up for a friendly loss, but it's important for the confidence.
Dortmund could once again verify the impressions they made during the preseason. For instance, Henrikh Mkhitaryan is finally living up to the hype. Once again, the Armenian put his name on the score sheet, but more importantly, he is acting with assurance on the ball. It seems that he has finally arrived in Dortmund and is now the favourable choice for any fantasy team.
Of course, it is important to keep in mind that this wasn't the fully competitive Bayern side that we all know. Bayern boss Pep Guardiola said after the game that they are four weeks away from their destined form level, due to the World Cup. So this win is nice, but it is nothing to be too enthusiastic about.
However, a brief time frame for a proper season's preparation has also been a problem for Dortmund manager Juergen Klopp, so it is good to know that BVB is ahead of Bayern in that way.
Klopp can take away a few things from this game. BVB's typical Gegenpressing is already working well in the new 4-4-2 diamond formation. Klopp's philosophy is always defense first, so it creates a fuzzy feeling all around when the defensive sequences come off in a cohesive manner, and in a new two-striker system. The offensive machinery will work itself out over the season, but to have a structured and working defense right from the start is the key to a successful season.
But even if things get a bit patchy, centre-back Sokratis Papastathopoulos looks up for a fight, as evidenced by his display versus new Bayern striker Robert Lewandowski. Papastathopoulos was insuperable against his former teammate and will be in a tough internal battle with Neven Subotic. An impressive display like Wednesday's makes it hard to argue against the Greek. Matthias Ginter could also show why he cost 10 million euros. It seems that the center-back position will be a tough decision for Klopp this season, but nothing to worry for the fans.
And people who asked where Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang will go after the purchase of Adrian Ramos and Ciro Immobile can already see their question answered: on the pitch. The two-striker system probably means that all three will rotate from time to time, but so far in preseason Aubameyang has showed the best chemistry with either Ramos or Immobile, while the latter two strikers don't jell too well yet. A Gabon international, Aubameyang celebrated with a Spider-Man mask after putting the ball into Manuel Neuer's net, and is looking to be very promising in his second year for BVB.
So is 22-year-old German Jonas Hofmann, who played in the hole instead of Mkhitaryan. Perhaps just a placeholder for Marco Reus, Hofmann isn't just a backup anymore. Klopp is sticking with his strategy to play Mkhitaryan a bit wide in order to play Hofmann in the hole, which tells you a lot about the coach's evaluation of the young midfielder.
Dortmund's linkup play in Bayern's half brought a lot of sweetness. Many good, three-flowing combinations resulted in a shot statistic of 22-4. Only one man wanted to force it all by himself; Immobile sometimes lost the eye for a better-positioned teammate, as he looked desperate to score for his new club in his first home game. But that is nothing unusual for a new striker, so nothing to worry about.
In the end, Borussia Dortmund lifted the first trophy of the season with a deserved win against Bayern Munich and can call themselves record Super Cup winners now, with five Super Cup trophies to their name. It was a fun game to watch, but it didn't quite feel like a dress rehearsal. The real first test comes with Bayer Leverkusen on the first match day of the Bundesliga.