Borussia Dortmund are already seven matches into 2017, so we thought it’s time for another mailbag. Between transfers, tactics and Tucheltalk, most readers took a long-term view in this edition. To get in touch for our next mailbag, hit us up on Twitter, Facebook or via the contact form right here on Yellowwallpod.com.
BVBHub via Twitter: Would you guys agree that there is a lack of intensity generally since October or even last season? Why do you think that is?
Lars Pollmann: Yes, Dortmund have struggled to keep up the intensity throughout this season. We’ve talked about this at length in a number of Podcast episodes and it remains incredibly difficult to point out exactly what’s going wrong and what can be done to make it stop.
The most annoying issue to me is their terrible last-line defending in so many matches, think of the SV Darmstadt’s first goal against Dortmund earlier this month, when they had a clear numerical advantage and still allowed Marcel Heller to play a pass and Terrence Boyd to shoot.
This issue could cost Dortmund in the bigger games yet to come, for example in the UEFA Champions League second leg against Benfica, seeing as they failed to score an important away goal at the Estadio da Luz.
Varus via Twitter: Which BVB player has impressed you the most in the Rückrunde?
Stefan Buczko: Overall, I cannot look past Ousmane Dembélé. Again, the 19-year-old has been churning out the magic in every other match after what was a slow start coming off the bench in the first few games.
He created the ever so vital assist for Aubameyang in the 1-0 win over Leipzig with a bamboozling first touch followed by a mazing run. In Lisbon, he drew a collective question mark on the entire Benfica defence in the first half, as he was the driving force to instigate Dortmund’s attacks and also in the 3-0 home win over Wolfsburg he casually grabbed a goal and an assist.
Though I am equally impressed with the reassurance of Marc Bartra, who has shaken a very long patch of bad form and seems back to his best ever since the game against Leipzig. Notice how both Dembele and Bartra didn’t feature much against Darmstadt?
Juan Fernandez via Twitter: What do you think the status on Mahmoud Dahoud is, are we close to signing him, and do you think he will be the No. 8 we need?
LP: By now, BVB not getting Dahoud would be a bit of a surprise. It seems to be one of the most logical and most talked-about deals you could find. I haven’t heard anything that would suggest it won’t happen, for what that’s worth. At a reported €10 million thanks to a release clause, Dahoud would be a major bargain. He also happens to be a very good midfielder, as Luca detailed in this enlightening piece.
Mario via Twitter: Hans-Joachim Watzke called for a mentally strong player to be signed, who would you guys think would fit in?
LP: Watzke’s call for a “mentality player” in an interview with local paper Ruhr Nachrichten certainly was interesting and has caused a bit of a stir, even though it was the same debate last season when many reports had Dortmund looking for a “warrior” after the Liverpool debacle. I struggle to understand what exactly a “mentality player” is supposed to be: If it’s another Sebastian Rode situation — thanks, but no thanks. I for one think Ömer Toprak is a strong personality and leader.
Lahmsteiger via Twitter: Should Dortmund buy some more defensive players? Are Sokratis Papastathopoulos, Marc Bartra and Ömer Toprak enough? Are Matthias Ginter and Sven Bender good enough for BVB’s Level?
LP: For a club of Dortmund’s standing and financial firepower, a depth chart that has someone like Ginter or Bender as the fourth centre-back is fairly impressive. Unless Thomas Tuchel plans to regularly play with three natural central defenders on the pitch (meaning Lukasz Piszczek or Mikel Merino don’t count), I don’t see a big need for another signing. Of course, if Ginter finally leaves after toying with the idea two summers in a row — and who could blame him, really — that might change. Then, Dortmund would do well to add a young CB to wait and learn behind Sokratis (who will be 29 years old when next season starts), Toprak (28) and Bartra (26). Bender’s is a special case because of his injury-proneness, but when he’s available, he’s plenty good enough and an important figure in the dressing room.
Odysseus via Twitter: How likely are big-name exits in the summer?
SB: Very likely! Roman Weidenfeller’s contract extension may or may not happen and I for once consider the oldie as a big name at BVB.
Also, Shinji Kagawa could be on the list of players that seek for greener pastures elsewhere as playing time as been scarce for the Japanese, who couldn’t reignite his career at the Westfalenstadion since his return from Manchester.
