Despite missing seven first choice players, Jurgen Klopp and Borussia Dortmund overcame Saarbrucken to reach the quarterfinals of the German Cup. Goals from Julian Schieber and Jonas Hofmann decided the game in favor of the away side in what was a good example of the team’s flexibility in light of the criticism of their lack of squad depth.
With so many starters missing Klopp also used the opportunity to experiment a bit. Oliver Kirch started in central midfield alongside captain Sebastian Kehl while Weidenfeller, Piszczek, Lewandowski and Blaszczykowski all started on the bench. With a big game against second-placed Bayer Leverkusen coming up this weekend Klopp needed to find the right balance between resting key players and putting out a squad good enough to win away in the Cup.
There is some squad depth after all
Schieber has recently been linked with a move away from the club but turned out to be one of Dortmund’s key players in this game. His header gave Dortmund the lead in the first half before setting up Hofmann for the second, both well taken and with the incisiveness Klopp and Dortmund supporters were hoping to see when he signed initially.
Similarly, the young talented Hofmann too impressed again. Hofmann has been one of the most exciting young talents in Germany this season and has very much held his own in the first team when trusted by Klopp. Against Saarbrucken he played Reus’ dual role of direct attacker/playmaker, running at defenders and cutting inside to create. Both performance very much showed that that Klopp does indeed have reliable options in what has so far been a squad decimated by injuries.
Kirch too did very well in the middle also, Klopp even picked him out as their outstanding player on the day, and with Gundogan and Bender injured he will give Klopp further options in the center of hte pitch. Dortmund had 84% possession, a figure they’ve never reached before in a competitive game, and outpassed their opponents a staggering 860 to 155. What’s more, their passing accuracy was 89% compared to Saarbrucken’s miserly 59.
Dortmund’s dangerous duality
As good as their start in the league as been and as impressive as their wins over Arsenal and Napoli in the Champions League were, it hasn’t stopped a flurry of skeptical reactions every time Dortmund have slipped up. But considering the seemingly endless list of injuries to key players, the difficulty of their Champions League group and the congested schedule with a still growing squad, Dortmund have had as good of a start as one could possibly imagine.
Still, the danger lies in exhausting that squad and stretching it thin as the season wears on. The three losses in their last five games exposed a squad thin on options when Dortmund have to play multiple games during the week and face a certain level of competition right after. It’s an issue the club and Klopp have handled very well all things considered but reinforcements may definitely be necessary in January.
Jurgen Klopp: “An upset didn’t look possible for a single minute. We played a fantastic game, even if the scoreline was only 2-0 in the end. As far as converting our chances was concerned we could have done a bit better. But everything else was perfect. It was just fun. The players who haven’t had much match practice all played fantastic: Jonas Hofmann, Julian Schieber and Oliver Kirch was the outstanding player on the pitch. Despite the lack of practice it looked effortless.”
Jonas Hofmann: “It’s always nice to be involved in a goal. As a young player I always try to make things happen. Today that happened with a goal and an assist.”
Julian Schieber: “I thought my second goal counted but the referee whistled for a foul. I should have shot sooner.”
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