2016-17 Report Cards: Borussia Dortmund

It was quite a season wasn’t it? A really long one, or perhaps not that long. Maybe one to forget? Oh wait, we won the DFB Cup right?  First trophy in five years! Beat that Mr. Bayern! Oh wait they are the Bundesliga Champions for five years running. But at least we are sec….okay never mind Leipzig fans(if you guys actually exist and reading this ofc). But who cares, the season is over yaay/yikes! Indeed, it was quite a season. We witnessed the team suffer a tragic bus attack just before the Quarter Finals against Monaco, while we also saw the miraculous turnaround against Bayern in the DFB Cup Semis. From scoring 16 goals in four matches, to suffering defeat against Darmstadt(wait WHAT?) and oh! did I tell you, we also won the group, which had Real Madrid on it? Shame on you Zidane! And after all this, we lost our beloved coach. Oh yes! It was quite a season!

It all started with the three ‘big’ departures as Henrikh Mkhitaryan moved to Manchester United after being involved in over 55 goals in the 2015/16 season. He was followed by Ilkay Gündogan to Manchester City and Captain Mats Hummels to Bavaria. With the money Dortmund received through the mass sale of three key players, on came a large group of signings, including Marc Bartra. But who would’ve thought? A defender who was a part of a team conceding seven goals to Bayern some four years ago, was actually brought in to replace Hummels.

LIKE WHAAAAAAAAAT?!

With him, came a few other experienced Bundesliga players such as Mario Götze, Andre Schürrle and Sebastian Rode. The trio cost BVB about 60% of what they flushed out the corresponding summer transfer window. While some relatively inexperienced young players were signed such as Ousmane Dembele, Raphael Guerreiro and Emre Mor.

Such massive overhaul of the squad depleted the level of expectations but Dortmund were still regarded as the main title challengers to Bayern Munich and the fans expected nothing less than a direct qualification places for the Champions League. Things always looked to be going the wrong direction. Fans knew none can quickly reaffirm such large holes left by the three departures and even after coming back of a record-breaking season, all of a sudden, Thomas Tuchel had to go back to the drawing board again and start from scratch. Clearly, he wasn’t happy with the decision to ship three of his most important members in the squad to elsewhere, even though it brought in tons of cash.

So, without further ado, let’s grade Borussia Dortmund’s performance in the 2016/17 season!

Highlight

Had to be the Pokal Finale against Eintracht. The silverware which eluded them for the last four years has finally been won by our jungs! It was an overwhelming moment for both fans and players, who showed immense amount of fighting spirit to get their hands on the cup. Especially Marco Reus who literally acted like a kid due to the sheer joy of winning his first ever major trophy in his career. Who says he’s 28?!

There were some other glorious moments as well, which also deserve a mention, such as Ousmane Dembele completely owning David Alaba with his clever feint to put the ball in the back of the net as Borussia Dortmund completed a great comeback to oust FC Bayern in the DFB Cup Semi Final.

Some fantastic wins also played a crucial part throughout the course of the season. Scoring past eight goals against Wolfsburg in two matches, was a great source of entertainment for the fans, and no less than a humiliation for the Wolves, who also conceded 11 goals against Bayern, without ever replying. 

Another notable mention, is the fact that Dortmund have managed two victories in three games vs Bayern this season, something which was unimaginable toward the backend of the Pep Guardiola era.

Lowlight

The horrifying terror attacks in Dortmund team bus is by far the worst moment of last season, and perhaps the incident which lowered the team morale by a greater margin. A humiliating 6:3 aggregate defeat followed, which knocked Borussia Dortmund out from the Champions League.

Marc Bartra admitted after the bombings that he feared his career might be over, as the former Barcelona defender was the only player to suffer significant injuries from the attack, prior to which he was playing superbly well.

It was catastrophic times, not just for the club but for football as well. Even Monaco fans were seen signing ‘Dortmund’ just prior to the kickoff in the first leg in solidarity of their bus attack.

