With one game to go in Borussia Dortmund's 2015-16 season—though arguably the biggest—in the DFB-Pokal final against bitter rivals Bayern Munich on Saturday in Berlin's Olympiastadion, it's a good time to review the Black and Yellows' campaign.
After going through their first coaching change since 2008, expectations were not too high. Thomas Tuchel replaced the legendary Jurgen Klopp after a disappointing 2014-15 season that saw Dortmund finish seventh in the Bundesliga, go out of the UEFA Champions League against eventual runners-up Juventus in the round of 16 and lose the cup final against Wolfsburg in Klopp's final game at the helm.
This season, the Black and Yellows have finished second in the league with a record-breaking total of 78 points, an increase of a whopping 32 points. To put those numbers in perspective: Dortmund surpassed last season's points total with a 1-0 win over Hannover on February 13.
Even if we consider the 2014-15 season an outlier, Tuchel's first year in charge holds up very well. Only once in Klopp's tenure did the club manage more than 78 points, namely in the second championship season of 2011-12.
Dortmund had a good chance of setting a new club record with two games to go, but they only won one point against relegation battlers Eintracht Frankfurt and Cologne. Tuchel was disappointed after the 2-2 draw against the Rhinelanders on the final matchday, per the club's official website: "I think it is a real pity that we finished the season on Matchday 32."
While it's difficult to compare the Champions League to the UEFA Europa League, Tuchel did lead his team further than Klopp did last season, only to go out against his predecessor, now in charge of Liverpool.
As ESPN FC's Stefan Buczko wrote, Dortmund's exit "was the definite low-point of the season. Not making it past a Liverpool side Dortmund could have and should have beaten over two legs was a huge disappointment and showed that Tuchel still has to gain experience on the European stage."
European disappointment aside, a remarkable consistency characterised the Ruhr side's season. Dortmund never lost two games on the spin in the league, whereas last season a run of six losses in seven matches between September and November got them in deep trouble for months. The Black and Yellows started the current campaign with a better run—five straight wins—than they ever managed last season.
Perhaps even more impressive than their improved tally in the table is Dortmund's stylistic evolution under Tuchel. Midfielder Henrikh Mkhitaryan, arguably the club's player of the season, told Bleacher Report in February that "when Tuchel came, we started to play a different kind of football. We try to keep the ball more, we try to pass it more and play very offensive football."
While it's difficult to put that change in numbers, it's notable that Dortmund have cultivated a more economic playing style. As this graphic from BVBstatistics shows, the team covers less ground than in previous years:
Dortmund don't have to run as much simply because they have a lot more possession: Statistics portal statista (link in German) had the Black and Yellows down for 53.6 per cent possession on average last season, compared to 60.1 per cent on average this campaign, per Transfermarkt.co.uk.
The team has thrived in Tuchel's playing style, setting a club record with 82 goals in the league. Last season, they found the net only 47 times, a total Dortmund surpassed on the first matchday of the second half of the current season on January 23.
The three leading goalscorers of last season scored 16 (Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang), seven (Marco Reus) and five (Shinji Kagawa) goals, respectively. This campaign, Aubameyang paced the team with 25 goals, Reus managed 12, Mkhitaryan 11 and both Kagawa and Adrian Ramos scored nine.
Not all things have changed, however: Dortmund once again went through a full Bundesliga season without a single sending-off.