With the Bundesliga set to restart after the winter break, we asked for your questions for the second instalment of the Yellow Wall mailbag. If you want to get in touch for future episodes, hit us up in the comments below or on social media.
Gregory via Yellowwallpod.com:
Do you think the Dortmund back line solves its issues over the Winterpause like last year, or will this problem keep reoccurring despite Thomas Tuchel’s best efforts?
Lars Pollmann: It’s funny, isn’t it? All the talk about Dortmund’s horrendous defensive record in the first half of the current campaign and they actually conceded fewer goals than last season (albeit with one match to go in the Hinrunde), 19-23.
Of course, most of the criticism towards their back line has been justified, as individual mistakes and a lack of #automatism and communication in the face of countless forced personnel changes have seen Dortmund’s defence struggle even against pedestrian attacks this season.
As Gregory points out, they shored up their defensive woes in Tuchel’s first campaign, mostly by using back threes (even if not always on paper) and positioning the wing-backs deeper on the pitch. They only conceded 11 goals in the second half of the season as a result.
The problem is, that defence was more talented than the current group due to the presence of Mats Hummels, who played a tremendous second half of the season, and Sven Bender’s availability.
Now, Hummels has been replaced by Marc Bartra/Matthias Ginter, who fail to instill any kind of confidence, while Bender has picked up another injury that should keep him out for weeks and the lone rock in defence, Sokratis Papastathopoulos, is also a doubt to kick off 2017.
Long story short, it seems unlikely their issues will magically resolve themselves. The return of Roman Bürki will help and, generally, Dortmund should be a bit better defensively after a few weeks of continued training, but it’s best not to expect too dramatic an improvement.
Kristo via Facebook:
As it seems Roman Bürki is not fit to start against Werder Bremen, could Hendrik Bonmann play? Surely he cannot be worse than Roman Weidenfeller was in the last few matches?
LP: Not to be rude, but the only people asking for Bonmann to play are the ones who’ve never seen him outside of friendly matches.
He’s a good goalkeeper for a lower-league side such as Dortmund’s Zwote playing in the Regionalliga, and could conceivably become a starter for a Bundesliga side with lower ambitions or in the 2. Bundesliga, but he’s not better than Weidenfeller.
Most importantly, Tuchel knows better than to kick up a shindy over the back-up goalkeeper for one match, as Bürki looks set to return for the Mainz game.
Thomas via Yellowwallpod.com:
With a strong likelihood of Adrian Ramos leaving, do you expect Andre Schürrle to replace him as the back-up striker? Also, would it be in BVB’s interest to consider investing in a young striker to be an understudy or is it best to buy experience striker?
LP: Tuchel tried Schürrle, Marco Reus and Mario Götze up front in the friendly matches during the winter break, so any one of the three could lead the line while Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is on AFCON duty.
Schürrle would seem the logical and likely pick, not least because he spent most of his time in the central-striker position during the matches against PSV Eindhoven, Standard Liege and SC Paderborn. He looked OK, making good runs in the channels and evading to the wings allowing his team-mates to move up in advantageous positions in the centre, while also getting caught offside a gazillion times.
If he isn’t the long-term answer for the post-Aubameyang era, Dortmund would do well to invest in a younger striker to learn the ropes for a year until the Gabonese gets sold to [insert big-money club of your choice]. The more experienced strikers Dortmund can afford, such as Fedor Smolov, are unlikely to have the quality to be considered bona fide regular starters.
Srikanth via Twitter:
Since it looks as though Matthias Ginter will never start at centre-back with Sven Bender coming back and Ömer Toprak joining in the summer, why not start him at right-back over Lukasz Piszczek and Felix Passlack?
Stefan Buczko: When assessing Lukasz Piszczek’s current form it is actually a fair question to ask. Ginter had some of his best games for Dortmund in the right-back position but was also shockingly exposed in other matches. Overall, the answer as to why Ginter is likely to lose his spot is that he lacks consistency in his defensive contributions – be that at centre- or right-back.
With Bender out due to injury, Ginter will receive another chance to prove himself at centre-back for the next Matchdays. The 23-year-old has significantly improved in the CB spot compared to past seasons, and might continue to do so.
It would be too early to write Ginter off just yet, as he can be a solid defender, while also contributing to BVB’s buildup play.
In the long-term, however, it is hard to imagine Piszczek or Ginter keeping the highly talented Felix Passlack out of the starting XI on BVB’s right. Especially, if Dortmund hold on to playing with wing-backs.
Jesse via Facebook:
Why are BVB so riddled by injuries? Do we have a collection of injury-prone players or is it bad luck?
