It may come as no surprise to our readers that the majority of us do not hold a very warm place in our hearts for Erik Durm. With all apologies to the sizable and vocal Erik Durm female fan club out there I would first like to explain why many of us hold this negative sentiment.
Many of us are Americans who for years and years have suffered under the scourge of watching highly athletic individuals in our leagues and our teams run long and fast, play hard and aggressively, and jump higher than their opponents (at least until AMERICAN-TRAINED Christian Pulisic delivered us all from this bondage). But what they had in terms of raw athleticism, they lacked in technical ability (Go see the countless jokes about Gyassi Zardes’ first touch on Twitter).
So when we first saw Erik Durm and his perfect photogenic smile and boy-band haircut fly up and down the pitch with panache, pace, and grace, we were hopeful… that is until we saw the first ball clang off his concrete foot. His first touch is so bad that he routinely loses possession on any ball that is passed to him in the air. His first touch is so bad that I, a man not blessed with a deft first touch either, sometimes remark, “Man, I could have trapped that better.” If he is successful in controlling the ball, he may have the quality to beat a man on the wing simply by kicking it down there and beating his opponent to the ball through pace alone… and from there it’s a crap-shoot on whether or not he can come with in the effective radius of a hand-grenade (about 25m) with his cross. So for Americans who grew up having to watch Oguchi Onyewu, Frankie Hejduk, Jozy Altidore, and Gyassi Zardes, when we see similar physical performances in a possession-based system in a league that prides itself on technical proficiency we viscerally react.
When the system called for an athlete who could tirelessly wage war against the thuggery of Frank Ribéry, he did great. During matches in which we did not need the silky, ball-control of a technician like Julian Weigl, but a midfield destroyer like Sebastian Rode, Durm played well. And, lest we ignore his contributions in offense, he did have a string of matches in which he had an assist in three straight games… matches won by a cumulative 13-2. Oh, and that cross into the box at Hertha was fairly decent too (blind squirrel, nut, something something…).
Dortmund (and the footballing world in general) is sorely lacking in depth at the moment in the full-back position. Park (is he still here) is a non-entity. Guerreiro has shown his defensive frailties and is injury-prone. Schmelzer and Piszczek are getting older and need regular rest. Passlack for some reason has fallen out of favor. Let’s face it, the modern full-back is a position that requires a lot of athleticism. Not everyone… ok, no-one, can read the game like Philipp Lahm and make up for an age-induced decline in pure athletic ability. And despite his technical faults, Erik Durm still has a role to play until Dortmund can find a player with roughly his athleticism but with technical skills as well. And as we see clubs like Man City and Liverpool in desperate need of multiple upgrades at full-back, their relative value has been very inflated. Dortmund are unlikely to sign an established full-back who could walk into Durm’s role currently.