Dortmund maintained a Champions League place with a key 1-1 draw in Leipzig on Saturday. The back-and-forth affair was an opportunity for stars on both sides to shine, but from a BVB perspective, the play on the field looked incredibly familiar. Despite the overall positive result, there were still some worrying signs from the Black and Yellow. These are your Talking Points from the match.
Stoeger Ran Out His Ideal Starting XI
BVB came out in a 4-2-3-1 with Weigl and Dahoud sitting in front of a back four that did NOT include Sokratis. Upfront Schurrle got the start on the wing over Philipp to partner with in-form Reus and Gotze. For a match this major, with no European match this past week, and with the players relatively healthy this looked to this observer like the line-up Steoger wants to play. Playing Weigl and Dahoud gives the midfield – in theory – a strong defensive spine while allowing for creative play. On the backline, the Austrian manager looks not afraid to mix-and-match until he can find a centre-back pairing that helps him sleep easily at night. This formation and line-up provides a conservative bent to an attacking squad, the kind of conservatism we expect from Stoeger with the attacking play we expect from these players.
While one match is not the final decision on the experiment, overall the 4-2-3-1 looks to fit this squad if the players in it are in harmony. At times, the back four and midfield looked to have trouble communicating (see the Leipzig goal) and the numerous offside on Batshuayi and others shows the attacking players are not yet in-sync. That will be the challenge going forward if Stoeger sticks with this formation and plugs in the in-form players. Communication with each other will be key and the sooner a starting XI can be established the better for this squad.
Reus Again Saves the Day
We missed Marco Reus so much. With his match-tying goal Saturday, he joins Lewandowski and Mario Gomez as the only current Bundesliga players to score against all 18 current clubs. He is five goals shy of 100 for his career. In this match, he played almost the entire 90 minutes and was a constant threat in the first half. His goal was a thing of beauty, rounding the keeper as if he had never been injured.
I think back to earlier in the season when seemingly different players were key to the success of this club. For a few matches it would be Yarmolenko, then Gotze, then Aubameyang, or any other player in-form that would inevitably fade away. With the World Cup approaching and Germany stacked with talent, you feel that as long as he stays healthy, Marco Reus is a “game changer” (to use an overused cliché) for Dortmund.
BVB to Copy Bayern and Rely on a German Core?
Ponder this for a moment. Marco Reus, Andre Schurrle, and Mario Gotze have been teammates since July 2016, and it took until March 2018 for all three to play in a Bundesliga match together. The reasons why are well known and do not need to be painfully repeated here, but consider what Dortmund now have for their starting XI. They have the duo most responsible for Germany’s World Cup-winning goal in 2014 and a once-in-a-generation German talent, all three simultaneously fighting to regain form and retain their spots on a German national team overflowing with talent. It almost sounds like we are talking about Bayern, right?
The play of all three together was not perfect on Saturday, and of course, coming from the midfield all three have to work together with Batshuayi. However, you could see moments of connection between the three Germans and glimpses of how dangerous they can be playing together. Dangerous enough to keep Christian Pulisic (teen phenom/the American Messi) and Max Philipp (maybe BVB’s best-attacking player this season) on the bench in this important match. Fixture congestion between the league and Europa League mean there will be plenty of time for everyone to play, but if the three German attacking players can click in the near future, this would mean very good things for club AND country.