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Matthias Ginter in Defensive Midfield: Why The Switch Makes Sense

Despite Matthias Ginter's successful Hinrunde as our starting right back, Thomas Tuchel now seems to favor Lukasz Piszczek. It may seem unfair, but I'll try to make sense of Ginter's move to defensive midfield.

Ginter heads home to put Dortmund 2-1 up against rivals Schalke
Ginter heads home to put Dortmund 2-1 up against rivals Schalke
Christof Koepsel/Getty Images

One of Dortmund's most pleasant surprises in the first half of the season is undoubtedly Matthias Ginter's emergence as a right back. At first, he was only there because of the lack of a healthy right back, with Lukasz Piszczek out injured and Gonzalo Castro putting in a horrific display playing right back. But even when Piszczek returned to fitness, Ginter still maintained his position, and rightfully so.

As a right back, Ginter has incredibly tallied three goals and eleven assists in the first half of the season. That's a contribution of 14 goals, a mark only beaten by four of our attacking players: Mkhitaryan, Aubameyang, Kagawa, and Reus. Ginter is even ahead of Ilkay Gundogan on that list. With stats like that, it's hard to understand why Ginter has had the right back position taken away from him now.

While I don't think it is deserved, I do have a few theories that can make sense of Thomas Tuchel's decision to utilize him as a defensive midfielder for the rest of the season. And anyways, it's not like he's set to only one position. Where he plays will almost certainly depend on injuries, form, and wherever his skills are needed.

To start, Lukasz Piszczek is a good quality right back. He can defend, he certainly proved that against Gladbach at the weekend. And we know that he's a capable attacker himself, scoring nine goals in his time at the club, while also being a decent crosser and assister. Piszczek has been Mr. Reliable at right back for Dortmund over the years, but ever since his big hip injury in 2013, he hasn't exactly been able to stay healthy long enough to have a good run of form. If he can stay healthy, however, he's more than certified for the right back job, even if it does seem a little harsh on Ginter.

It's not just Piszczek that's keeping Ginter from right back, it's also a little teenager named Felix Passlack. As we all know by now, Passlack was promoted to the senior squad over the winter break along with Christian Pulisic. While Passlack is a jack of all trades player, Tuchel seems to view him currently as a right back, citing his position when asked why Passlack didn't make the squad against Gladbach. The right back version of Felix Passlack doesn't exactly fit in with a bench consisting of three defenders: Subotic, Durm, and Ginter from the Gladbach game. Tuchel seems intent on giving our two teenagers a chance to prove themselves for the rest of our season, and with Ginter playing right back, Passlack would be stuck as third choice, not really a place where he can prove himself.

To accommodate the talent of Felix Passlack, while giving Lukasz Piszczek the starting right back spot, it seems most logical for Matthias Ginter to suit up in defensive midfield. With Sven Bender's move to the center back position, it leaves Weigl as our lone defensive midfielder. Of course, Bender's versatility allows him to play DM if Weigl were out, and Socrates could fill in at center back. But if Bender is training at center back, it's likely he wouldn't be as reliable in the midfielder, which explains Tuchel's decision to have Ginter train and play as a defensive midfielder.

One might point out that Ginter hasn't exactly impressed in his stints in the midfield this season, but that doesn't mean all hope is lost. A lot of being a defensive midfielder relies on positioning, an attribute that might be tough for someone new to the position to master. Our young phenom Julian Weigl even struggles with his positioning at time to time. We know Ginter is a solid defender, so Tuchel likely hopes that he can become more positionally aware which can turn him into a good defensive midfielder. It helps a lot that Ginter is now training there, but he'll need some in-game experience, which he'll likely get as a sub, to master his new position.

In the very unlikely case that Julian Weigl were to leave sometime soon, it's nice that we have Matthias Ginter training to be next in line in the midfield. Ginger must feel hard done by the decision of Tuchel, but it's one that benefits the team and allows Ginter's versatility to be his biggest asset. If he keeps playing like he did in the first half of the season, finding a spot in the team shouldn't be a problem for our number 28.