The Peter Bosz era is upon us, with Borussia Dortmund getting back to work on Friday, July 7. Time to look at where things stand with the Black and Yellows’s squad ahead of pre-season.
Much like it has become standard operating procedure for Michael Zorc and Dortmund’s transfer team, the Ruhr side has done their business efficiently and early. All four of the club’s new arrivals were tied down before the transfer window even started.
Thinning out the somewhat bloated squad a bit should be the goal for the next few weeks, a process that started with the sale of defender Matthias Ginter for a reported €17 million to league rivals Borussia Mönchengladbach. It stands to reason Bosz will take a good look at a number of players before their fate can be decided, so it would not be surprising in the slightest if a few deals — loans or outright sales — came about after his first few weeks in charge.
Club and fans still have to wait for the biggest domino to drop — or not drop — as the Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang sage keeps on spinning. An end might well be in sight, however, as the Chinese transfer window slams shut on July 14.
Let’s take a position-by-position look at where things stand as the Black and Yellows embark on the 2017/18 campaign.
After a superb second season at the Westfalenstadion — which earned him a number of honours in our season award show — Roman Bürki remains firmly entrenched as the club’s No. 1 goalkeeper. The 26-year-old has developed as a player and a leader and is a prime candidate for a contract extension during the season, his current deal running out in 2019.
Roman Weidenfeller extended his contract for one more year in May and enters what is likely to be his final year as a professional footballer as the veteran No. 2. A club legend, Weidenfeller should be little more than an emergency solution with Bürki likely to stand between the sticks in all competitive matches.
Dominik Reimann seems set to take over as the third ‘keeper, playing for the under-23 team in the Regionalliga (4th division) while filling in on the first-team bench if the need arises. The 20-year-old will have to translate talent into performances on a consistent basis if he aims to replace Weidenfeller next season.
Business Left: None.
Veterans Lukasz Piszczek and Marcel Schmelzer go into another season as odds-on favourites for the starting jobs. The oldest regular starter and the team captain will, of course, have to show they fit what Bosz is looking for from his full-backs. Schmelzer has especially strong competition from Raphael Guerreiro.
The Portugal international, who could also again play an important role in midfield or as a left-winger, suffered an injury the extent of which is still unknown on FIFA Confederations Cup duty, however. It’s not yet known if he can return to the training pitch immediately following his vacation.
Erik Durm’s fortunes may well have taken a hit with the dismissal of Thomas Tuchel, who often used the 25-year-old’s athleticism in bigger games against dangerous opposition. The 2014 FIFA World Cup winner doesn’t have overly impressive qualities on the ball and it wouldn’t be too surprising if Bosz didn’t have as much of a use for Durm as Tuchel did. Then again, his versatility is an asset.
Felix Passlack’s situation bears watching. The 19-year-old was in the mix throughout the first half of the last season but fell off towards the end of the campaign. The versatile right-back is a prime candidate for a loan if Bosz doesn’t think he can compete for playing time this season. According to reports from Berlin, Passlack would like to join Hertha BSC, while Kicker claimed VfB Stuttgart — with his former youth coach Hannes Wolf — held an important interest as well.
Joo-ho Park, yes, is still a Dortmund player. It’s safe to say the club wouldn’t put obstacles in his way if the South Korean found a new team. More likely, though, he will sit out the last year of his contract on a nice salary.
Business Left: Trade Park for a ham sandwich if you can. Decide if Durm and Passlack are fits for Bosz. If not, sell Durm/send Passlack on loan. Right-back is one of the few spots where another signing could potentially make some sense. If Guerreiro is out for an extended amount of time, only one of Durm and Passlack can leave.
The only position with two new signings, centre-back looks strong both in terms of quality and depth. Marc Bartra was perhaps the best player on the team until the attack on the players in the team bus ahead of the UEFA Champions League match against Monaco. If he can pick up that form again — and there’s no reason he can’t — the 26-year-old should be a definite starter thanks to his ball-playing abilities.
