Borussia Dortmund are known for their exciting, attacking football, but it's at the other end of the pitch that the club have improved, as head coach Thomas Tuchel stated ahead of the game against Mainz.
Involved in 109 goals this season, it's understandable why most of the talk surrounding Borussia Dortmund this season has been about the attacking trio of Marco Reus (18 goals, six assists), Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (33/10) and Henrikh Mkhitaryan (19/23). As impressive as "RAM" have been this season, Thomas Tuchel's side have benefited from a tighter defensive unit, something the head coach alluded to in his press conference ahead of the game against Mainz on Sunday.
"Our approach to defending has improved," said Tuchel. "Our porosity in defense was always a discussion, so we've put some focus on that and it has helped," said Tuchel, adding that the mindset surrounding the defense has changed from a criticism around the dinner table to a strength.
With nine games left to go in the Bundesliga, Dortmund have only conceded 25 goals in as many games. In fact, since the restart in January, Dortmund's opponents have only found a way past them on three occasions.
This time last season, Dortmund's conceded column had 31 in it, and the season before it was 29.
Ever the perfectionist, the 42-year-old said that Dortmund still had conceded too many goals in the first half of the season based on a shots-to-goal ratio. Nevertheless, Mats Hummels and Roman Bürki's return to form has played a huge part in Dortmund's dominant defense, something Tuchel acknowledged. "Mats Hummels is playing at a top level right now," said Tuchel, adding that tactical adjustments and a bit more luck were also reasons for Dortmund's defensive improvement.
When asked about contracts, as has become custom in almost every BVB press conference of late, Tuchel's humor was on hand again. With both captain Mats Hummels and Marcel Schmelzer's contracts running out in the summer of 2017, Tuchel said with a cheeky grin: "If they go, we'll play without a center back or a left back, but we obviously want to keep them."
Even if some players are "playing at their limit", Tuchel believes his side is in peak condition as their arduous schedule continues: "I haven't given much thought to rotation. We were very fresh against Tottenham."
A match-up against his former team and the fourth most in-form Bundesliga side since January will demand the same level of freshness, as well as defensive quality.