November 19, 2017

Borussia Dortmund’s Struggle with Squad Depth

Despite the great progress and development under Jürgen Klopp, over the last three years, Borussia Dortmund have struggled to build themselves a full squad capable of playing at a consistently high level in all competitions throughout the season. Since losing the likes of Mario Götze, Shinji Kagawa, Ivan Perisic and Felipe Santana, they have always replaced those who’ve left, but have they done more than directly replace the lost parts?  This year their lack of experienced squad players may be about to haunt them.

Borussia Dortmund have had another of their consistently confident starts to the season. They picked up their first loss of the season on Saturday against Borussia Mönchengladbach with a relatively strong squad of players, but after Mats Hummels picked up a red card and more injuries came along. The fact that the result came after yet another European match midweek meant that the question over BVB’s lack of true squad depth has come back into the limelight.

Heading into the games against Hannover 96 and Arsenal after the international break, Dortmund are without the injured/suspended – Sven Bender, Jonas Hofmann, Sokratis, Sebastian Kehl, Nuri Şahin, Marco Reus, Mats Hummels and Ilkay Gündoğan. Here we have eight players who would normally start, or make an appearance, week in/week out for BVB. So they’re being replaced, but of course it’s important to consider the quality of those replacing these injured players.

The likes of Eric Durm, Oliver Kirch, Koray Günter and Marvin Ducksch have all been called upon in recent games. And at this rate they are also expected to be called upon again in the near future. Durm, Günter and Ducksch are all under the age of 21 and have had just seven first team appearances between them. The standard that BVB have set themselves requires that their squad to be able to replace those injured/suspended players with squad players who have similar levels of quality and experience. This replacement strategy is something they’re currently unable to implement at the same level as the likes of Bayern, for example.

At the moment, Dortmund have to use players from their admittedly impressive youth set-up in their first team. They would usually –  as in Hofmann’s case – bring these players into the first team setup gradually over a season. Being forced to add younger players to the first team is not only hindering their performances as a team, but could also arguably hinder the development of these young players by putting too much pressure on them too suddenly.

For BVB, it is not a question of deficient squad depth, more a question of lack of squad quality. The position that is most concerting right now is the centre of midfield, arguably Dortmund’s most important position. BVB play with a style that requires great depth in the centre of midfield, since their players cover so much ground during games.

With the 3 biggest names in that position all out injured, the likes Kirch/Hofmann/Großkreutz may have to be put in uncomfortable positions for the time being. Even with the likes of Bender, Reus, Hummels and Hofmann expected to make quick returns, the next two weeks could be a real test for Klopp’s team and could go one of two ways in my opinion.

Their back-up players could come out and prove themselves with impressive performances, proving that their squad players are in fact up to scratch. Or, these players could be overwhelmed by the occasion, further casting doubt over Dortmund squad depth and possibly forcing them into the inevitable quick shop in the January transfer window.

Either way, it will be hard to make Dortmund look bad, as they always find a way to look classy. But this certainly is one of their hardest challenges in recent times, especially with a game against Bayern next month and expectations of another good European campaign. Yes, I am already thinking about the Dortmund v Bayern game but Dortmund’s expectations and standards are now higher than they have been in years.

Let me know what you think about BVB’s squad. Who would you bring in, if anyone?

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Alex Chaffer

Alex is an 18-year old football writer and general sporting enthusiast living near London. He has grown a great love for German football since his first look at the league almost 5 years ago. Follow Alex @AlexChaffer

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