The transfer window is finally over, and what a window it was. There was drama, intrigue, betrayal, basically everything that this season of Game of Thrones hasn’t had. Today, we, the Fear the Wall staff, will give our takes on how Borussia Dortmund fared in the window and how the club looks going forward, as well as our reactions to news from around the footballing world.
Q: Looking at the entire transfer window as a whole, from the end of last season to now, how would you grade the club on a scale from 1-10?
Sean: I give it an 8. If the whole Dembélé fiasco didn’t take place, I would give it a 10. We’re a considerably deeper squad, with more options in midfield and at the back. The Toljan-for-Passlack swap was a masterpiece of a transfer, and I really like the addition of Yarmolenko, even if it was a bit unorthodox by Zorc’s standards.
Gilles: I have to admit I had some moments of doubt, especially during the Dembélé-saga but in the end I give it a 9. Zorc and Watzke added depth to the squad and even got some potential starters like Dahoud and Yarmolenko on the cheap and were still able to end the transfer period with a surplus of 85€ million. The team is deeper and in my opinion better than it was last season and that’s what counts.
Alex: 9. Had you told Dortmund fans before the summer that Ousmane Dembele would leave, they’d probably have been crushed. But the way it worked out, with Dembele throwing a fit to get his move, took away a lot of the sting. As did that massive transfer fee. Every addition BVB has made has made sense, and I think the transfers of Jeremy Toljan and Maximilian Philipp will look quite smart in a few years time.
Brian: 8. Ousmane Dembele refused to play yet somehow BVB convinced Barcalona that they still had all the bargaining power. Not since Talleyrand convinced the Congress of Vienna that France was a victory power has such an accomplishment been made. It seems with all the mistrust Watzke has earned he still doing whats best for BVB. Mo and Zagadou already look like good pickups and Phillip and Yarmolenko may be good contributors as time moves on.
Dan: 9...losing Dembele was a bit of an ordeal and they could have gotten even more than they did for him. Adding Omer Toprak at center back was rather uneventful and Mo Dahoud and Max Philipp have yet to have an impact. The best signing so far has been Dan-Axel Zagadou. Advertised as a center back, Zagadou has started the season at left back and not only has the transition been seamless, the team hasn’t missed a beat. Plus, add the likes of Andriy Yarmolenko and Jeremy Toljan and now we’re talking about a very formidable team.
Joel: 8. Watzke and Zorc really pulled a masterclass with the Dembele situation, making a huge profit off the youngster, who never really deserved the love BVB gave to him in the first place. Yarmolenko’s transfer was a bit interesting, given his age, but I think that could be a good thing. The loss of Merino and Mor is why I didn’t give this window a 10. It’s plain to see that with the Spain squad, Merino is very talented given playing time, and it was disappointing to see Mor leave without being given a real chance.
Q: How big of a loss will Ousmane Dembélé be? Will the likes of Yarmolenko, Philipp, and Pulisic be able to fill the void on offense left by his departure?
Sean: While I didn’t rate Dembélé as highly as others, and I think it was a mistake for Barca to spend as much money as they did, I still think his loss will hurt the club. His 12 assists in the Bundesliga last season were nothing to scoff at, but at the same time he tended to hog the ball, and in general interrupt the flow of the offense. I think that Yarmolenko will contribute well to the club, and I think Pulisic is ready to step up even more.
Gilles: I think people are overestimating Dembélé’s importance to the team. Yes he was fantastic. Yes he will be a world class player one day, but honestly he had his flaws. People only seem to remember the highlight plays while completely forgetting that he had some bad games or that he disrupted the flow of the offense sometimes with some bad passes, runs or dribblings. I don’t want to bad-mouth Dembélé, he’s an incredible player that helped us win a title but Yarmolenko, Philipp, Pulisic and Reus once he comes back, should be enough to replace Dembélé. In addition, our defense seems much more stable without him. What killed us last season were those unnecessary turnovers in our build-up that led to easy chances and Dembélé was occasionally the reason for that.
Alex: The void left by Dembele will be filled. Christian Pulisic continues to improve, and I think he’ll take another big step this season. Dembele is a quality player, but BVB have enough quality options out wide that I don’t think he will be missed. This will be especially true if Marco Reus can enjoy a bit of good health this season.
Brian: Hard to say. Haven't seen what Yarmolenko can do yet and Phillip hasn’t shown a lot in game yet. Pulisic certainly is looking to take the wunderkid moniker but we’ll see if he can keep his hot streak up. Honestly Pulisic always is taking that next step so he may very well get to Dembele’s levels of contribution this year.
Dan: It doesn’t seem as if Dortmund has missed a beat without Dembele in the squad this season. And think about it? Adding Yarmolenko to this system will only make them better. I think Yarmolenko is better for the team on and off the field. So yes, Dortmund will easily fill the void left by Dembele and the loss won’t end up being too damaging to the season.