Defense

The team still lacks in a lot of specific areas, with one being the classless defense. When it’s about the Dortmund defense, its’ not just about injuries though. Conceding cheap goals at crucial times, making individual mistakes(Call Ginter Maybe) against critical oppositions, being slow against the opposition, poor marking(Marking players from five yards out is legal here) are all a part of the package, that the Dortmund defense is right now. This has been notably their main problem for the past three years now.

Borussia Dortmund conceded the fourth least goals this season(40), but the tally is almost double the amount of what Bayern Munich have conceded the entire season(22). With both teams exemplifying a similar possession based style of play, Dortmund’s lack of stability is clearly evident here.

Normally, Thomas Tuchel opted for a four man backline for the first phase of the season but an woeful October, where his team failed to churn out even a single victory in the Bundesliga, forced him to tweak the defensive formation on regular intervals. Sometimes we saw a three man backline, with the likes of Piszczek and even Schmelzer taking on the responsibility of acting as a center back which is just as much weird as signing a song about your unmentionables (wink wink, Katy Perry).

Sokratis’ involvement has been a key part in Dortmund’s defense, particularly this season, where he basically been the one man army. The lack of co-operation from the partnering center back hasn’t helped the Greek legend/god International. Matthias Ginter lacks the pace and is sometimes too slow to deal with pacy opposition. This is combined with his defensive futility such as making one poor touch per game rule or his problems in marking the striker properly (It seems as if he’s been taking lessons from Darmstadt captain Aytac Sulu). Marc Bartra’s “Goodness I can’t deal with this anymore” was followed by somewhat of a resurgence in the second half of the season before he got injured in the unfortunate terror attacks in Dortmund. Sven Bender, however, looked surprisingly good. Or maybe not. But his godly performance against Bayern remain as one of the highlights of the season. Still, he cannot be remarked as a proper defensive option in the future.

Dortmund lag in terms of attempting tackles in a game, as they are 17th in the tackling index of InStat.

  

While none of the Dortmund players feature in the list of Defensive Duels won index. They also have no representatives in the most tackles attempted index where Diego Demme of RB Leipzig leads the line. Die Borussen have the second lowest defensive actions in the league this term, but that is given, considering their style of play, which the following graph from Experimental 361 suggests, except they’re not as formidable as Bayern. Although conceding just around ten shots per match(fourth best in the league) is not bad by any means, it’s what behind the eye that counts. They have a conversion rate against ratio of 10.6%, slightly greater than the league average, meaning opposition generally tends to churn out at least a goal or two from the shots they manage against Dortmund. Bayern only have 6.7%, league highest.

When it comes to xG(expected goals), Dortmund defense have underperformed by ten goals, as they had an xG score of 30 for the season per Alex Rathke’s xG model.

They have particularly struggled to perform in the away games as their record suggests. An excellent home form, where they only conceded 12 goals from 17 games, wasn’t complimented well enough with the away one(28 conceded from 17), which resulted Leipzig leapfrogging the Black and Yellows to second place. The xG against also seems to increase a lot in away fixtures, Dortmund’s current xG difference at home is 20.91, fairly solid. But it dramatically decreases to just 5.42 in all the away fixtures. 

Had it not been for their largely clumsy defense, the team might have achieved a lot more, especially with the solid attack they have. BVB generally tend to blow up everything right at the death, where they have conceded most of their goals.

Matthias Ginter is linked with a move to TSG Hoffenheim this summer which might be a boon for every Dortmund fan. While BVB fans would hope the arrival of Omer Toprak will rescue their fortification in the backline.

Midfield

I do have quite a lot to say about our midfield this term because by now, we all have realized that the loss of Ilkay Gundogan was a hammer blow to Dortmund. Since his departure to Manchester City, Thomas Tuchel’s men have constantly struggled for a lack of ball carrier in the middle. The loss against RB Leipzig in the second matchday of the season were the first signs of calamity in Dortmund midfield. Just like Thiago Alcantara’s disappearance will basically dampen the flow of the Bayern buildup and pressing(My colleague Travis Timmons was more than happy to hail him as the best midfielder in the world in his season review of Bayern), Ilkay Gundogan was a player of similar importance to Dortmund.

