The Hard Tackle takes a look at five key things worth keeping an eye on for the Borussia Dortmund fans with the new season just around the corner.
The new season of the Bundesliga is almost upon us! Following a busy transfer window and a summer break, the German teams will kickstart their 2019/20 campaign next weekend. This new season will likely witness yet another captivating title race, with Borussia Dortmund keen to break Bayern Munich’s dominance over German football.
The Black and Yellows were also one of the busiest teams of the ongoing transfer window and are looking like a force to be reckoned with. And here, at the Hard Tackle, we will discuss five things for the fans to look out for as the Ruhrpott giants begin their Bundesliga campaign against FC Augsburg on 17th August.
Julian Brandt could be an upgrade over Pulisic
Borussia Dortmund settled a smart piece of business when they brought in Julian Brandt from Bayer Leverkusen earlier this summer. The 23-year-old is regarded as one of the best attackers in the Bundesliga and is the desired replacement for Christian Pulisic. The American signed for Chelsea in January, though he was loaned back to Dortmund till the end of the 2018/19 campaign.
Pulisic certainly didn’t enjoy a fruitful spell under Lucien Favre, often being frozen out of the starting lineup. Brandt, in that regard, would be an ideal alternative for the USMNT star.
Though a left-winger by trade, the ex-Leverkusen star is much more versatile than Pulisic as he can also feature as an attacking midfielder as well as a right-winger. This will make it easier for Favre to accomodate the offensive trifecta of Brandt, Marco Reus and Jadon Sancho into his preferred 4-2-3-1 setup. Besides, the 23-year-old’s vast experience in German football will help him quickly integrate into the Dortmund side.
The potential resurgence of Julian Weigl
This season could witness the resurgence of Julian Weigl. The former 1860 youth product has struggled to flourish at Dortmund ever since the departure of Thomas Tuchel. His lack of physical qualities and mobility in midfield has become problematic for Favre’s dynamic midfield unit.
However, the German international has improved a lot on his overall game within the past four-five months. He showcased his versatility in the Ruckrunde 2019, notably appearing as a centre-back. But most importantly, the 23-year-old is now much more competent and is willing to close down the opposition in midfield. His passing, on the other hand, remains sleek as ever.
Weigl’s vast improvement could make him a vital asset for Favre in this new season, especially with Thomas Delaney putting in rusty performances during the backend of last season.
Paco Alcacer’s reliability
Since joining from Barcelona, Paco Alcacer has been a massive hit at Dortmund, having scored 21 goals in just 34 matches across all competitions, including two in two already this term against Bayern Munich (DFL Supercup) and Uerdingen (DFB Pokal).
He has seemingly developed a telepathic understanding with the likes of Marco Reus and Jadon Sancho. Their bond looks stronger than ever as the club prepares for the start of a new season.
However, it’s fair to point out that Alcacer hasn’t really been a great influence when included in the starting lineup. In fact, 11 of his 26 matches in the Bundesliga last term were actually starts, and the striker failed to score in most of them. And this raises doubts as to whether or not he is capable enough to take on the mantle of being Dortmund’s sole number nine during the 2019/20 season.
The German giants have Mario Gotze and Thorgan Hazard as potential alternatives. But, it remains to be seen whether Alcacer will manage to wrong his critics in this new season.
The curious case of Thorgan Hazard
Borussia Dortmund brought in Thorgan Hazard from Borussia Mönchengladbach for a fee of €25 million. But, it remains unclear as to where exactly the Belgian will fit in the Dortmund attack.
He is a left-winger by trade. But that position will likely be occupied by either Brandt or Raphael Guerreiro, if he remains at the club. The right-wing is a possibility but only if Sancho starts on the bench or somewhere else on the pitch.
The best bet will be to consider him as an alternative to Alcacer. He may even start ahead of the Spaniard in the number nine role, where he will be partnered by Reus in the flexible attacking midfield/secondary striker role. Only time will tell as to how Favre plans to utilise the qualities of the Belgian, which remains one of the mysteries for the Dortmund fans going into this new season.
A much more disciplined Dortmund defence
Borussia Dortmund rang in the changes in the defensive department this summer, notably bringing in Mats Hummels. The ex-Bayern star returned to Ruhrpott after three years in Bavaria. Hummels’ experience and leadership qualities at the back could be invaluable for the Dortmund backline that lacked composure, especially during the second half of last campaign.
Besides, the calming presence of Hummels will allow Manuel Akanji more freedom in the defensive half – giving him scope to put in much better performances for his team. As for the full-back department, the club has fixed their issue at left-back by signing German international Nico Schulz while Achraf Hakimi has returned to full fitness.
These four defenders could reinstate Dortmund’s stability at the back that should enable them to compete for the Bundesliga once again as they aim to lift the title for the first time since 2012.