Black v. Yellow Part 2: Who Should See More Playing Time?
Which Player Could Turn the Club’s Fortunes Around
By: Robert Hay Jr and Nate Smith
Last week, Robert Hay and Nate Smith debated who was most at fault for Dortmund’s swoon in the past month. This week, the two took aim at a different topic that is somewhat related. Coming out of an international break and UEFA play-offs, manager Peter Bosz has had time to review the club from top to bottom. With so few of his players playing competitive matches, He will have a plethora of players to pick from when he writes out his starting XI Friday.
This week’s debate is each writer taking a player who, in their mind, has not received as much time on the pitch as they should and defending why that player deserves more time. Of course, the craziest (?) of ideas is Alexander Isak but that would mean either a radical formation shift or less playing time for Aubameyang. You may choose which seems more likely. Instead, below are their choices for players to receive more time on the pitch until the winter break, if not longer.
Neven Subotic – Robert Hay
Maybe because I am an American and it was he – not Giuseppe Rossi – that was the true talent that “got away” from the U.S. Soccer Federation, but I have always had a soft spot for the Croatian defender. The hardworking centreback known more for his footwork than his timely tackles, but he has been a solid defender throughout his career. However, beset by injuries and playing for managers who just cannot tap into his true talent, Subotic’s star has faded from consciousness.
Any hopes for a resurgence under Peter Bosz can be dismissed as Subotic has made one (1) appearance this season, a 2-2 draw with Frankfurt. Despite the club conceding a two-goal lead, the centre-back had a 75% pass success percentage and 7.62 rating according to WhoScored. In short, he played well for his first match of the season. Since then, however, he has been buried on the bench. With his contract up this summer, the inevitable push for a January move for playing time has already been leaked to the press with his old manager Jurgen Klopp suggesting he would be open for a reunion. Before that happens, however, Subotic not only deserves but needs a chance to show his current worth with his current club.
Let us agree that Dortmund’s defensive woes go well beyond the back four and the midfield has its own deficiencies in transitioning from offence to defence. That said, there needs to be a change in the back to shake up a unit that has now allowed ten goals in its last five matches (all competitions). In the Frankfurt match, Weigl and Subotic were paired together but you do not have to repeat this pairing. Instead place Sokratis and Subotic together for a more experienced pairing, albeit one that may be susceptible to faster players. The Croatian is a veteran who wants to play to show he can still, well, play at the highest level. Let him start against Stuttgart, where his veteran savvy will be an asset in a hostile environment. If he plays well, that’s the beginning of a trend. He is the kind of veteran presence that this defence could use with Sokratis, and if it does not work out, it likely cannot be worse than what the back is giving you currently.
Mahmoud Dahoud- Nate Smith
There is no sugarcoating it; the first half of Peter Bosz’ debut season at Dortmund has not been brilliant. The Dutchman has suffered from an interesting contradiction, in which his effective but simple tactics, built on youth at Ajax, have made an inconsistent match with a comparatively veteran squad in Germany. To open the season, they were like a magic elixir, soothing every ailment from last year’s disjointed performance under Thomas Tuchel. However, the results have gone south on die Schwarzgelben, and Bosz is already earning some criticism for his tactical rigidity.
Perhaps the most surprising aspect of all has been Bosz’ de-emphasis of a very talented midfield. While a read through the stats will show these players getting on the score sheet, their role in the current team have been limited by a very direct style and a favoured cadre of veteran players. One such player to be overlooked despite impressing in his limited appearances is Mahmoud Dahoud. He has been seriously good in his 300 minutes of league play this season, collecting 3 assists and an 88.9% pass accuracy. He has mostly featured in a box to box role so far but has the versatility to perform anywhere across the midfield, as well as in more advanced roles.
For those of you with elephant memories, you may recall my delirious parroting of Dahoud’s abilities, and I have seen nothing since his move from Monchengladbach to dissuade those views. He functions extremely well next to a metronomic distributor like Julian Weigl (as well as Granit Xhaka previously at ‘Gladbach) or as a part of a more active engine room midfield, and at just 21, is far from a finished product.
In the diversely talented group of midfielders Bosz has at his disposal, from the intelligence and heart of Nuri Sahin to the class and creativity of Mario Gotze, Dahoud has a bit of it all. His passing range is second only perhaps to Sahin’s when in form and he is as quick as you’d like for a forward-thinking midfielder, but his creativity and slick ballhandling disguise a rather willing aggression at the other end of the pitch. While not his best fit, he could even function at the base of the midfield, keeping the team ticking over while supplying adequate shielding to the backline for most lower table matches.
Dahoud’s best fit at Dortmund is right where he plays now, in a more advanced midfield role, Unfortunately, since a run of three League matches at the end of September, in which he collected his assists in consecutive games, Dahoud has seen his time in the XI limited. Despite dealing with a few minor injuries, he has been consistently available so far this term, but Bosz has seemed to be content favouring others to start before the German. Perhaps he is viewed strictly as a backup to Gotze, but given the lack of midfield creation in the side through the month of October and now beyond, he should be given another look. As I mentioned last week (in a debate that I totally won), Bosz has been reluctant to put his trust in some of the many talented young players the club have at their disposal, choosing trusted veterans whenever possible. However, in the case of Mahmoud Dahoud, this may be a policy worth reconsidering. He is going to be a special player.