A Deserved Win, Three Players To Watch, and Marco’s World Cup Dreams

A Deserved Win, Three Players To Watch, and Marco’s World Cup Dreams

Start To Finish Intent

Despite scoring just 1 goal against Hannover on Sunday, some fans believe it was the team’s best performance in quite some time. Dortmund saw more of the ball than they had in their midweek disappointment against Salzburg, and they made use of that possession, firing 25 shots at the Hannover goal and winning 12 corners to their opponents 2. Only 3 days removed from a hard-fought 90 minutes in Austria, the team showed few ill effects as they outmanned and outmaneuvered Hannover, whipping the reported 81,000 attending fans into a frenzy with their positive play.

The win ensured Dortmund would keep pace with second place Schalke, just 1 point behind their hated rivals. With 7 matches to play on the Bundesliga calendar, there is plenty of time for die Borussen to overtake the Gelsenkirchen side, who have had a brilliant season under manager Domenico Tedesco. Now that the squad no longer have to divide their attentions between league and European matches, all energy can be diverted to the task, which will only help to solidify their place in the Champions League next season.

One To Watch: Mahmoud Dahoud

As regular readers of our site might be aware, this humble writer has long been a massive fan of current Dortmund and former Borussia Monchengladbach midfielder Mahmoud Dahoud. However, even through my rose tinted glasses, it would be hard to call his first season in Dortmund a total success. The German midfielder had a brilliant 3 match run in September in which he logged an assist in each match, but afterwards, he had become an increasingly marginal contributor as the team struggled for results.

After several months as a frequent but uninspiring substitute with the occasional start mixed in Dahoud has begun to force himself into Peter Stoeger’s regular plans, taking advantage of his increased minutes with an uptick in form. A creative midfielder with huge potential, Dahoud has the tools to be a better defensive player than Mario Gotze but far more mobile and trickier on the dribble than Julian Weigl. He figures to grow into that all-important link between the defence and attack that Dortmund have been searching for since Ilkay Gundogan left. The more time he gets on the pitch, the more comfortable he looks, and as of right now he is making his case for a permanent place in Stoeger’s preferred starting XI.

And Another…

Dahoud isn’t the only player coming on of late for die Schwarzgelben as Andre Schurrle has also been in resurgent form in recent weeks. Having benefitted more than any other player when Andriy Yarmolenko was sidelined with an injury, Schurrle has been arguably the team’s most consistent performer since January not named Batshuayi. Schurrle had a brilliant pre-season campaign scoring 4 goals in the summer, but it wasn’t until the beginning of February that he managed to find the net in a league match. Since the beginning of February, Schurrle has racked up 3 goals and 3 assists while combining extremely well with Marco Reus since his return.

When compared with the player he should have been when he broke onto the scene as a young man, earning big money moves early in his career, he might not be considered a success, but he has become a very serviceable and hardworking member of the Dortmund squad this season. In particular, he appears to be a favourites of Stoeger, who has not seemed willing to drop Schurrle from his starting XI since Shinji Kagawa’s injury. As of now, his place in the team looks almost guaranteed, and his energy and ability to find small pockets of space to exploit on the ball is essential to the Dortmund attack when it is clicking. At 27, he may never fulfill the potential he flashed as a youngster, but it may be time to forget that and just call him what he is: a good footballer.

And One At The Back…

A quick survey of supporters would tell you that Omer Toprak and Sokratis Papastathopoulos are currently the consensus first choice center back pairing, but a few more matches like the one on Sunday will have Manuel Akanji fixing to change that. He completed 66 passes for an 86% accuracy and was successful on an impressive 6/10 long passes. He had 5 interceptions (although he had an incredible 10 against Monchengladbach 2 matches previously) and 3 clearances while winning 12 of his 19 duels. His stat line shows a productive day for a defender, but he passes the eye test in an even more thorough manner.

Thus far, the Swiss defender has adapted in impressive fashion since making the mid-season leap in competition from Switzerland to the Bundesliga in January. He is long, rangy and an explosive athlete for a central defender, and he has every attribute that a modern, ball-playing centre-half needs. His ability to start attacks from deep is unmatched by any of his fellow defenders in the side, and with the blistering pace of Marco Reus, Andre Schurrle and Michy Batshuayi up top, his passing is a weapon the team cannot wait to exploit. His move to Dortmund likely closes the book on Sven Mislintat scouted targets, as the Dortmund native was reportedly involved in his recruitment before departing for London. The future is bright for the young Swiss-born defender with a Nigerian passport!

Not Back with die Mannschaft…yet

Marco Reus may be angling to get back into the German national team setup following his return from his major knee injury, but he has not yet been added to the team by manager Joachim Loew. When healthy, Germany does not possess a wide player with his blend of pace and creativity, but for now, a 2-week rest is the best course of action for a player that has hit the ground running in his return to fitness. Reus continues to look stronger in every match he plays, and he has already scored thrice in 5 matches for die Borussen, but with a devastating injury history, Peter Stoeger must be ever mindful of his health and energy levels. Keeping Reus fit is essential to the club not only qualifying for Champions League next season, but also for attracting complimentary talent in the summer to aid his quest for trophies in Dortmund.

Should Reus keep on the path he is on with his club performances, Loew will have little choice but to call up the attacker. His terrible luck with injuries has been well documented, and it has manifested itself in him missing Germany’s triumphant World Cup campaign 4 years ago. At 28 years old, he could very well be passed his peak years the next time a World Cup rolls around, so he will be desperate to make it happen this season. With luck, and a run of good health, it is hard to imagine Reus missing out on his dream.