Joel: I think it won’t be that bad. Yarmolenko will bring some much needed experience and grit to a rather young side, and Christian Pulisic will be fantastic once he’s had a bit of polishing. Schurrle and Phillip will add the depth we need on the wings, and Reus will start once he comes back as well. Dembele and Aubameyang was a formidable duo, seeing as the players had a strong understanding of each other’s playing style, but it doesn’t seem as if that has hindered Aubameyang yet, so I’m optimistic for the future.
Q: Some on this site have expressed concern that the addition of Andriy Yarmolenko will limit Christian Pulisic’s playing time on the right wing. Do you share these concerns?
Sean: I understand these concerns, but I’m not really worried. First of all, Pulisic can also play on the left, it’s just not his main position. Second, between the Champions League, Bundesliga, and DFB Cup, there is plenty of playing time to go around, and I don’t think Yarmolenko is quite good enough that he is going to keep Pulisic out entirely. As an 18 year old, he was never going to play 40 matches in a season, so I’d much rather have a quality winger to play while he rests.
Gilles: Yes and no. Pulisic will be a surefire starter for this club this season at least until Reus comes back. Will he have to move to the left side during some games? Probably, but it doesn’t really matter, he will still play. Furthermore, we need the depth, including international games, and hopefully good results in the Champions League and the DFB cup the team will probably play anywhere between 50-60 games. Pulisic is still just 18 and will need a break at some point. Having someone like Yarmolenko in there will help.
Alex: We said the same thing about Andre Schurrle last year. Didn’t happen. The club recognizes that Pulisic is an elite young talent. Yarmolenko strikes me more as a quick late-window transfer to add depth following Dembele’s departure. American Messi will get plenty of time.
Brian: Impossible to tell. Yarmolenko did well in the Ukraine league but he may need some adjusting time in the much tougher Bundesliga. Only time will tell if Pulisic’s starting position is in danger.
Dan: No. If Pulisic doesn’t play on the right wing he can slot in on the left. If not on the left he can slot in at attacking midfield. Pulisic is so versatile that his impact will be felt wherever he is on the field. If he continues to play like he has already, he’ll get playing time regardless.
Joel: Yarmolenko has been described as the Ukrainian Arjen Robben with his playing style of cutting in from the right wing and switching the ball to his left foot. With his obvious preference for the right wing, Pulisic will be moved to the left wing, and Philipp and Schurrle will be rotation players. We all know Dortmund will turn into a hospital during the season, so the depth in our attack will keep us going when Champions League, DFB, and Bundesliga matches all come flooding in. I also have no doubt that Pulisic could be switched to midfield if Bosz really wants to keep playing Yarmolenko once Reus comes back from injury.
Q: Are there any Bundesliga clubs whose transfer windows stand out to you, either positively or negatively?
Sean: Leverkusen had a baffling transfer window (why would they get rid of Dragovic?), but another club that I thought actually did very well was RB Leipzig, unfortunately. The last minute addition of Kevin Kampl will bolster their depth in midfield and help them deal with the Champions League, and Jean-Kevin Augustin is a prudent addition as well. They also managed to maintain their hold of Naby Keïta for another season, even though he will join Liverpool after next summer.
Gilles: I agree with Sean on Leverkusen. They sold their best (and only reliable) striker in Chicharito, a solid midfielder like Kampl, Calhanoglou, Toprak and loaned out Dragovic. Looking at their additions it gets even more baffling because they had the money but chose to buy mostly unknown and unproven players like Alario and Retsos. Those were some high risk/high reward moves but they could easily fail. Gladbach is a club that I think did pretty well this summer. Max Eberl is a smart GM and he’s proven it once more. Zakaria looks great early on and getting Grifo for 6€ million is a bargain. Ginter is, as we all know, not exactly world class but a good addition for Gladbach and maybe he finds his form with them.
Alex: I have to agree with Sean. Leipzig holding onto Keita for one more year was huge, as was bringing in Kampl. Other then that, I think Eintracht Frankfurt did quite well for a club of their size. Their big name addition is Kevin-Prince Boateng, but the signings of promising young talents like Jetro Willems, Luka Jovic, and Sebastian Haller will all pay off down the road.
Brian: Leverkusen are hilarious. Also Wolfsburg made some dumb moves as well. They paid 6 million Euros for a loan that Liverpool can cancel in the winter. The old powerhouses in the Bundesliga are all slipping up but the new guys are doing great. Leipzig made a smart move keeping Keita for one more year in a summer where he cold have easily left right away.
Dan: It’s unfortunate how quickly Leverkusen has gone from title-contender to relegation-threatened. And again, the team did nothing to improve this summer. I agree though that RB Leipzig had an excellent summer adding even more talent to the mix. Otherwise, most Bundesliga clubs broke even this summer.
