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Player Review: Marco Reus - A Frustrating but Successful Year

Year in Review - 2015/16

VfB Stuttgart v Borussia Dortmund - Bundesliga Photo by Adam Pretty/Bongarts/Getty Images

Marco Reus had what must have personally been a very frustrating year. He went from being the golden boy, the returning Dortmund Jung, who would restore the Schwartzgelb to the heady days of 2010-2012, to being a cog in the Tuchel offensive machine, more often than not, upstaged by his fellow winger, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, with whom subtle positional conflicts surely existed. Statistically, Reus had a similar year to last (despite the previous year’s general awfulness, Reus’s many injuries was the only reason for the dip in form from his stellar 2013/14 season), putting in 19 goals and 7 assists across three competitions in 42 appearances, only two of these from off the bench.

It was frustrating for Reus for three reasons. First, Reus’s form was quite often in an inverse relationship with the general form of the squad around him. Especially in the Rückrunde, when Reus struggled for form, he would often find himself off the general tempo of play, failing to make the runs his teammates looked for, or making other runs without service. His first touch would often fail him and attacks through him would quickly die. During the times when Reus was at the top of his game, the rest of the Dortmund attack would seem disjointed and lacking. This lack of syncopation with those around him in the second half of the season could be explained due to the lengthy absences of Gündoğan as Castro and Kagawa would find it difficult to work with Reus as seamlessly as the German midfield maestro that will soon be gracing the pitches of the English Premier League. Similarly, this somewhat disjointed end of the season offensively could be laid at the feet of Pierre-Emmerick Aubameyang, whose blistering goal-scoring and finishing prowess cooled significantly in the second half of the season. Reus played his best when his partner in eponymous French rap videos was at his best as well.

Secondly, Reus’ personal star dimmed in the relatively bright constellation of the Dortmund attack. He went from the salvager of last season with his thoroughly unexpected contract extension at their lowest of low points, to playing a supporting actor role in a superstar cast; upstaged throughout the year by Mkhitaryan and Aubameyang. Reus seems to take this in stride, cheerily playing the Robin to Auba’s Batman, but all great players have egos, and it is highly likely Reus would like to play a most important role on a side in which many saw him as a savior.

Lastly, and perhaps most significantly, Reus still has yet to win a trophy. The collapse at Anfield likely had negative consequences far beyond simply getting to a European final. It is likely Hummel’s decision to exit was partly influenced (only minor though, as the family front is probably the biggest factor) by this capitulation. Reus was likely hurt more than most as he put in an absolute stellar performance in a losing effort in which he was substituted after he had done beyond enough to put the tie to rest in the first half. Could Reus be lured away from Dortmund by the allure of trophies elsewhere? Does he have enough faith in the abilities of Watzke and Zorc to build a team capable of winning a major title? Does he have enough faith in the abilities of Tuchel to win when it matters most? So far, Tuchel is 0 for 4 in tough, must-win matches against high-profile opponents.

The saving grace of course, is Marco’s ties to Dortmund and his joy in playing football in Tuchel’s system when it is functioning at high capacity. One thing Tuchel has done remarkably well is manage Reus. As we all know, Marco is significantly prone to injury as he is highly creative, quick, and fluid; and therefore a frequent target of horrific tackles. Tuchel’s patient playing style is easier on the body than Kloppo’s heavy metal Gegenpressing and the boss never rushes Reus into matches before he is fully fit and ready. This year, the ability to switch out Kagawa, Castro, Mkhitaryan with each other and the relative health of the squad overall kept the pressure off Reus from having to do it all himself. This will likely continue with the increasing ability and importance of Reus’ natural understudy, Christian Pulisic, and the imminent addition of Ousmane Dembélé.

Bayern Muenchen v Borussia Dortmund - DFB Cup Final 2016
Hummels passes the armband.
Photo by Lars Baron/Bongarts/Getty Images

Probably the only real concerning thing for Reus, aside from the possibility of being snatched up by the proverbial Tier 1 clubs, is his penchant for petty arguments with officials. Likely to step into the role as full-time captain, Reus is most decidedly not parsimonious with petulant words to referees. He will need to develop more maturity and steady leadership skills to be worthy of the armband else Dortmund run the risk of turning into recent Arsenal, whose lack of a steady hand has contributed to their frequent periods of turmoil.

Reus will likely stay, and take on an even more important role than last year. He will, like Wayne Rooney, shed many of his more boyish immaturities, and grow into his role as team leader on the pitch. Hopefully his injury bug will be kept at bay as his ability to anticipate and read the game improves alongside his maturity.