The addition of Paco Alcacer, the former Barcelona forward, brings the completion of the summer transfer window for BVB, bar one or two potential departures from the Westfalenstadion. Aside from his €2 million loan fee and potential €23 million option to buy, he is not the ideal Aubamayang replacement that we had in mind 6 months ago. Despite that fact, Alcacer could be a very effective player for our side.
Alcacer’s quality was exhibited mostly at Valencia, scoring 13 goals in 25 starts during his last season there, as well as receiving the honor of becoming Valencia’s captain at the age of 22. During his time at Barcelona, he was mostly used as a rotation option, playing behind Luis Suarez, scoring 6 goals in 6 starts and 14 substitute appearances, and 4 goals in 8 starts and 9 substitute appearances in La Liga, in 16/17 and 17/18 respectively. Sitting on the bench at such a big club has stunted his career to an extent, as the 24 year old was not given the playing time he needs to develop further.
Despite his obvious numbers being not very impressive in La Liga, Alcacer had approximately 0.63 goals per 90 minutes and 0.32 assists per 90 minutes in 16/17 and 0.52 goals per 90 minutes and 0.39 assists per 90 minutes in 17/18. In comparing Alcacer with his counterparts, in Batshuayi’s 10 games with Dortmund, he recorded 0.75 goals per 90 and 0.11 assists per 90. Aubamayang out performed both forwards with 0.82 goals per 90 but only had 0.19 assists per 90 in his 16 games with Dortmund last fall. The stats show that while Alcacer may not be world class like Aubamayang, as his transfer fee exhibits, he is a quality finisher and his well rounded game will bring the best out of his new teammates.
Looking at the last two games that BVB played in, the DFB Pokal match against Greuther Fürth and the Bundesliga match against
LawnBall RedBull RasenBall Leipzig, the lack of a forward comfortable playing as the only 9 on the pitch was made apparent throughout. During the Fürth game, Favre lined up in a 4-2-3-1, almost like this.
Favre’s tactical setup was flawed from the start, using Götze as a shadow striker, behind Reus, who did not seem comfortable as the focal point of the attack. Through adjustments and movement, the formation evolved as Reus dropped into a Götze’s spaces in order to be involved with buildup play, who in turn dropped beside Dahoud as an 8, pushing Delaney into the base of a midfield 3. All of that caused problems- Delaney’s inability to control the tempo of the game was exposed, Götze looked lost, and Reus’s movement compressed the pitch, forcing sloppy passes and a lack of vertical play without a runner threatening to stretch the pitch.
Favre’s substitutions eventually fixed those problems. Philipp replaced Götze, reverting the side to a 4-2-3-1 or 4-2-4, giving the front line an extra runner, and giving Reus someone to play off of. Witsel also replaced Delaney, who struggled in a game that did not suit his strengths as a counter pressing 8, which he did very well at times against Leipzig. Witsel slowed the game down in the midfield, allowing the game to be less chaotic and maximized each possession by preventing several unforced errors with his midfield general-like qualities.
Looking at the Leipzig game, Favre lined up in a 4-3-3, that looked something like such.
Philipp matched up against two very physical centerbacks in Upamecano and Konate, and he did a fairly good job at creating space for others, as well as winning long balls from Bürki, Akanji and Diallo. But his impact in the box was limited, and recorded 0 shots in 71 minutes played. Philipp was the right choice against Leipzig, as he was able to win several battles against two extremely talented center backs. Reus almost played as a second striker, playing off of his shoulder, as the combination of Delaney and Schmelzer filled the vacant space left by Reus at times.
In contrast to the Fürth game, the vast majority of the team played better against Leipzig, as Favre got his tactics spot on. Witsel at the base of the midfield 3 showed glimpses of Weigl in his ability to control the game, while added steel with his defensive mettle. Delaney was allowed to thrive, and did especially well in the second half, where his counter pressing and physicality gave Leipzig problems at times. Schmelzer looked like the Schmelle of old, and was one of our best players on the day.
How Alcacer would have fared against a physical, yet inexperienced Leipzig back line is unknown. While Philipp was ineffective to make a difference in the box last weekend, Alcacer has the ability to make quick darting runs, in and around the box to make the difference, while his unimposing presence would probably not have given Upamecano and Konate as many problems as Philipp did.
I think what Alcacer gives Favre the most is another option and another way to break down low block defenses. Recalling the Fürth game, there were times when playing around the 18 yard box, Reus would stand and point at an open area towards the end line, thinking of stretching the low block, in order to play a cut back across the box, but Reus failed to even make a run for that ball to be played in the first place. Alcacer’s movement and understanding of spaces would allow us to be more successful in breaking down a low block side, as he would find those tight half spaces that exist, and either create opportunities for his other BVB teammates, or be able to thrive off of scoring in spaces that Philipp would not be able to wiggle into.
With Alcacer, Favre also gets tactical versatility. The tactic of playing two up top remains an option, with either Philipp or Reus playing off of, or behind, Alcacer. Philipp and Alcacer will definitely rotate leading the line, depending on tactical fit of an opponent- a deep sitting side, a physical, pressing side, or an open, attacking side. Should Reus get injured this season, knock on wood, Philipp offers a like for like replacement on the wing, and Alcacer can continue to play up top as the focal point of our front line.
As evidenced by the Leipzig game, BVB has the ability to score goals under Favre. But also evidenced by the Fürth game, this squad may have trouble breaking down teams who are organized defensively, and Alcacer may be the forward this team has needed since Aubamayang, who not only makes the team better, but everyone else around him better too.