After we took a look at BVB’s defensive players in part one of the squad analysis, it’s time to do the same with Dortmund’s midfield and attack.
(18 Nuri Sahin (26))
33 Julian Weigl (19)
8 Nuri Sahin (27)
33 Julian Weigl (20)
Yet another position where the players at the club technically didn’t change compared to last season is defensive midfield. “Technically” – because Sahin looks like a new player this pre-season.
The 27-year-old had to overcome a major injury during the first half of last season and never looked as if he was totally football fit for the entirety of the campaign. As a result Julian Weigl had to play nearly every game for Dortmund.
Weigl will still be one of the most important players, if not the most important, for Thomas Tuchel’s Borussia this season, but Sahin’s better shape will allow for some more rotation or for both of them playing together if needed.
The most promising youngster playing at this position is certainly Dzenis Burnic (18), who spent most of pre-season with the first team. Although he’s been playing a lot at centre-back recently, and impressive at that, his usual position is the deepest midfield role. He’s definitely one to watch no matter where exactly Tuchel sees him in the future.
With Sahin’s newly found fitness and form it seems like Dortmund have improved quite a lot. Especially keeping in mind that Weigl is still only 20 years old and the sky really is the limit for him.
8 Ilkay Gündogan (24)
(14 Moritz Leitner (22))
27 Gonzalo Castro (28)
18 Sebastian Rode (25)
27 Gonzalo Castro (29)
Tuchel usually likes to play with one deeper No. 6 (mostly Weigl) and a more offensive-minded No, 8 ahead of him. Last season that role was largely covered by Gündogan. Castro took over some of his duties after the Germany international went down with a knee injury.
While Castro isn’t as creative or pressing-resistant as Gündogan – very few players are – he has some great passing in the final third and his vertical runs can be dangerous in front of goal.
Castro often looked better for BVB in a more advanced role, where he can play lay-offs and through balls in the final third. At least defensively, however, he will probably be asked to play the part next to Weigl on a regular basis, while someone like Mario Götze might take over some of Gündogan’s offensive duties. More on that later.
In Rode Dortmund have bought a relatively young but already proven Bundesliga player with a solid passing game and high work rate. After last season’s loss to Liverpool it was rumoured that Tuchel would like to bring in a “fighter“ in midfield who would encourage and lead the team in such big games.
Although it’s dubious to some why such a player would be needed, Rode seems to fit that profile while being a solid player on the ball who won’t disrupt Dortmund’s possession game too much.
An interesting younger player at this position is Orel Mangala (18), whom the club signed on loan from Anderlecht. He already looked good in friendlies with the first team, albeit playing as false 9 or No. 10 and will be one to watch in the U19 Bundesliga this season.
The loss of Gündogan to Manchester City obviously hurts the overall quality of the squad. Dortmund weren’t able or willing to bring in a like-for-like replacement. Quality-wise that would obviously be a nearly impossible task, but they didn’t bring in a similar type of player either.
Castro is still a good player, however, and Rode a great squad addition. But the quality in the starting XI has definitely decreased – this could prove to be one of the weak spots of the squad.
(7 Jonas Hofmann (22))
(9 Adnan Januzaj (20))
10 Henrikh Mkhitaryan (26)
11 Marco Reus (26)
22 Christian Pulisic (16)
7 Ousmane Dembélé (19)
9 Emre Mor (19)
11 Marco Reus (27)
21 André Schürrle (25)
22 Christian Pulisic (17)
After selling Hofmann to Gladbach and letting Januzaj go back to Manchester United during the last winter transfer window, Dortmund had somewhat of a shortage on the wings. Dembélé now revealed in an interview that Tuchel already wanted him to join in January, but that the clubs couldn’t agree on a fee.
This resulted in Reus and Mkhitaryan having to start nearly every game and players like Erik Durm and Adrian Ramos playing on the wing at times. On the bright side, Pulisic and Passlack broke into the senior team and showed some promise.
The loss of Mkhitaryan weighs heavy, as he was the player to give the team structure in the final third. His end product was also impressive, but there are no guarantees that it would have been the same this season.
Instead of replacing Mkhitaryan’s ability to give the team structure, balance and create connections, Zorc, Tuchel and Watzke went into a different direction with their signings. Dortmund don’t necessarily think in like-for-like replacements or try to replicate their structure from the year before when players leave, they rather concentrate on other qualities to build a new structure.
The same happened this season, as evident in the signings of Dembélé, Mor and Schürrle. All three have a different and partly unique set of skills. As well as Dembélé and Mor being some of the most talented U20 players in the world right now.
