In case you didn't hear, Borussia Dortmund lost a pretty important center-back this summer. Our ex-captain Mats Hummels was the defensive centerpiece of our squad for years. Without him many feared our back-line would be open and play from the back weaker. However we still have talent from last season in addition to some new signings. Let’s take a look at who is around to play defence for the black and yellows.
The Centre Backs
One of Dortmund’s first choice center-backs last year, it looks like Sokratis is primed to have another successful season. Last year a Fox Sports commentators referred to him as a “sledge hammer”. This is the most apt description of him you’ll hear. Sokratis is one of the better tacklers in the league. His ability to stop runs in the box without drawing a penalty is part of what made BVB’s defensive record so great last season. At the age of 28, Sokratis still has a few more years of performing at his peak. Unless something goes totally wrong, Papa is set up to be a starter for most of the season.
A headliner of Dortmund’s many new signings this summer, Bartra is BVB’s direct replacement for the old captain. Coming from FC Barcelona, Bartra is already a very mature center-back at the age of 25. So far in preseason, Bartra has looked great. His passing from the back has been on nearly the same level as Hummels. He has great vision and likes to move up into the midfield when in possession (not all consider this a good thing). He does have his weaknesses though; he’s made a few defensive errors throughout preseason that have led to silly goals. But as his time with the squad increases, the silly mistakes will probably and hopefully dissipate.
Sven Bender has been with BVB for seven years now. While he doesn't get to play as much as he used to, he’s still a valuable member of the squad. With Champions League football awaiting Dortmund again this season, he will be very important during the busier weeks. He’s still only 27 so he’s not likely going to suffer from any setbacks in fitness. While he didn't make it into the squad much last year, he has a real chance of being the third CB this year. There probably won’t be much room for him in defensive midfield with Gonzalo Castro, Sebastian Rode and Julian Weigl. Also, don’t expect to see him around for a bit as he just finished playing the the German National Team in the Rio Olympics.
Just as I’m writing this there are rumors swirling that Ginter is in discussions to leave the club for Wolfsburg. Assuming that does not happen, Ginter will definitely be in BVB’s plans for the season. Ginter is versatile as he can play centre back, right back and be a holding midfielder. With the addition of Rode, I doubt we ever see Ginter in holding midfield again so that leaves him as a back up defender. If there's an injury in the back-line then Ginter will come in much use his year, and he’ll be one of our first choices when Tuchel makes a defensive sub. He won’t play much more then that however. Ginter is a solid defender and still young so I’d be a shame to give him away.
The new signing from CA Osasuna is traditionally a midfielder. However, Tuchel has been playing him at centre back a lot this preseason. It hasn’t gone well. He’s made quite a few mistakes in his new position against weak sides. We still haven’t seen it in a competitive game so I’ll hold my judgement of whether he really can ever be a defender for BVB for now.
The Full Backs
Schmelzer has been with Dortmund for over 10 years. As our left back, we have won two Bundesliga titles and made it to a Champions League final. At 28 years old we’ve probably seen the best he has to offer, but that doesn't mean he’s over the hill. Marcel plays back more then other modern full backs and most of his skills are on the defensive side of the ball. His crossing ability is good thought making him useful on the attack. He’s gonna have a hard time fighting to keep his job this year but, I expect he’ll be our first choice this season.
After last season, who really knows what position Durm is going to play this year. Traditionally a left back Tuchel played him as a winger more often then not last season. Maybe with our new influx of attacking players he’ll go back to where he used to play more this season. This is unfortunate for Durm because Dortmund just brought in another left back in Raphael Guerreiro. Still, competing in three competitions will be rough on the squad and Durm will get time in the lineup this year.
Raphael has had a busy summer. After being sold to Borussia Dortmund, he played a big part in Portugal's Euro 2016 winning campaign. Now back to fitness after a long summer tournament, he’s set to make waves at BVB this year. We aren’t sure if Tuchel is going to actually play Raphael on the wing a lot like he did with Durm. But no matter which position he’s in, it’s certain he’ll excel. Guerreiro is fast and skilled with the ball at his feet, which will make him great for BVB counters throughout the year. While Marcel still has the starting position at left back, Raphael is clearly the more attacking option there and will probably play games where more chance creation is needed.
A BVB academy product, we’ve already seen a lot of Passlack this year. While it’s still unknown if he will be with BVB II/BVB U19s more then the first team, he will definitely have some playing time with the first team this year. He’s the perfect depth player for our squad, he can play in multiple positions on the wings and any first team playing time will help will develop.
Yet another defender who’s been with BVB for a long time, Piszczek is one of the older players on the team. He is most likely still Dortmund’s first choice at right back for the start of the season. Right back may be the position where BVB is weakest at on the squad with very limited depth. If Piszczek gets hurt, the only first team choice at right back will be Ginter. Losing Piszczek this season would hurt Dortmund’s chance creation considerably as his in swinging crosses give back-lines throughout the league nightmares. So here’s to Piszczek having a healthy and successful season.
Is he even going to play this season? Probably not, which is a shame because he would get more playing time at his old club Mainz. Nothing else to say about the 5th option at left back