The 2016/17 season for Gonzalo Castro was remarkably similar to his last season with the Borussen. His numbers put up in terms of appearances, shots, goals, and assists are very comparable. Yet, like several of BVB players, Gonzalo suffered from inconsistent form from match to match. So much so that I invented the hashtags:
Dortmund really struggled this year when up against pressing teams. Tuchel’s possession-based offensive system that caught many unawares during his first year at the club was a known entity, and by the time a certain soda-can franchise opened their Bundesliga season in the former East Germany, a very astute Ralf Rangnick coached side upset Dortmund in what was then a shocking result 1-0. Castro came off as a 71st min. substitute. What ailed Dortmund was the inability to pass through the press and the Gündoğan-shaped hole in the central-midfield was poorly filled by Castro. This pattern would repeat itself many times throughout the year in which high-press teams would frustrate Dortmund’s build-up play and with the side frequently playing a 4-1-4-1 or 4-3-3, Dortmund frequently found the middle clogged by the press and too often forced the ball to the wings where they were trapped. In high-intensity matches, Castro frequently made poor decisions, turning the ball over by trying to force vertical short passes in the middle of the pitch, or by beating one man to find space, but lacking the highly technical ability to retain possession, avoid the second man, and find an open teammate. He was hardly the only one to blame during his poor performances. Far too often, Castro’s play merely reflected a poor performance of others; either Tuchel’s formation was not-appropriate, or there was a horrible lack of movement by his counterparts. Losing Götze to metabolic issues and never having him at his best hurt and in the first half of the season Ousmane Dembélé had some difficulty in adjusting to the side.
When Tuchel first rolled out the 3-5-2 and 5-3-2 systems, #GoodCastro appeared. At first, the addition of wing-backs dramatically opened up the build-up play from the back and enabled far more passing options to Castro when he was used. With more time on the ball and more options to choose from, we saw Gonzalo play to his potential pretty frequently, though with patches of poor games sprinkled in here and there, usually against aggressive teams. His Rückrunde was better than the Hinrunde and he played a more important role as the box-to-box midfielder. Ousmane Dembélé’s blossoming into one of the most terrifying offensive threats from the attacking-central-midfielder/roaming-false-nine-running-the-channels-through-the-half-spaces significantly opened up the pitch for Castro.
Gonzalo is 30. He’s decidedly not done playing at his best, but the peak of his ability is either here or imminent. With just that in isolation, his future with Dortmund is limited. With the addition of Mahmoud Dahoud, the youngster with a ceiling likely far higher than Castro and a technical ability to defeat the press reminiscent of Gündoğan, Castro is likely to be used in a supporting role. Given Dortmund’s injury issues in the past and need for depth at that position, it is a familiar role and one that he will likely take on with his accustomed maturity and professionalism. Götze’s anticipated return could further limit his role. He extended his contract through 2020 back in March.