November 19, 2017

Has Marco Reus really been struggling this season?

Note: All Stats courtesy of Whoscored.com and taken prior to this weekend’s match.

Marco Reus is one of the best players in the Bundesliga. No one questions, rebuffs, or argues that. His pedigree since bursting onto the scene with Borussia Mönchengladbach and later joining Dortmund is incredible. For a player with Reus’ glorious reputation, a lot is expected of him from fans of Dortmund and the Bundesliga. These enormous expectations can lead to fans and pundits alike criticizing the star player for not playing well, even if in reality he is.

This dynamic is exactly what’s been happening with Marco Reus so far this season. Watchers of the Bundesliga this season are saying that Marco Reus has struggled so far under new manager Thomas Tuchel. While Reus has struggled this season under Tuchel, there are many reasons why his struggles are exaggerated and might not exist at all.

The Stats Case in Favor of Reus

Let’s start with what the stats say, and in this case the stats support Marco Reus. With only 7 goals in 16 games under Jürgen Klopp last season, Reus has already surpassed that total this season. He has 8 goals in 12 games, which is 6th in the Bundesliga. If Reus continues to score at this pace while staying fit, he’ll end up with around 19 to 20 goals. If he gets to 20 goals, this would be the first time in his Bundesliga career that he would achieve that feat. Reus is putting up these goal totals despite Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang taking the penalties for Dortmund this season. Reus achieved his goalscoring feats in previous seasons as the main penalty taker for Dortmund. He could have even more goals if he had that responsibility for Dortmund, which shows that his goalscoring this season really is at an all time high.

While Reus’ goalscoring is seemingly just as good or even better under Tuchel, what fans are going to point to is his low assist total. Reus only has one assist this season, and while that’s bound to improve, he’ll have a tough time reaching the marks that he posted in his recent seasons, that go from 8 all the way to 13. Those stats can’t be rebuffed, but you can look deeper to see that Reus is still passing at a high level. His passing percentage sits at 80%, which would be the highest of his Bundesliga career. His previous high was with Gladbach, when he posted a 78% passing percentage.

Reus’ assist decline can also be explained by the fact that Thomas Tuchel doesn’t utilize Reus as a passer as much as Klopp did. Reus only averages 28 passes per game, which is much less than the 33 and 34 passes per game that he’s averaged over the prior two seasons. While Reus’ assists are down, it’s largely due to how he’s being used by Tuchel, because his passing accuracy has been as good as it’s ever been.

Other former Klopp Stars Facing Similar Struggles

After the Hinrunde was over, no one was questioning the hiring of Thomas Tuchel. He’s gotten the best out of many players such as Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, and Matthias Ginter to name a few. While Dortmund are flying high, scoring a ton of goals and sitting 2nd in the table, however, there have been some negatives in an otherwise terrific Hinrunde for Dortmund. Ironically, something the players listed above have in common is that Klopp didn’t get the best out of them. Mkhitaryan struggled last season, Auba was often deployed on the right, and Matthias Ginter just simply didn’t play.

On the other hand, players that Klopp did get the best out of, such as Reus, are finding it harder under Tuchel. Besides Reus, fellows stalwarts in Klopp’s first team have struggled under Tuchel. Namely, Mats Hummels, Lukasz Piszczek, and Sokratis have struggled so far this season. With shaky performances in the Bundesliga and the Europa League. Hummels’ struggles have been the most publicised of any of the three, with rumors even linking him away from the club since he’s been unhappy. His play has been so much worse due to having to adjust to a new role under Tuchel.

The normally consistent and reliable star player that Hummels has established himself as has looked far from what Dortmund fans have come to expect. Sokratis has struggled along with Hummels, and their struggles as a pair have been the main reason why Dortmund’s defending has been shaky at times this season. For Sokratis, a consistent and stable presence at the back for his entire tenure at Dortmund, his struggles have been very surprising to say the least. Then there is Lukasz Piszczek, who was the #1 right back for Jurgen Klopp after he was bought. But this season, after a poor start for Piszczek, Ginter has quickly taken his place with some great showings.