So how did the replacements do? Welp

Sebastian Rode turned into a complete disaster as the season progressed. After an awful Hinrunde, the former Bayern midfielder struggled to get into the first team. Rode was very slow at times to react with the opposition pressing, with teams such as Leverkusen, Leipzig or Hoffenheim completely shredding through the Black and Yellows midfield, giving them no time at all.

I mean, yes he’s the best midfielder of all time, but one would love him to romp at somewhere like the Darmstadt midfield. AMIRITE?

Nuri Sahin was a complete waste this season thanks to his relentless injury woes. And even then, the Turkish midfielder could never really go back to his old self, when he got the chance to do so. This combined with the feud with head coach Thomas Tuchel really made it an uncomfortable season for Nuri Sahin. New signing Raphael Guerreiro showed a lot of promise in midfield. His cleverness on the pitch really made him an exciting player to keep an eye on, for the fans and experts alike. But he drifted more to the left wing as the season went on and also his inconsistency didn’t help his cause. He is, however, a great asset for the BVB offense.

Okay let me get this straight. Borussia Dortmund WILL NOT be able to replace Ilkay Gündogan. Such fluidity and dynamism coupled with brilliant awareness and passing through the lines is simply inexplicable. The understanding of the game, not just under Klopp but under Thomas Tuchel as well, was seamless. Dortmund always looked to have the upper hand with him pulling the strings in the middle. With this level of proficiency and competence, that Ilkay Gündogan had, I find it really hard to imagine that he could be replaced with a proper like for like midfielder. None in the current Dortmund have the same qualities as the current Man City player, even though I really backed Raphael Guerreiro to be the man here, few months ago.

Borussia Dortmund have completed the least interceptions this season with 551, even less than Bayern. Last year, they had above 600, 14th best in the league, certainly not bad.

Julian Weigl remain the only key component of the midfield. I really appreciate the way he tried to evolve himself this season, as he was seen getting forward more often and he also attempted to keep the ball at his feet for much longer than usual. A stunning goal against Sporting CP, which also happened to be his first career goal, was rewarded for his efforts. Weigl’s maturity at this age is truly unbelievable. Even though he struggled a lot in October especially, Weigl’s second half performance convoyed the BVB midfield for the rest of the season, before he broke his ankle towards the end of the season.

Regardless, we probably have realized that midfield is one of BVB’s main weak points which needs to be readdressed ASAP.

Offense

Probably the best part to talk about since it’s the only thing Dortmund are quite good at but it’s also going to be the shortest, providing I don’t have anything to rant about.

Since the announcement of Thomas Tuchel as head coach, offense has been the strongest point of Borussia Dortmund. The possession based footballing scheme which was brought in by manager Tuchel, really affected the team in terms of offensive superiority. Dortmund have scored 154 goals in the span of two season in the Bundesliga. My colleague Abel Meszaros featured for Hungarian DIGI Sports emphasizing on BVB’s glittering offense under Thomas Tuchel here. (helps if you understand Hungarian).

This season, they have struggled a lot in the buildup play especially which led to fewer chances, or forced alteration in game plan yet Dortmund have managed to create a staggering 388 chances, second highest in the league, even though that comes nowhere close to Bayern’s 510(Dear Mr. Bayern, how about you try and score from a Durm cross). But clearly, they have been grown to be a fun team to watch, after the departure of Jürgen Klopp (with all  due respect).

Best attacker of the year? It’s really hard to choose between Pierre Emerick Aubameyang and Ousmane Dembele. One has created 63 chances and the other has scored 31 goals, both of which have helped Dortmund consistently breach through the opposition defenses.

Improve for next season

There are really quite a lot of aspects Dortmund need to readdress themselves with if they are to challenge Bayern for the title next season, which at the moment seems kinda off limits.

Whatever, bringing in the defensive stability should be the main priority for the Black and Yellows. Getting rid of a few players won’t be a bad idea as well, as the squad is really getting crowded. Another important thing is to shape up the midfield and solve the buildup problems at the back.