LP: Both? Players such as Bender, Neven Subotic, Nuri Sahin, Mario Götze and Marco Reus are definitely injury-prone, there’s no way around it. However, last season Dortmund were spared from an injury crisis they’ve faced last autumn, with most pundits and even players giving credit to Tuchel’s more economic playing style and the new athletic team led by Rainer Schrey.
Since their style and methods haven’t changed significantly, it’s no stretch to say Dortmund have just been more unlucky this season. For example, they suffered more contact injuries in games, with the Cologne draw a good example. Dortmund were forced to make all three substitutions because of contact injuries, that rarely happens.
Justin via Twitter:
Why didn’t BVB buy any defenders?
LP: Straight to the point, I like it. Quite frankly, it seems as though Tuchel only wanted Ömer Toprak, who will join in the summer for a bargain €12 million thanks to a release clause unless something unforeseeable happens.
Since Bayer Leverkusen weren’t going to let him go six months early — their own campaign hasn’t been a smooth ride by any means — Dortmund were out of options. Of course, they could’ve signed someone else and created an even bigger surplus at the position in the summer, but that hardly makes sense.
Investing in the January window is rarely a good idea and even with Bender once again missing a few matches, BVB have enough defenders. They just have to play better together. Simple, really [/sarcasm].
Jim via Twitter:
“Guy Man” via Twitter:
Why did Dortmund ever think signing Sebastian Rode was a good idea? Who are the central midfielders Dortmund are looking at for the summer?
LP: Good question. Rode is not a bad player, he’s just someone who doesn’t fit what Dortmund are doing — at all. He’d be among the best players on at least a dozen Bundesliga sides, teams that focus on pressing and counter-pressing and don’t have to cultivate the ball-circulation.
Tuchel probably felt he needed to add a bit of muscle and athleticism in midfield and, that’s my theory, thought Rode learned more during his time under Pep Guardiola. It hasn’t worked out that way.
As for central midfielders Dortmund might be looking at, it starts with Mahmoud Dahoud. He knows the league and language, has ample experience even at UEFA Champions League level and, as Luca Gierl pointed out, looks to be a solid fit for what BVB need after Ilkay Gündogan left.
The 21-year-old is the only name that has been discussed in earnest by German media, but we can assume Dortmund have some fallback options in case Borussia Mönchengladbach manage to hang on to Dahoud or sell him abroad.
OGC Nice’s Vincent Koziello could be one of them, we know Tuchel thinks highly of Oliver Torres, and there will be more names on their list.
Enes via Facebook:
Where does Andreas Möller rank among all-time Dortmund No. 10s? He’s my No. 1 not only because of the Champions League win, but because of the style and passion he played with.
LP: With all due respect to the legends of old, whenever I answer a historic question I only speak about Dortmund since the early 1990s. In that regard, Möller and Tomas Rosicky are the only two No. 10s in the discussion. I don’t consider Shinji Kagawa and Mario Götze classic No. 10s since they played in entirely different tactical surroundings.
Between Möller and Rosicky, it’s a question of taste and preference. The former was more athletic and a brilliant goalscorer himself, while Schnitzel was perhaps the most elegant playmaker to ever wear a Dortmund shirt.
When I grew up a Dortmund fan in the 90s, Möller was one of the most divisive figures in German football, you either loved or hated him. I was in the former camp, so I’d tentatively put him ahead of Rosicky, who, to be fair, played on some far worse teams than Möller.
“Buy FrealLuv” via Twitter:
Why does Hans-Joachim Watzke only think of short-term profit instead of building a huge stable team that can bring him big money for years?
LP: Dortmund bought Ousmane Dembele, Emre Mor and Raphael Guerreiro half a year ago, three players who will have immense resale value. What are you even talking about?
It’s time fans realise the Westfalenstadion is rarely the final destination for world-class players such as Robert Lewandowski, Hummels, Gündogan or Henrikh Mkhitaryan. Keeping a hold of that kind of talent is something that only the five or six biggest clubs in the world accomplish.
Marc via Twitter:
If Dortmund, Bayern Munich and Schalke 04 were NFL franchises, which would they be?
LP: We all know Bayern would be the Patriots, even though I hate to admit it as an avid, long-term Pats fan.
Schalke would be a franchise living off past glory with a loyal fanbase, a team that hasn’t won jack in forever but believes every offseason this’ll be their year. So, the Bills, maybe? There’s not a perfect fit, seeing as Schalke aren’t quite the factory of sadness that is the Browns.
Dortmund are even tougher to pin down. Obvious similarities with the Steelers aside, I feel like they could be the Falcons of this season (terrific offense, terrible defense) or the Saints, who also have that offense/defense divide and won big at the height of their days but failed to quite get back to it in the following years.