Going by last season’s performances, Sokratis Papastathopoulous is the first candidate to start next to the Catalan. A fierce leader, the Greek defender was a rock in defence in the first half of the season but a bit more error-prone in the second. Ömer Toprak, a €12 million signing from Bayer Leverkusen, is coming off perhaps his worst season as a professional player, but, at least on paper, combines qualities as a defender and on the ball better than Sokratis. This is going to be an interesting battle — unless Bosz surprises and uses Bartra at right-back as he did with Joel Veltman at Ajax last season.
Sven Bender will be in the mix as long as he stays healthy, which, going by past experience, will not often be the case. Some have speculated that he will move back to a midfield role with Tuchel gone but it’s hard to see Bosz using a technically limited player in the pivot.
Dan-Axel Zagadou joins from Paris Saint-Germain on a free transfer. The 18-year-old is a physical specimen and a good passer, but expectations ought to be kept low. In all likelihood, this will be a year of apprenticeship with sporadic appearances in the matchday squad.
Neven Subotic returns from a somewhat successful loan spell at Cologne but faces an uphill climb for playing time. The fan favourite told Kicker he’s ready to take that challenge head-on, for what it’s worth.
Business Left: Even after the sale of Ginter, this position looks a bit crowded. Would it be shocking to see Sokratis leave for a gargantuan offer from the Premier League or Serie A? More likely, Subotic will go somewhere where he can play.
At first glance, this looks like a solid depth chart. However, that first glance isn’t enough. For starters, Julian Weigl will miss the first few months of the campaign after suffering a broken ankle against FC Augsburg on the penultimate league matchday. The 21-year-old is one of the most important players on the team and will surely play a major role under Bosz as well.
Nuri Sahin would make for a great replacement if he didn’t have such an extensive injury history himself. The Turkey international has played a total of 30 competitive matches over the last three seasons and can thus hardly be trusted to be a full-time starter.
The transfer of Sebastian Rode seems like a rare misfire just one year into a lucrative four-year contract. The 26-year-old doesn’t exactly look like a great fit for Bosz’s idea of football and it would seem highly unlikely he will factor into the rotation too much unless injuries strike badly.
Mikel Merino’s first year at Dortmund registered as a disappointment even if expectations were never all that high to begin with. The 21-year-old might profit from the coaching change and Weigl’s injury but rumours of a return to Spain or a loan inside the Bundesliga have persisted for weeks.
Dzenis Burnic, finally, moves up from the under-19 ranks and will get a good, hard look during pre-season. Ultimately, he ought to get playing time at the under-23 level, however.
Business Left: See if you can dump Rode’s contract with little loss in terms of the transfer fee. Decide whether Merino should be loaned out, sold with a buyback option, or sold altogether. Unless Bosz plans to use someone like Mahmoud Dahoud here during Weigl’s injury absence, this is another position where a new signing may make some sense. Enticing though links with then-Roma DM Leandro Paredes were, they proved unsubstantial. If nothing else, this could be a position of need next season.
Top-to-bottom the best depth chart for any position on the team, if — a big if — everyone’s healthy and in form. That’s not even including Guerreiro.
Mario Götze has largely overcome a mysterious metabolical issue and will join his team-mates in pre-season, making a return to the pitch early in the season a distinct possibility. The lost-and-then-returned son played better than given credit for while struggling with the then-yet-to-be-discovered issues last season. Still, expectations are best kept low as nobody really knows how he’ll get on after this experience.
Shinji Kagawa lived through a veritable renaissance during last season’s Rückrunde and seems a perfect fit for Bosz’s preferred playing style thanks to his counterpressing intelligence and technical abilities — it doesn’t hurt that the Dutch coach speaks some Japanese. Kagawa suffered a shoulder injury on international duty, but that shouldn’t be too big a problem in the coming weeks. A contract extension for the 28-year-old shouldn’t be far.