The struggles of all three under Tuchel have been similar to Reus in many ways. They’ve had drastic role changes under Tuchel, and they have also had issues adjusting to their position on the pitch and what they should do on and off of the ball. What’s encouraging for Reus is that Hummels, Sokratis and Piszczek have all began turning it around. Piszczek is back in the first team, Hummels has been given his armband back, and Sokratis has improved mightily. A stark contrast compared to what had been going on in a lot of games this season.

If Reus follows the same pattern as his teammates, with the additional five weeks to learn and adapt to Tuchel, his play should improve. Reus has gained his fitness back as well, and while the fans have certainly criticized the others for their struggles, no one has gotten has gotten more stick than Reus. Which is why his struggles are clearly exaggerated. His body isn’t breaking down and he’s not lost a step, it’s just that he’s adapting to a new position and new role on the pitch. Just like his teammates in Hummels, Sokratis and Piszczek. They’ve all struggled a lot this season, and many people have been patient with them, and now they are turning their seasons around. Maybe Reus should be treated the same as his teammates, because clearly the fans are getting rewarded with quality performances once again.

Other Teammates Star Under Tuchel

Before the season started, if someone told a Dortmund fan that Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Pierre Emerick Aubameyang would’ve been the team’s stars during the Hinrunde, they wouldn’t have believed it one bit. But that’s exactly what has happened this season. Auba is leading the league in goals, and Mkhitaryan has been one of the top players in the Bundesliga, with 6 goals and 8 assists. And while the emergence of these two would seemingly help Reus, it actually hasn’t.

One of the reasons why Aubameyang has scored so many goals is that he is taking more shots. He’s 2nd in the Bundesliga in shots per game, while he averages more shots than last season or any season of his career. Tuchels tactics and controlled build up allow Aubameyang to get the top level chances and as a result he’s shooting more than he has previously. Reus tends to contribute to the build up, but the main chances go to Aubameyang. While Auba is shooting more, Reus is shooting less than ever. He’s averaging around 1 less shot than last season, and around two less than seasons prior to that.

The shot decline of Reus is part of the reason why his match rating is lower, and most watchers have said that Reus hasn’t had as much of an impact on the games. Aubameyang has shot and scored much more than in the past under Klopp, while Reus has shot much less than he has previously even though he’s scoring at the best rate of his career (as mentioned earlier).

Now that we’ve discussed Aubameyang, let’s get to Mkhitaryan. In his third season with Dortmund, Mkhitaryan has really found his stride wearing the yellow and black. He already has 6 goals and 8 assists prior to this weekend’s action, both of which are more than he had all of last season.

Like Aubameyang, Mkhitaryan is shooting slightly more than he did last season, but he’s passing much more than he has previously. He’s averaging 7 more passes then he did last season, which tells you how much more touches of the ball he’s had. As a result, he’s averaging more key passes this season as well, from 1.6 to 2.7 key passes per game. Mkhitaryan being on the ball more also helps explain why Reus’ passes per game are down, as mentioned earlier. The play of Mkhitaryan and Aubameyang has been great for Dortmund as a whole, but not for Marco Reus. They are shooting and passing more, and Reus is shooting and passing less, all of which might explain why Reus hasn’t had as much of an impact on games as some Pundits and supporters would like.

After taking a deeper look into Reus and his teammates’ seasons so far, his stats look much different than they did before. Despite his apparent struggles this season – his stats and goalscoring – his teammates’ similar struggles, and the emergence of Auba and Mkhitaryan make it clear that claims about Reus’ struggles are exaggerated.

After regaining fitness over the break, Reus will have a chance to show everyone that he’s adapted to Tuchel. If he does that, the rest of the Bundesliga should be scared, because an in form Reus should be a sight to behold in the context of Dortmund’s fearful attack this season.

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Alex Lynch

Alex a passionate fan of the Bundesliga and German Football who resides in the United States, who also loves writing and talking about the Bundesliga.