2015-16 was fairly unsurprising in terms of personnel for Thomas Tuchel’s Dortmund side. By the end of the season, guessing lineups and formations became not incredibly difficult, with even his forays into the seldom-seen 5-4-1 for two separate tilts against Bayern Munich becoming increasingly foreseeable. In contrast, the 2016-17 season will be one filled with questions at nearly every position on the field.
One position that will not be in question (barring some sort of cataclysmic disaster) will be the man leading the attack. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang scored 28 goals over all competitions last year. You just don’t change that. In whatever lineup Tuchel could possibly pen, the only person that might touch the team sheet before Aubameyang is probably Roman Burki. Auba was that good last year up top.
That’s not to say he was perfect, or that he could do it alone. Aubameyang is certainly not the most efficient striker in the world, instead using his speed and movement to generate bushels of chances. He also doesn’t tend to score Messi or Ronaldo-like solo efforts; he needs service from his midfield to be truly effective. Tuchel’s formations are built to quickly shift, with static positions turning into more amorphous movement on-field. Midfielders like Marco Reus, Andre Schurrle, Mario Gotze, Shinji Kagawa, and Christian Pulisic can turn into de facto strikers depending on the team’s position on-field.
But if Aubameyang is to succeed, he’s going to need service. Quick reactions and smart positioning in the box is his bread and butter, and the midfield built around him will need to be able to generate chances if Auba is gonna eat.
Behind Auba things get a bit more interesting. Both Marco Reus and Adrian (A LA $%^#$@* PLAYA) Ramos have played the role of lone forward and strike partner to Aubameyang, and provide interesting options for Tuchel should he need or want to shuffle his formation about. Reus cuts a similarly streaky figure to Aubameyang, while Ramos finally managed to turn his impressive goal rate in meaningless games into clutch goals with his big frame and classic number 9 qualities in the box. Ramos is the only true backup forward in the first team, while Reus is generally comfortable anywhere across the front line. Both can help out when called upon.
But Tuchel’s main job will be figuring out how to put Aubameyang in his best position to score as many goals as possible. Here’s a lineup that I think will be closest to what we could actually see Dortmund use in the Bundesliga to start the season.
And just for fun, a possible lineup with the three-man defense Tuchel has toyed with in preseason.
How Tuchel sets his defense will determine what the midfield will look like, and the addition of players like Ousmane Dembele and Andre Schurrle make it clear that Tuchel is interested in spreading the goals out a bit more this season. But Aubameyang will still be this team’s bread and butter up top, and the Dortmund’s attack main function will still be getting him the ball and getting out of his way.