Have Borussia Dortmund rebuilt for Bundesliga challenge after Gotze and Schurrle grabs?
Holly Thackeray | July 11, 2016
It must be hard work being a Borussia Dortmund fan this summer. On the one hand, BVB support have a smart-spending and successful club to be proud of, but the annual raid by richer teams continues.
So far, only a few weeks into the transfer window, Dortmund have been depleted, seeing all of Ilkay Gundogan, Mats Hummels and Henrikh Mkhitaryan make for the escape hatch. And this with the dust barely settled on a season in which they finished as Bundesliga runners-up.
There have been real echoes of previous off-season sagas such as that of Robert Lewandowski and Mario Gotze. Though, the Borussia board appear to have learned their lesson about letting the former leave for free when dealing with Manchester United in regards to Mkhitaryan, who had just a year left on his Dortmund deal.
Dortmund’s exodus may not yet be over however, as questions about centre half Neven Subotic, Poland wingman Jakub Blaszczykowski and Gabon goal machine Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang continue to circle, with the latter looking the only one of the trio likely to stay.
Thomas Tuchel may wish to tighten up his squad by allowing the pair of mainstays to leave, but it could result in the German giants looking rather light on depth, and again primed to see their best talents picked off in future.
However, the recent re-signing of prodigal son Gotze and snaring of Andre Schurrle have been big steps in the right direction – but will the pair be enough to rebuild and form a Bundesliga challenge to Bayern Munich?
Transfer signings show trend towards youth
The couple of big signings in Gotze and Schurrle could go some way to quelling doubts of any other potential dissenters, with Dortmund (16/1 from Coral to win the Champions League) needing to show they are still a pulling power.
Few headline signings have ever arrived at the Westfalenstadion – it is simply not the German side’s style, yet now it looks a requirement to halt the fire sale and lay down a marker of encouragement for the future.
A little investment can go along way, and whether the Gotze grab is enough remains to be seen, but Tuchel’s team have predominantly stuck to targets on the youthful side of the equation.
Recent arrival Ousmane Dembele was perhaps one of the most sought-after teenagers in Europe, but BVB swooped early to swipe the flexible and exciting forward for a reported €15m – quite the coup, considering the going rate for highly touted youth these days.
Despite a 12-goal haul last term, surely prospect Dembele cannot be expected to step immediately into the void left by Mkhitaryan, especially when being better known as a goal threat rather than the creative fulcrum and all-rounder the Armenian is.
Though, after a sublime solo pre-season goal against Manchester United, Dembele could well progress quicker than first thought.
Ousmane Dembélé is going to be a great signing for Bayern Munich in 2 years time! pic.twitter.com/FfzAt1tg4h
— Football Daily (@footballdailyuk) July 22, 2016
Further gambles on young-guns include fellow swift summer signings 18-year-old Turkish wing talent Emre Mor and 20-year old former Osasuna schemer Mikel Merino.
All of these moves makes Dortmund look rather stocked up in attack, but it is to be hoped these transfers are luxuries rather than the base of this summer’s business. The BVB board must buck the trend as a Bayern and Premier League feeder club, or they could be faced with a rebuild again in two terms time if these youngsters garner enough attention.
Sensible signings a Dortmund forte
There has been a savvy recruitment drive in some areas of the Dortmund squad to the effect of padding out the roster and replenishing the spine, however.
Smart moves include midfield shield Sebastian Rode arriving in the opposite direction to Hummels, having spent two rather unspectacular seasons being a bit-part player at Bayern despite the hype which had greeted his Allianz Arena move.
In tandem with reliable Sven Bender and deep playmakers Julian Weigl and Nuri Sahin, Rode could prove a prudent transfer enabling Tuchel to have plenty of varied options in the centre of the park.
While, Marc Barta has arrived from Barcelona to plug the centre of defence alongside Greece international Sokratis Papastathopoulos and potentially allowing Bender to move back into midfield at times. As the Spain international can also deputise as a right back, Tuchel is ensuring plenty of adaptable options.
Euro 2016 France sensation Moussa Sissoko would be another in that vein, with Les Bleus’ battler also linked recently as he supposedly seeks an exit from St James’ Park after Newcastle United’s relegation to the Championship.
By far the most intriguing transfer so far this off-season, is Dortmund’s snatching of France-born Portugal international full back Raphael Guerreiro before he put himself in the shop window at the Euros.
A real attacking threat going forward from the left defensive flank Guerreiro, 22, looks a prime acquisition that can be moulded by Tuchel’s team ethics.
Still, none of these mentioned so far are exactly limelight stealing transfers that speak of a team trying to swing the Bundesliga title balance back in their favour and away from star-studded Bayern.
Are Gotze and Schurrle the marquee men?
An attacking addition to take Mkhitaryan’s place in the forward-thinking trident or quartet, depending on Tuchel’s tinkering, is the type of transfer that was called for – and on the surface Dortmund have delivered.
Last term in the league, they hit a tremendous haul of 82 top-tier goals, two more than their Munich-based nemesis.
However, departed menace Mkhitaryan created 20 of those and chipped in with 11 himself, so a new playmaker able to take his opportunities and put plenty of chances on a plate for Marcos Reus (when fit) and Aubameyang seemed to be required.
Among those linked were Marek Hamsik, the Slovakian central attacking force currently skippering Napoli, former flame Gotze, who was on the outs at Bayern, ex-Chelsea attacker Andre Schurrle and Stoke City star Xhedran Shaqiri.
It was Gotze and Schurrle that BVB eventually opted for – in a sense going for Germany proven players more than familiar to the club and supposedly posing little flop risk. However they could also be seen as rather uninspired – as rivals Bayern poached Hummels and Portugal midfield prodigy Renato Sanches, with more expected.
Dependable Schurrle certainly has a knack for scoring important goals, but is not the type of star man to build a team around, good numbers and stats aside.
Still, Dortmund should expect to see a return of around 10 goals from the 25-year-old which is no mean feat for a predominantly wide player – though for an undisclosed fee believed to be more than the £22m Wolfsburg payed Chelsea for Schurrle’s services previously, it lacks a little glitz and game-winning glamour.
— Borussia Dortmund (@BVB) July 22, 2016
Though if the idea is to ease in Dembele and co with Schurrle for the interim, it starts to look like smart business – but not a Bundesliga winning transaction.
So that leaves Gotze, purportedly picked instead of Shaqiri as the man to provide that pinch of stardust. Germany World Cup winner Gotze had severely stalled at the Allianz, and there are no guarantees a reunion will work or be welcomed by fans after the acrimonious exit.
The German is far from the confident player who departed Dortmund before, and his signing could easily be seen as trailing for Bayern’s leftovers. Still, if Tuchel can extract his best once again, it could be BVB laughing instead of the Munich men.
Many will remember the potential of the string-puller who, at 24, is still capable of reaching the heights Bayern believed he would.
Shaqiri, though, would not be an unwelcome second marquee transfer, but arguably too many attacking midfield cooks could spoil Tuchel’s team broth.
Stoke would surely rather hold on to their club record signing, but could recoup much more than the £12m fee they forked out for the stocky winger after his exquisite overhead goal at the Euros for Switzerland.
Arguably just as inconsistent as Gotze, there is no guarantee a Bundesliga return would benefit, but if Tuchel thinks he can channel the two mercurial talents, strong and skillful Shaqiri alongside the Germany international could be just the tonic Dortmund support require.