Marc Bartra needs to step up his game, in order to widen the structure of his sides’ buildup qualities from the back.

Transfer Preview

Dortmund have already signed quite a few players into their squadron for next season. Omer Toprak, the important defender from Bayer Leverkusen comes in to reevaluate the defense. While they have also signed young PSG defender Dan-Axel Zagadou has also joined on a five year contract.

Mahmoud Dahoud’s signing leaves BVB fans with a sign of hope that he may replace the shoes of Ilkay Gündogan. The former Gladbach midfielder is known to be a great ball carrier in midfield, just what Dortmund need at the moment.

One name dominating the transfer talk is Maximilian Philipp, as Sky Germany reports the Freiburg attacker has already completed medical at Dortmund and will soon be seen donning the BVB jersey. He could be a really good signing, considering his monstrous performance for Freiburg this year with nine open play goals. He was also a subject of interest for RB Leipzig, but it looks like Dortmund have at least beaten RBL to his signature.

We have lost the opportunity to sign Patrick Schick, as it seems the 22 year old Sampdoria attacker would move to Italian champions Juventus.

Player(s) of the Season

Ousmane Dembele, the young Frenchman was simply a nightmare for the opposition defenses, especially for Frankfurt and Bayern. Even though he struggled with lack of consistency throughout the season, one of the main reason I chose him as the player of the season, is because of the simple fact that it’s his first season in the Bundesliga and besides he’s just TWENTY! Cheeky drop of the shoulders, unleashing sheer pace with some neat feints, Dembele is currently the best young asset in the Bundesliga in my opinion. In his debut season, he scored ten goals and provided 21 assists as well as creating the most chances than any other BVB player with 63, a performance which led to FC Barcelona renew their interest on the French international.

Honorable mention goes to Sokratis Papastathopoulos, for being the one man army this season in the Dortmund backline. Despite winning the cup, he looked surprisingly non-committal about his future at Dortmund. Him leaving the Dortmund camp would only mean – problems. Pierre Emerick Aubameyang also scored 31 goals this season, which handed him his first Torjagerkanone of his Bundesliga career.

However, we should probably talk more about Roman Burki, who’s arguably been one of the top four goalkeepers in the league this season. Squawka football and Instat rates him as the third best keeper in the league as well. Because why not? Apart from conceding just 18 goals from open play, the Swiss International has made 59 saves this season, with 2.18 saves per 90m. While Manuel Neuer only made 45 saves with 1.80 saves per 90m, yet most of the Bundesliga seem to think he’s been the best keeper for the season.

Although Bürki hasn’t looked convincing with his punches and distribution at times, he still saved Dortmund’s blushes for quite a lot of times throughout the course of the season. He sure is a contender for being one of the best players for Dortmund this season but perhaps not the best.

Grade

A

Of course, we all didn’t like how the season went on about but at the end, we’re all happy that we finally managed a silverware after five years of wait. Considering all the problems Dortmund faced with injuries, plus the departures of key players in the team, I’d say we had a pretty good season overall.

The new season will come with a lot of insecurities, with a relatively inexperienced manager taking charge of such a big club at such a huge stage, really evolves doubt among the supporters. But one thing is for sure, Peter Bosz’s tactical philosophy which is firmly based on the possession based football, ensures a smooth transition period for Borussia Dortmund.

Maybe we lost one of the most promising coaches in world football right now, but at the same time, perhaps we should also back Watzke and Michael Zorc, just for the sake of what they done to the club for years now. They always have a plan after all!

Oh ye of so little faith, don’t doubt it! Don’t doubt it!

(Apologies in advance to Katy, again)

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Bundesliga connoisseur and writer at Bundesliga Fanatic. Also a Bundesliga correspondent for The4thOfficial. In love with the Bundesliga since birth. Big fan of TwentyOnePilots and basically every other teen stuff(Star Wars not included). Still waiting for my man Milos Raonic to win a Grand Slam. Come to my house and we will watch Netflix and eat Nutella. lol just kidding. Follow me on Twitter @CoverShadow09

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