The Overused Striker and A Surprising Omission: The Different Paths of Aubameyang and Weigl
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Julian Weigl, despite playing very different positions and being separated by 6 years, were both extremely important players in former manager Thomas Tuchel’s team. The Gabonese striker has been the focal point of the Dortmund attack since his arrival in 2013, becoming one of the very best goal threats in the world and drawing annual interest from some of the biggest clubs. Weigl, a traditional single pivot holding midfielder, emerged under Tuchel in 2015/16, making 30 appearances aged just 20. Both players helped form the spine of one of the most exciting sides of the last half decade, and were expected to play vital roles in new manager Peter Bosz’ team. However, while Aubameyang has continued in his role as the principle goalscorer, Weigl has apparently been slow to gain the favor of his new Dutch manager. Are Dortmund heading for trouble with the way both players are being used?
Over-Reliant in Attack
This season, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has been as good as ever. The striker has netted 10 goals in 9 league matches, good for 40% of the team’s total of 25. As the centre forward in Peter Bosz’ 4-3-3, he was always likely to be a focal point, but at times over the last 2 seasons, he has seemed like the entirety of the Dortmund attack. With fellow speed merchant Marco Reus spending so much time on the sidelines injured over the course of his Dortmund career, Aubameyang has often lacked that true complimentary goal threat, leaving him to shoulder the burden most of the time.
In fairness to the club, they have tried to rectify their one dimensional attack over the last two years with a bushel of newly signed attacking talent. Last season, Ousmane Dembele and Andre Schurrle were brought in to cushion the loss of Henrikh Mkhitaryan and provide cover for Areas to mixed results. The young French wunderkind immediately became one of the best creative forces in world football, prompting his £100+ million to Barcelona, while the German winger was significantly less impressive. Despite seeming to possess a similar skill set to Reus, he was never able to make a position in the Dortmund attack his own. This year, Hans-Joachim Watzke and Michael Zorc went a bit mad, buying Max Philipp, Andriy Yarmolenko and 17 year old Jadon Sancho to compete for a place in the Dortmund attack.
Despite all of the talent on hand at the Signal Iduna Park, the attack is still running predominantly through the all-world Aubameyang. Should he be injured for an extended period of time, the team could really struggle for results, particularly since the end of their season opening undefeated streak, which has seen the defence spring leaks where there weren’t any to open the season. The club will also have to face the familiar reality of other clubs sniffing around their star man when the transfer window opens. Given the surprising early season struggles of some big clubs around the world, including Aubameyang’s dream destination, Real Madrid, the January transfer window could see intense interest in his services from elsewhere. For a 28 year old player who has been earmarked for a move away to an even bigger club for at least 2 seasons, the temptation could prove too much to resist. With so many clubs now spending huge money on younger talent than ever before, the striker at the top of his game and in his prime faces the danger of never getting his dream move. Aubameyang will have noticed how quickly his name was knocked off the top of every club’s wishlist as soon as players like Mbappe and Dembele were on the move, and if the right club comes calling in January , even with Dortmund in a title race, he could make his move.
Where Is Weigl?
Julian Weigl had such a promising start to his Dortmund career under Thomas Tuchel in 2015/16, quickly becoming the demanding manager’s favorite for the holding midfield role due to injuries and his ability to pick a pass and remain calm on the ball. Weigl rewarded his manager with huge strides in his game, becoming one of the best young single pivots in Europe over the last 2 and a bit seasons. His place in the starting XI was almost assured until May of this year, when his ankle got caught under him and broke, leaving him out and recovering until the beginning of this season, where he has so far returned to health, if not his best form.
Despite his return, Weigl has not moved straight back into the starting XI as might have been envisioned. Instead, crowd favorite Nuri Sahin has seen his number called in the holding role instead of the young German. Through 9 league matches, he has only started 3 and been used as a substitute for 2 more. He doesn’t appear to be suffering any ill effects of the injury, so is this a case of the manager simply being cautious with such a young and important player? Or does Peter Bosz, the manager so noted for his talent working with young players, prefer Sahin in the role, full stop?
If it is simply about being cautious, then the alarm will have been for nought, but if he has lost his place in the side, his future in a Dortmund shirt could get pretty murky. His play has not gone unnoticed across Europe since his emergence, as he rivals Bayern Munich’s Joshua Kimmich for the title of best young German holding midfielder (though he lacks his countryman’s positional versatility). Recent reports have the likes of Juventus, Manchester City and Barcelona interested in his services, so if he cannot regularly find the pitch at the Westfalenstadion as the season progresses, when health concerns are no longer a possibility, then he could well be on his way out the door. However, as the season is so young and Dortmund continue to compete on multiple fronts, the games should come for Weigl in time. Surely a club so in tune with the potential of youth will not want to lose a player of his quality at this stage of his career. As we know though, money has a way of making anything seem like a good idea.