Coming into the 2016-17 season, fans of Shinji Kagawa might have worried about his future at the club. With the addition of Mario Götze, Shinji’s spot in the attacking midfield was in serious jeaopardy. A combination of Götze’s arrival, injury troubles, and Shinji’s poor form to start the season led to doubts about his future at the club.
As the season went on, though, things started to click. After only collecting a single assist in the first half, Shinji found his form, and chipped in a couple crucial goals and assists. He seems poised to go into next season as a valuable member of the club’s attacking core.
Shinji’s struggles seemed to parallel those of the club as a whole. It’s no secret that Dortmund’s whole midfield struggled during the hinründe, and Shinji’s struggles were a big reason for that. Due to his struggles, he was relegated to the bench at certain points of the season. There were also points when he came on as a substitute.
Having to play as a center midfielder with more defensive responsibilities meant that Shinji has to spend more time away from where he thrives the most: in the attacking third, using his technical ability to manufacture goals. His inability to do this meant that he could only create a single goal in the Bundesliga during the entire first half, an assist in the draw against Augsburg.
Luckily for Shinji and the Club, the Japanese International kicked it into gear in the second half. He had some truly magnificent performances, and was much more successful at creating goals in the match. His best performance, in my opinion, came in the home loss against Monaco, when his goal and assist kept Dortmund in the tie. Here are some highlights from the season:
Down the stretch, Shinji solidified his place in the starting lineup. After finishing the first half with two goals and two assists in all competitions, he finished the season with a solid 6 goals and 8 assists in all competitions, despite missing significant minutes due to injury. That’s a night-and-day difference between the hinründe and the ruckründe. If he can match his second half performance for the entirety of next season, we can expect big things from Borussia Dortmund.
Despite his strong performances in the second half of the season, Shinji isn’t quite a lock to start for Dortmund. His future will largely depend on whether Mario Götze can return to form once he gets healthy, and how much Peter Bosz favors him over other potential midfielders like Guerreiro. He’s 28 years old, so he’s towards the end of his prime, but still should have a couple years left in the tank. He’s a fan favorite and loves the club, so I’m sure the fan base would be ecstatic if he were to stick around.
BONUS HAIKU (Complete with my Very Limited Japanese):
Is good at soccer