Despite being one of the most experienced players on the team, Gonzalo Castro has been maddeningly inconsistent during his first two years at the Westfalenstadion. The arrival of Dahoud and the return of Götze (and return to form of Kagawa) doesn’t bode particularly well for the former Germany international. That said, having a player of Castro’s general quality up their sleeves shows just how strong Dortmund’s squad is.
Mahmoud Dahoud, finally, can be considered the crowning jewel of the team’s transfer activities. The 21-year-old should be what Dortmund lacked last season, an heir to Ilkay Gündogan’s throne in the middle of the park. The Syrian-born Germany youth international comes off a difficult season with Borussia Mönchengladbach and faces stiff competition — which could cause Bosz to play him as a defensive midfielder while Weigl’s unavailable — but there’s little doubt that Dahoud will put his stamp on the team before too long.
Business Left: Sign Kagawa to a contract extension and be done with it.
Jacob Bruun Larsen
If the central/attacking midfielders are the strongest position on the team, the group of wingers isn’t far behind (again, not even including Guerreiro). Even during another lengthy injury absence for Marco Reus, whose ruptured posterior cruciate ligament will keep him out until 2018 by all accounts, Dortmund have strength and depth.
Ousmane Dembele took the league by storm and established himself as one of the hottest comodities in European football. Keeping him beyond the 2017/18 season may prove an impossible challenge. Dembele upstaged even Christian Pulisic, who played a phenomenal first full season at the senior level. If those two can continue on their trajectory from last year, the sky’s the limit.
Andre Schürrle, on the other hand, had a season to forget and could well find himself left behind once again. The club’s record signing struggled with injuries and form crises and became an afterthought even with his mentor Tuchel in charge. Schürrle’s saving grace could be his ability to play up front when need be.
Dortmund’s most expensive signing of this summer transfer window, Maximilian Philipp joins from SC Freiburg for a hefty €20 million. The similarities with Reus are striking both in appearance and playing style. Whether he can win the superstar’s starting spot right away remains to be seen, but Philipp’s quickness in transition, shooting technique and directness will be a welcome addition to the squad either way.
Emre Mor would be the most talented young player on most teams in Europe, but he’s got Dembele and Pulisic in front of him as well as more seasoned veterans. On paper, the effervescent dribbler should be a good fit for Bosz — who improved a somewhat similar player dramatically at Ajax in Amin Younes — but finding playing time for Mor could prove difficult.
The same goes for Jacob Bruun Larsen, who, much like Burnic, will get a good look in pre-season if the broken foot he suffered earlier this year permits it. The Dane, who could well be a full-back at the next level, could play for the under-23 team this season to get some match practice.
Business Left: Figure out if Schürrle has a future. If not, cut ties with minimal loss. Mor could be a good candidate for a loan within the Bundesliga, but the club could decide they want to mold him into a more professional player themselves.
The smallest position group on the team, but only because Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is never injured and others, such as Schürrle, Philipp and, down the road, Reus, could also factor into the equation.
Aubameyang may have to change up his playing style a bit under Bosz, who typically wants his strikers to be a bit more active in the team’s general play. Expecting another historic goal-scoring season would probably be unwise. The Gabon international will still be the team’s focal point in attack — if he’s still in Dortmund on September 1.
Alexander Isak joined from AIK Solna in January and will only turn 18 on September 21. Hence, it’s not surprising he’s played only four minutes for BVB to this point. Having a full pre-season with the team should be a big boost for the talented striker, who declined to play in the UEFA under-19 Euros to concentrate on Dortmund. If Aubameyang stays, Isak should eventually become his principal back-up.
Business Left: Wait for the shoe to drop on Aubameyang, one way or the other. Replacing their superstar would prove very difficult even with a bulging war chest, seeing as a healthy wage structure is of utmost importance for the club’s decision-makers.