They both can dribble past opponents for fun and also have a creative passing game, but, at times, struggle with their decision-making. Something for Tuchel to work on. During pre-season both showed great improvement in their pressing and behavior after losing the ball, but Mor’s angry fits and overall body language remains problematic.
Pulisic’s game might not be as spectacular as the aforementioned, especially when it comes to dribbling, but he’s already a more tactically rounded player at only 17 years of age. The American will face tough competition for game time this season, but his tactical understanding might give him an edge.
In Schürrle Dortmund have bought an entirely different player compared to the young dribblers. He is a great player for a direct and more counter-attacking style, as well as constant runs behind the defence. Schürrle’s combination game is lacking, though, and Tuchel mostly highlighted his ability to press and occupy the defence for 90 minutes with runs when asked why he was signed.
We tried to make sense of the signing in an earlier article and, to give Schürrle credit, he showed good understanding with Götze in the two friendlies they played. He’s also a good finisher and, with the injury of Reus, the verticality in his game might come in handy in some matches.
Speaking of Reus, he’s still expected to join team training mid-August, but it’ll probably take a few more weeks or even months until he’s completely fit and ready to appear in matches.
In Dominik Wanner (17) there is a promising goal-scoring winger coming through the youth ranks as well. However, with the young wingers in the first team already it’s tough to envisage him breaking into the first team anytime soon.
As mentioned earlier, losing Mkhitaryan is a huge blow and Dortmund didn’t add a player close to his quality. They do have a mix of incredibly talented and proven players at this position and definitely have increased the depth here. The quality of the starting XI has suffered, but, during this hopefully long season, the new-found depth will become important.
23 Shinji Kagawa (26)
10 Mario Götze (24)
23 Shinji Kagawa (27)
Last season Kagawa was the only real No. 10 in the squad, although the role he mostly played could also be called a mix between an 8 and a 10. Tuchel reportedly wasn’t too happy with Kagawa’s inconsistent performances and at times opted to play Castro instead of him. The Japanese still played most games because of a lack of competition within the squad.
This drastically changed with the arrival of Götze, who was immediately one of the best players on the pitch in both friendlies he played and seems on a good way to rekindle some of the brilliance from his first stint at Dortmund.
David Kopacz (17), who can also play on the wing, is one of the most promising players in the attacking midfield in all of Dortmund’s youth teams. The rapid and technically strong Poland U17 international is looking to impress in his first season at the U19 level.
Undoubtedly one of the most improved positions in the squad. The addition of Götze will improve the team immediately and provides some much-needed competition for Kagawa, who has to step his game up. It’s not unlikely, however, that we’ll see both of them play together in some matches, especially when Dortmund are expected to dominate an opponent.
As mentioned above, Götze could then take over some of Gündogan’s playmaking responsibilities from deeper areas or carry the ball through midfield. This could also work next to an advanced Castro or Rode to take some pressure off them in the build-up.
17 Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (26)
20 Adrian Ramos (29)
17 Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (27)
20 Adrian Ramos (30)
Nothing to see here. Basically everything stayed the same and, unfortunately, Aubameyang also took his struggles into the friendlies of the new season.
With a lot of new players arriving it’ll probably take some time for everyone to settle in. Not only for the newly signed players but also someone like Aubameyang, who depends on the work and passes of team-mates.
Of course, Aubameyang has proven to be a top level striker with great upside and it’s likely he’ll regain his form at some point. Hopefully for Dortmund, that’ll be sooner rather than later.
Ramos has shown some promise in the friendlies but still looks a bit slow in everything he does. He has shown to be a good back-up in the Bundesliga, however, and, with the arrivals of Schürrle and Götze, Tuchel also has the option to play one of them up front.
Besides the big and tall striker Janni-Luca Serra (18), who unfortunately recently tore his anterior cruciate ligament and doesn’t seem to fit Tuchel’s striker profile anyway, Gabriel Kyeremateng (17) is an interesting player. The pacy and technically decent striker is now in his first year for the U19. Especially with the lack of talent at this position in Germany and the giant fees being paid for more or less average strikers, he is an interesting prospect.
The overall level at this position stays about the same although Götze and especially Schürrle might be an interesting option here, the latter especially when choosing a more counter-attacking approach.
If Aubameyang regains some form, Dortmund shouldn’t be in too much trouble here, but it remains a big task for Zorc and the scouts to find a young striker for the future, seeing as the Gabonese is likely to leave the club relatively soon.
Expected midfield and striker:
My expected first-choice attacking unit at the start of the season: Weigl – Castro, Götze – Dembélé, Schürrle – Aubameyang.
The entire team: Bürki – Piszczek, Sokratis, Bartra, Schmelzer – Weigl – Castro, Götze – Dembélé, Schürrle – Aubameyang.