And then, of course, there is the name of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang floating around during any transfer window. This summer could be very first time a move away might actually be realistic for the 27-year-old. HOWEVER, BVB will only let him go for an enourmous chunck of money (we’re talking at least €70m). It remains to be seen if Real Madrid and others are actually ready to pay that sum for the Gabonese forward and whether Aubameyang is keen on a move, as we also know that he feels very comfortable in Dortmund.
Thomas via the contact form: Who are you expecting to leave BVB in the summer transfer window? Which players would you like to see come in?
LP: I think Dortmund should look to thin out their squad a bit, it seems rather bloated right now. Players such as Nuri Sahin, Shinji Kagawa or Joo-ho Park shouldn’t be taking up space at the end of the bench and with their contracts running out in 2018, this is the time to try and recoup something for them.
Young players such as Mikel Merino or Emre Mor could leave on loan, but I don’t like the idea of giving away control over their development and would rather see them stick around and played more and more.
Other than that, Roman Weidenfeller’s contract is up and should not be renewed, with a new back-up goalkeeper coming in. Thanks to Roman Bürki’s encouraging development since the start of 2016 after a difficult first half-year at the club, I don’t think they need to invest heavily in a new No. 2. Maybe they like Hendrik Bonmann or even Dominik Reimann enough to make one of them the back-up, otherwise there are enough relatively cheap, experienced German goalkeepers available every year.
With Toprak and, perhaps, Dahoud already in the fold and the signing of Alexander Isak in January, there aren’t many other signings on the cards unless someone important decides to leave the club (here’s looking at you, Aubameyang). Dortmund would do well to build on what they have rather than making more big changes. There’s so much young talent in this team that only needs seasoning.
Myeshizibbu via Twitter: What is Thomas Tuchel’s future at Dortmund? Who would be the best successor for when he leaves?
LP: I’m on the record saying I believe the chances of Tuchel still being BVB head coach in the 2017/18 season are below 50 per cent and I’ll stick by my guns on that one. I just think both parties will look for a fresh start and a better fit elsewhere, with a mutually agreed contract termination the scenario I deem most likely.
There are a few names that will be thrown around, with Julian Nagelsmann probably the media favourite. However, I think he won’t leave Hoffenheim anytime soon. I could see someone like Cologne’s Peter Stöger being the choice at the end of the day. If I were to make the decision, I’d keep Tuchel at all costs, but if he’s gone, I’d go for Michael Laudrup.
Lahmsteiger via Twitter: Is Tuchel really a hard character or is this a media thing?
LP: He’s certainly not the easiest person to deal with, thanks to his ambitious and meticulous nature. I do, however, think the media are projecting their own struggles with him onto the squad too much. Tuchel doesn’t make himself available to the media often, for example, rarely giving one-on-one interviews, and that’s reflected in the way people talk and write about him.
His players, however, talk about Tuchel in glowing terms, I remember Henrikh Mkhitaryan’s eyes glowing up when I asked him about his coach last year. So, in the most important aspect of a coach’s communication, there aren’t many issues.
The question really is how he gets along with the decision-makers at the club and episodes like the power struggle between him and chief scout Sven Mislintat over the potential signing of Oliver Torres last season certainly don’t paint the prettiest of pictures.
This is a big reason why I think both sides will agree to part ways in the summer. I think Tuchel doesn’t want to have to explain himself for everything, while Watzke and Michael Zorc may well look for someone to recreate some of the magic Jürgen Klopp had in the way he represented the club in- and outward.
Mats Boris Kullander via Twitter: Why is Mario Götze not playing? Is he really injured or just bad? Lacking confidence? If that is the case, why don’t they build him up through mental training?
SB: Yes, he is really injured at the moment, but he also wasn’t starting when he was fit before his injury in 2017. I wouldn’t read too much into it, though. Götze was an important figure in Tuchel’s team toward the end of 2016 and he should become that again once he is fully fit. The hyperbole around the 24-year-old seems humongous and his name will regularly appear in the tabloids because any Götze-headlines sell newspapers.
But Götze also has the problem of running behind expectations that he cannot fulfil. He will never be the player that ran knots into defender’s legs like he did when he was still a prodigy in a Dortmund shirt back way then. His intelligence in positioning, passing and pressing, however, will make him an important asset for years to come. The magic will be delivered by the likes of Christian Pulisic and Ousmane Dembele, though.