Ousmane Dembele was the standout performer in Dortmund's impressive demolition of Gladbach on Saturday. If the 19-year-old can produce such complete displays more consistently, his club will be back in the title race.
When Ousmane Dembele received Marco Reus' pass on the edge of Gladbach's box, 63 minutes in to Saturday's game, he had plenty of options. Reus was looking for a return ball while Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang lurked in the space to his right.
But the teenager ignored the senior men in Dortmund's latest attacking trio, opting instead to take a touch, allowing a covering defender to make ground. He was aware of Mahmoud Dahoud's presence though, and leaving him for dead with his next touch, Dembele calmly stroked the ball past Yann Sommer and put a brief Gladbach resurgence to bed.
That moment of composure and class was no flash in the pan. The French international was electrifying throughout Saturday's game until - with the three points won - Thomas Tuchel withdrew him, a sign of his growing importance.
Playing nominally on the right but often drifting infield, Dembele's precise pass allowed the excellent Marco Reus to play in Aubameyang for the equalizer that settled Dortmund nerves after their early concession. But he didn't stop there. His corner shortly after led to Lukasz Pizczek's goal, his slide-rule through ball created another great chance for Reus and, after his goal, Dembele still found time to combine almost telepathically with Reus and Aubameyang for the fourth, scored by the Gabonese frontman.
Dembele didn't do it alone. The other two players in Dortmund's forward trident were also irrepressible, Reus – on his first Bundesliga start this season – was close to his best as he and Dembele flitted fluently behind their prolific spearhead Aubameyang. It was the first time the three had started together but it looked like the hundredth. Gladbach couldn't cope with the speed of thought and movement and must have breathed a sigh of relief when first Reus, then Dembele was withdrawn.
Dortmund have tried a number of players in the attacking midfield roles behind Aubameyang this season with varying degrees of success. While Christian Pulisic, who laid on another exciting cameo on Saturday, has impressed, big money signings Andre Schürrle and Mario Götze have been patchy, while Shinji Kagawa appears a shadow of his former self.
Therein lies a clue to Dortmund's inconsistency. With the loss of three experienced and top class campaigners in the close seasonand an influx of youth, the club needed their remaining big names to step up. With a few exceptions – Aubameyang being the obvious one – that hasn't happened and they've swung from the sublime (beating Bayern a fortnight ago) to something close to ridiculous (losing to Frankfurt the week after).
For much of this season, Dembele has been guilty of similar levels of inconsistency. It's the reason he'd featured in just 50 minutes of Dortmund's previous three league games, though it's also something to be expected of a player with less than 50 league appearances to his name.
But Saturday's display of intelligent dribbling (he completed all seven of his runs with the ball), perceptive movement, mature decision-making, raw pace and end product are undeniable proof that Dortmund have a special player on their hands.
If Tuchel, who was glowing in his praise of Dembele post-match, can tease more performances like this from the youngster and keep Marco Reus fit (and it's hard to know which of those tasks is more challenging), Dortmund have an attacking unit at least the equal of Bayern's or Leipzig's. And that might just be enough to put them back in contention for the Bundesliga title.