Heya, all. I've got to preface this with a bit of background.
I still vividly remember the summer of 2013, when Götze announced his move to Bayern. While I initially dismissed the rumors as nonsense, I eventually had to realize that it was true. I went through the five classic stages of grief. After denial didn't work, I became angry. I was mad at Götze and started to hate him with a passion. I gladly joined into the ranks of people that threw derogatory names in his direction, be it traitor, Judas, Pummelfee ('chubby fairy') or even more explicit creations.
Eventually, this slowly turned into bargaining where I wished that if he DID have to leave than at least not go to Bayern. Then depression set in and I thought, we'd never be able to catch-up with them ever again. Finally that phase was done and I accepted that there's always going to be a bigger fish to snatch away the precious talents that Dortmund has at their disposal.
But enough of a heartbroken fan's ramblings. As the years passed by and I got over that ridiculous Nike shirt fiasco of his press presentation, the stupid goal in his first game against us, and the boring as hell Championship of the 13/14 season (where Thomas Müller proclaimed on TV that it finally was Mario's first title in the 'proper jersey'). After all this BS I slowly turned my burning passion into deep-felt cynicism and eventually indifference towards Götze, especially as he never really seemed to settle in at Bayern.
That all changed when what started as insubstantial rumors before the 15/16 season eventually became reality as well. He'd be back. The prodigal son would return, the traitor, the Judas, but also the bright talent and the guy who scored the winning goal in a World Cup.
The fan base was torn and shaken. I was torn and shaken. But I had grown older. I had matured. Maybe, time really is a healer, because, to my own surprise, I wasn't mad. It felt weird, it felt wrong, but it also felt good. So, he was gonna come back, eh? Well. Let's see, then. How would Mario do? How would his first season turn out back at Dortmund? Here is what I found:
Well, initially, not much really. After all the backlash and uproar following the announcement, I'm pretty sure the Dortmund management carefully hatched and crafted an elaborate plan to gently ease Mario back into the team. Having him start in the first BuLi game surely would have exposed him to a lot of whistling (the likes of which Mats Hummels still feels in every single game). Instead, they showed him to the Pre-season presentation where usually only families and casual fans appear, while the hardcore and ultra fans stay away from this 'family event'. So, Mario received a pretty warm welcome in the friendly summer atmosphere of the Westfalenstadion.
Conveniently, Mario got injured still in preseason - so he couldn't be in the first few line-ups. His first regular match was the match day 2 away game at Leipzig - and we had other things to discuss after that game.
Next home game against Darmstadt, he didn't start again after another convenient 'knock'. His first home appearance was on match day 5 against Freiburg. Any organized fan anger against Götze had lost any and all steam by then, especially after spectacular victories against Darmstadt (6-0), Wolfsburg (5-1) and Legia Warsaw (6-0). Götze's reintroduction had become a non-issue by then. Clever strategy from our management, I'd say. ;)
But I digress. This is supposed to rate Mario Götze's performance, not his reintroduction. So, how'd he do now? Frankly, not bad.
His first appearance was against Leipzig, where he went down together with the entire team. But already in the game against Wolfsburg, he stepped up his game, initiating the third goal against an admittedly horrendous Wolfsburg side. In the Legia game before that, he scored the opener. Other than that, not a very remarkable game of his.
In the Freiburg game, he set up Dembélé to assist Auba's 1-0. In other games, like Schalke, Köln or Ingolstadt, he disappears and is hardly seen, only to re-emerge and nutmeg Hummels to assist Auba or to valiantly hold the line, when we were one man down against Hoffenheim. Overall, he played 15 of 23, but was mostly subbed in or out, totalling 1151 of 2070 minutes.
Overall, his tally so far isn't THAT great: one goal and one assist each in both the Bundesliga and Champions League. Under Tuchel he is playing further back, so he isn’t as naturally lethal as he was in his former days. But his confidence is growing and he still is improving, already showing in some games that he can be a strong part of the team. When the entire team fumbled, Mario mostly did as well. When the team shone, Mario was part of it. Sometimes, he was worse than the team, then again he was the one player weathering the tide. But I have a feeling that as the season grows older, his performances become better.
Here we are now at the end of a shortened Hinrunde, a somewhat disappointing sixth place in the table and a few weeks of spare time to get back on track. Equally, Mario Götze has had his ups and downs so far.
Today, I'd rate him a solid 6.5, maybe a 7 (with players like Auba and Dembélé ranging in the 9s). But I also have the distinct feeling, that both he and the team will step up their game, there's just too much raw talent that needs to be funneled in the right direction. I feel good about this. Show me what you are capable of, Mario.