Dortmund should loan out the centre-back next season.
Defensive stability, or more appropriately, the lack thereof is the quite often the primary weakness of Dortmund. Naturally, Thomas Tuchel’s system prioritising possession, flooding the final third with attackers requires good, ball-playing centre-backs who can start the buildup play or quickly recycle the ball when in an opponent’s half.
Also naturally, a risk associated with this approach is that of turnover by the defenders, leading to a counterattack situation. With Ilkay Gündoğan out of the picture and Castro misfiring through large portions of the season, good managers have found a way to force those situations by pressing Weigl and forcing bad subsequent passes by Sokratis, Piszczek, and for much of the season, Marc Bartra. These turnovers have proven costly as evidenced by Hertha’s first goal on Saturday. Thankfully, Sokratis has improved his passing ability and Castro looks far more dependable now, but what happens when Sokratis goes down with an injury? In steps Matthias Ginter.
Weltmeister (as German media is so fond of touting both non-appearing Ginter and Durm) Matthias Ginter was signed prior to the 2014/15 season under the Klopp regime after a very successful youth development in SC Freiburg, the same system which produced future-Dortmunder Ömer Toprak.
With Mats Hummels, Sokratis, and Neven Subotic in front of him in the depth chart, he only made 14 appearances in the Bundesliga and none in the Cup. 2015/16 saw the Tuchel transition and many questioned if Matze would have a role at all under the Guardiola protégé.
The off-loading of Kevin Groβkreutz and injury to Łukasz Piszczek (along with a disastrous run-out of Castro at right back against Odds BK in the Europa League qualification round) forced Tuchel to try Ginter at right back. It worked like a charm and the #Gintervention hashtag trended as in the first half of the season, Dortmund’s flooding of the left half-spaces stretched the opposition, opening acres of space for the erstwhile centre-back to receive a cross-field pass and create a goal scoring chance.
When Dortmund started to be exploited on Ginter’s side with fast opposition counters, Tuchel brought in the rehabilitated Piszczek to stabilise the right and Ginter was once again fighting for relevancy and spots with Sven Bender in both centre-back and defensive midfield. This season, Ginter’s play as a proper centre-back has stabilised for the most part. He has markedly improved over his first two seasons at the Westfalenstadion, but is still prone to severe errors. Without a speedy Sokratis to rescue him from a mistake, his mishaps are punished more frequently.
So what does this mean for the Weltmeister going forward at Dortmund? His lack of speed is not conducive in a system of a high-line defense, and though his buildup game is good, Bartra’s, when in form, is far better. When Sven Bender is healthy his skill also trumps that of Ginter. When Toprak arrives in summer, Ginter will likely be behind four center backs in the depth chart and will not see time as a number six in place of Weigl with Bender and Rode options for that role. This is not to say that Matze Ginter is a bad player. He is a quality centre-back in search of playing time and in a system that is conducive to his skill set.
The temptation is at this point to sell and make a small profit off him. Matze clearly will not have a role befitting his development needs next year at Dortmund and has to be starting on a regular basis in a first-division league side.
This should be avoided for two reasons. One, Toprak is 27 and injury prone, Sokratis is 28, and Sven Bender is 27 and injury prone. If any of these options fail for whatever reasons, Ginter could return. Two, if Ginter gets the kind of consistent playing time in a system conducive to his needs, he could very well be a viable option going forward in the future. Tuchel may not be around forever and his system can change.
Dortmund may once again need a combative, dominant in the air centre-back. The Black and Yellows should loan Matze out next year to a club that can use him regularly in a system that suits him. At only 23 years of age, Ginter is a relative infant in footballing age for centre-backs that routinely play well into their thirties. His prime is in front of him and he needs to develop more.