(Photo Credits: KTS Kenya)
‘Football is like cake!’, exclaimed Lucien Favre in an interview with Bild. But what exactly did he mean by that?
“Running a football club is a lot like baking a cake. You might be finished kneading the dough and suddenly sugar or cinnamon is missing. The mix always makes the difference- miss one detail and the cake fails,” spoke the Dortmund manager in immaculate analogies.
Well, if that’s the case, then Lucien Favre is baking the most delicious cake that the Signal Iduna Park has had the pleasure of relishing on every game-week since the time of the great Jurgen Klopp who had built his own dynasty in Dortmund. And now, Favre is treading on the same path, kneading the dough correct and making the batter right.
Since his appointment, Borussia Dortmund have been flying high and running rampant in the domestic league and are now playing some of the best football in all of Europe – and the brains behind it is the man who is often the most far away from the spotlight.
When he was appointed in the summer after a series of disappointing temporary projects under seasonal managers who failed to reproduce even half of what Klopp had cemented with the Yellow and Black family, Favre laid out a clear plan of action and the direction he wanted the sporting model in the club to run.
“I want to play through my entire team, starting from the goalkeeper, finding intelligent ways to get to the opposition goal,” he professed.
Favre’s plan was a nod to what his contemporaries in Jurgen Klopp and Pep Guardiola are doing and what is now accepted as the highest standard of playing football in the modern generation. The former Swiss footballer wanted his side to play high up the pitch fearlessly, press smartly and be able to break out on the counter with lightning fast speed.
Favre promised that the process might take time, but that his team would click.
He was both right and wrong.
Right, because his team clicked and clicked effortlessly so. Wrong because it took no time at all for that to happen. It took only the opening fixture for Dortmund to roar past RB Leipzig 4-1. The goals kept piling on and on the 5th match of the season, Lucien’s new look Borussia Dortmund ran riot and put 7 goals past Nuremberg.
The famous Yellow Wall in Signal Iduna Park started roaring and it hasn’t stopped since.
Lucien Favre was a playmaker in his own days and earned 24 caps and a goal for his country, Switzerland, before a knee injury ended his career.
And having worked behind the scenes in football management since 1991, it is only until quite recently that Favre has started gathering attention after successful spells with Hertha Berlin and at Borussia Monchengladbach where he had overseen the development of Marco Reus and Marc Andre ter Stegen and most recently, with OGC Nice in France where he tried reviving Mario Balotelli’s career.
Favre is now back in Germany and reunited with his former disciple Marco Reus who now dons the armband at Dortmund with pride. Reus has been through the heartbreak of serious injuries that have plagued such a large part of his career and has had to deal with some of his best teammates and friends abandoning ship and leaving for rivals, Bayern Munich.
And he has maintained that he had Lucien Favre by his side whenever he needed assistance off the pitch even when the two were at separate clubs. He even acknowledged Lucien as the best coach he has ever worked with – ahead of the likes of world beaters in Klopp, Tuchel and Low.
Favre’s incredible man-management is evident on the pitch itself. Paco Alcacer who was a mismatch at Barcelona has been contented with a bench role for the most part despite scoring 10 goals in seven substitute appearances and is one of the hottest strikers in Europe on current form.
Paco was on target in the landmark 3-2 victory over rivals Bayern and in the mad 4-3 win over Augsburg where he netted a hattrick. Despite his numbers, Favre continues to use Paco as a super sub to take advantage of tired defences in the latter stages of the game- a testament to the clarity in his plans. Under Lucien Favre, Jadon Sancho went from a promising prospect to a crazy talent who looks like he is about to rule the world soon.
And we haven’t even come to the best aspect of Favre’s coaching philosophy yet- the balance between tactical flexibility and obsession for perfection. He is known to pick up on the smallest of details in training, details along the lines of where to position your wrists when receiving a ball, yes, Favre is that intricate and methodical.
“Speed of execution, anticipation, using both your feet, first touches and second touches are fundamental to the quality of passing. If the ball runs away from you, you might lose the ball, and all the little details that are the fundamentals,” he insisted when speaking to a Swiss newspaper 24 Heures.
Lucien Favre has equally maintained that he impresses upon his players the need for tactical flexibility because he often changes systems more than two to three times during a particular game.
Sitting well on top of the Bundesliga, Dortmund are serious contenders to go all the way this season and are hopeful about breaking Bayern’s domestic dominance.
Jurgen Klopp’s Dortmund might have played heavy metal football at the Westfalenstadion but Lucien Favre’s team, on the other hand, are experts in jazz- playing an expansive and attractive brand of attacking football that leaves enough room for the players to improvise and display their virtuoso solos within the system without compromising on the integrity of the entire unit and its coherence.
And the Yellow Wall bounces to their tunes again.