Joel: Bayern Munich had a very underrated transfer window. The additions of Hoffenheim talents Rudy and Sule have already paid off, and once James Rodriguez comes back from injury, he should find his old form from when he was under Ancelotti in Madrid. Renato Sanches has stagnated from being a top 10 young talent in the world to being a benchwarmer, so ideally he will develop at Swansea. Hopefully, the losses of Costa, Lahm, and Alonso will come back to bite them in the butt.
Q: Our Champions League Rivals Tottenham Hotspur finally got busy yesterday, signing Serge Aurier and Fernando Llorente. How credible a threat do they pose to our hopes of advancing to the knockout stage?
Sean: I’m definitely more concerned than I was a week ago. I was looking forward to watching Pulisic tear Kieran Trippier apart, but now that they’ve added Aurier that probably won’t happen. They’re a much better club than they were when we faced them in the Europa League two years ago, but I still think that ultimately we will see them through.
Gilles: They are a good team but there is no reason to be afraid of them, especially with Dele Alli out for the first game against them. The Spurs have shown in the past that they are vulnerable to high pressing teams, which is very much how Bosz intends to play against them. It’s a close match-up, but I think we’ll be able to get the results we need to go through.
Alex: They are definitely a threat. It’s not August anymore, so Harry Kane can score goals again. If Sokratis is out, Omer Toprak will get torn apart by Spurs’ attackers. But even if that happens, Spurs have been incredibly unlucky in their play at Wembley. They dominate matches only to have the match suddenly shift towards a gut-punching result at the end. I think we’ll have two very competitive games with them, unlike a couple years ago when Mauricio Pochettino played his B-Team in the Europa League.
Brian: Spurs are probably equal to us in talent at the moment. Injures and for will be the biggest tests for our UCL group stage games against them. I do agree with Gilles that if we press them they will falter but Harry Kane is one dangerous man.
Dan: Three of the four teams in this group can advance to the knockout rounds. For once, it’s not a given that Real Madrid will move onto the knockout round. Tottenham is an extremely talented team and playing at Wembley will be no easy task. I still expect Dortmund to advance to the knockout stage strictly because Tottenham won’t do too well in their other group stage matches. But it’s not an easy matchup for Dortmund against Spurs.
Joel: When I was asked this question a week ago, I honestly laughed. However, with the signings of Llorente and Aurier, I’m a little more concerned. Despite that, I still expect us to win both matches. There’s no excuse not to.
Q: The last 24 hours have had no shortage of #narratives, from Ross Barkley leaving Chelsea at the altar, to
Qatar Paris Saint-Germain skirting around FFP to add Mbappe, to Arsenal being Arsenal. What sticks out the most to you, and why?
Sean: As much as I enjoy watching Arsenal implode, for me the biggest storyline was PSG’s Mbappe “loan”. It makes an absolute farce out of FFP and shows that money is still the ultimate power in European Football. At any rate, Bayern Munich now have some serious challengers in their group. I could seriously see PSG going all the way to Milan this year.
Gilles: Personally it’s Arsenal imploding simply because I cannot fathom how a club that has all the tools in the world to succeed just refuses to own up to the fact that they need to change. And by that I mean Arsène Wenger. The French coach is caricature of his former self and honestly it’s a bit sad to see him like that. He went from forming “The Invincibles” to a laughingstock and as long as their board doesn’t react they’ll just fall farther behind in the Premier League.
Alex: As a Spurs’ fan, I love to laugh at Arsenal. They started Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain against Liverpool, and then sold him to the Reds only a few days later! And that was also only a few days after Arsene Wenger said Ox was staying. Arsenal fans are angry, and they should be. They desperately needed a CB and a midfielder, but came out with nothing. Their owner, Stan Kroenke, is a piece of human garbage and that’s where most of their anger should be aimed. We’ve all known for a while that he doesn’t care about trophies/progression and is only there for the revenue streams, but now he’s not even trying to hide it anymore.
Brian: I thought Barcelona’s inactivity was interesting this summer. A few years ago it looked like Barca were going to be an unstoppable empire for the whole 2010’s. This summer they mostly became everyone's joke. They definitely needed to do more to supply Messi and compete with Real Madrid who are looking insane these days. Also FFP is such a joke lol.
Dan: How the FFP can allow PSG to do what they did with Mbappe is appalling. I think Man City spending close to £140M on defenders was a bold strategy, and it’s worked out so far. Stateside, my hometown New England Revolution buying two quality players was a rarity. Now all they need is a manager who can actually, you know, manage.
Joel: Between the Madrid/Barcelona rivalry, I lean heavily toward Madrid. Therefore, seeing Barcelona have a mini breakdown this summer was quite exciting. My dad is also a Tottenham fan, so Arsenal also becoming even more of a meme than they already were was pretty funny as well (#WengerOut). I hope Ox does well under Kloppo.
Feel free to add your thoughts in the comment section. Enjoy the rest of the international break!