Happy New Year from everyone at the Yellowwallpod!
2017 should be a fresh start for Borussia Dortmund after a difficult year filled with superb performances but just as many disappointments on (Liverpool, anyone?) and off (Mats Hummels, anyone?) the pitch.
To ring in the new year, we are excited to introduce a new feature that allows us to interact with our readers and listeners, a classic mailbag right here on Yellowwallpod.com. For the first edition, we asked for your questions on our Twitter account. For future episodes, you can hit us up there, on Facebook or in the comment sections on our site.
Let’s dive right in, shall we?
— Tommi Koski (@tombbak) January 1, 2017
Ah, the January transfer window. Dortmund haven’t exactly been big players, even though it makes some sense for German clubs to sign players since they have a few weeks off to get any new signings up to speed with training camps and friendly matches.
The Black and Yellows did sign a new player in three of the last five January windows, with Nuri Sahin’s return on loan from Real Madrid (by way of Liverpool) clearly the best deal of the bunch. The other two? Milos Jojic and Kevin Kampl — not exactly a ringing endorsement for spending money in the winter.
Thomas Tuchel has publicly denied having any wishes for new signings and CEO Hans-Joachim Watzke states on every occasion that they won’t add anyone, so we’re inclined to believe them for now. Tuchel’s reasoning that integrating new faces again after adding eight players in the summer would be difficult does make sense.
However, it’s also clear that they could really, really use additions at centre-back and in central midfield. Ömer Toprak will join in the summer, so they’ll probably try to get by until then at the heart of defence, but in central midfield, it seems they have to pray to the Old Gods and the New that Raphael Guerreiro can stay healthy in the Rückrunde.
As for selling players, Dortmund should definitely try to offload some of their squad members. It wouldn’t be surprising to see them agree to deals for Neven Subotic, Joo-ho Park and Shinji Kagawa if someone comes knocking.
@Yellowwallpod any truth to that Montpellier CM moving in Jan? He any good? Also, Rode gone in summer?
— Phips (@Phips__) January 1, 2017
“That Montpellier CM” is Morgan Sanson, a 22-year-old linked with Dortmund by French magazine France Football. Seeing as no one has picked up on the story in Germany to this point, it seems as though we can chalk it up as just another rumour.
With Dortmund investing heavily in players from the Ligue 1 recently — and with great success, thanks to Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Ousmane Dembele and Guerreiro — it comes as little surprise that they are linked with a lot of players from France. It could just be agents feeding that info to the media, seeing as Dortmund are a pretty big name.
As for Sanson, I’d be lying if I said I know much about him. In what little I’ve seen he’s looked pretty good and he’d certainly fit Dortmund’s profile in central midfield (plus, he’d be eligible to play in the UEFA Champions League). According to people who actually follow Ligue 1, he has only now come back from a torn ACL that hindered his progress.
As for Rode, it’s obvious he doesn’t have a great role for Dortmund, but it’d be surprising if the two sides parted ways after just one season. While the 26-year-old has looked pretty bad for the most part, it is a bit unfair to judge players after six months.
— Jim Ciolek (@JimUfoC) January 1, 2017
We’re assuming this is a question for the January window, so the answer is a resounding “No.” Pulisic is not going anywhere anytime soon. Sporting director Michael Zorc has made that abundantly clear and even though Jürgen Klopp has been persistent in his pursuit (if the ever-reliable parts of the English media are to be believed), there is no reason to assume Pulisic even wants to leave.
He has been quite involved in the Hinrunde despite the additions of Andre Schürrle, Dembele and Emre Mor, appearing in 18 matches across competitions. Lest we forget, he’s flipping 18 years old still and started a fairly important Champions League match at Real in December.
Now, in the more-distant future, he could absolutely move the Premier League. Being a superb talent and the biggest hope of American football, he has incredible value and will have countless options down the road. Staying at Dortmund will be one of them, of course.
— Matt Palmer (@MattCP_17) January 1, 2017
In recent Dortmund history, social media have been a surprisingly strong predictor of transfers, be it when Dembele joined in the summer or Subotic and Schmelzer announced deals for Sahin and Kagawa.
However, we wouldn’t put the rumours mentioned in Matt’s question in the same category. From all we at the YWP know, Mahmoud Dahoud to Dortmund is still widely expected to happen, but he’s following players he spent time with in youth national teams and, generally, Bundesliga players tend to follow other Bundesliga players.
Fedor Smolov is a bit more interesting seeing there’s little connection between him and someone like Marco Reus, but not a single German source has popped up despite the links with the Krasnodar striker persisting for weeks.
— Jim Bollenbacher (@jbollenbacher) January 1, 2017
It’s an interesting question and one that surely will keep many decision-makers in Europe up at night. Quite frankly, no one knows just how big an impact the Chinese football expansion will have. We’re only starting to see players in their prime leave for China who usually would have joined one of the top clubs in Europe (see Oscar or Axel Witsel).
It’s impossible to say what the long-term consequences will be, especially for Dortmund. However, one would have to argue that they’ve already lost players in their prime before someone in the Chinese government woke up to the idea that football is a cool sport. Just look at the summer, when Hummels, Ilkay Gundogan and Henrikh Mkhitaryan all left in their mid-to-late 20s. Robert Lewandowski is another example, he left as he entered the prime of his career.
@Yellowwallpod do you attribute the defensive woes more to a lack of concentration, lack of talent or lack of physicality in defensive mid?
— Jason (@GelbeCartoon) January 1, 2017
As so often, chances are it’s a combination of dozens of factors. Dortmund’s lack of concentration and intensity has been evident throughout especially the second half of the Hinrunde, but ultimately, it might be mostly about the (lack of) talent in defence.
There’s a reason Marc Bartra was available for €8 million as a 25-year-old La Masia graduate, and why he was behind the unimpressive duo of Jeremy Mathieu and Thomas Vermaelen at Barcelona. There’s also a reason Matthias Ginter had never played much at his natural position in central defence in two years with Dortmund.
In retrospect, the club should really have pushed for getting the Toprak deal done last summer, or signing another experienced centre-back. Sokratis Papastathopoulos has been fantastic for the most part, but the lack of consistency from the men at his side have cost Dortmund time and time again.
Also, Roman Weidenfeller coming in for the injured Roman Bürki didn’t help either. While it’s a bit cheap to pin it all on him, Weidenfeller did concede 13 goals in seven matches since the Swiss went down with a broken hand, failing to keep a single clean sheet while Dortmund won only two games. He can still play well, as evidenced against Real and in the cup against Union Berlin, but his days as a viable option to start every week are long gone.
— Arham Hussain (@Rammy_1999) January 1, 2017
With Aubameyang missing up to four matches on international duty at the Africa Cup of Nations, hosted by his Gabon side, Tuchel will have a few options. Adrian Ramos has been better than people think when used as a central striker under the 43-year-old, scoring 12 and assisting four goals in little over 20 matches’ worth of playing time.
However, there’s a good chance Ramos won’t still be at the club, with Kicker reporting on Monday he’s pushing for a big-money move to China. The Colombian will be 31 when the Rückrunde starts and this could be a huge last contract for him, so it’s hard to blame him if he indeed wants to leave.
In that case, Tuchel could put Reus, More or Dembele up front, but the best idea would probably be to stick Schürrle there. For starters, with the return of Reus and Dembele’s emergence, there’s no spot for him in the starting XI if everyone’s available. Also, he’s got ample experience playing at the top of the formation for Mainz 05 (under Tuchel, even), Bayer Leverkusen and VfL Wolfsburg.
He’s more physical than the other options and would presumably hold up better against central defenders. Also, he’s a pretty solid finisher.