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Is Paco Alcacer a Long-Term Option?

Do the Spaniard’s Recent Struggles Indicate a Need for a Replacement Striker?

Borussia Dortmund v Tottenham Hotspur - UEFA Champions League Round of 16: Second Leg For Santander Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images

When Paco Alcacer first arrived at the Westfalenstadion in the fall, he immediately started a blistering first half in which he scored 14 times in 17 appearances, averaging a goal about every 60 minutes. During the second half, however, Paco Alcacer’s production has fallen back down to earth, in dramatic fashion. He’s only found the back of the net twice in his last ten matches in all competitions. His struggles have gone hand-in-hand with Dortmund’s struggles. Does this mean that Borussia Dortmund need to roll the dice on another striker this summer?

While Paco Alcacer’s production has decreased dramatically since the winter break, there are two factors that make me willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. The first is that throughout his struggles, he has continued to create shots and scoring chances at a compelling rate, a trend which seems to be paying off for him, with two goals in his last three games in all competitions. He’s also had to play the second half next to very injury and flu-stricken teammates, who have generally seen decreased production across the board. The second factor is that his transfer to Borussia Dortmund is already permanent, and BVB will likely have to fork over a hefty sum for any striker who can produce more than him.

Paco’s Second-Half Production

Before I delve into his stats too much, let me just say that even by the eye-test, Paco Alcacer hasn’t been playing particularly poorly. Even at the height of BVB’s recent struggles, he’s done a good job dropping back between the lines, doing a good job both holding up the ball and making darting runs in behind opposition back lines. I feel as if he’s been getting good chances, but just hasn’t been able to bury them. It turns out that the numbers back this up.

In the Bundesliga, Paco Alcacer has still been firing shots at the net on a consistent basis. He’s averaged 4.71 shots/90 during the second half of the Bundesliga, a rate which has actually increased. His xG/90 has decreased during the second half, but it’s still remained elite. The table I’ve provided below compares his numbers to Sébastien Haller, who’s probably the most common name I see thrown around as a potential replacement:

Paco Alcacer vs Sébastien Haller

Name Total xG/90 Total Shots/90 Total g/90 Second Half xG/90 Second Half Shots/90 Second Half g/90
Name Total xG/90 Total Shots/90 Total g/90 Second Half xG/90 Second Half Shots/90 Second Half g/90
Paco Alcacer 0.85 4.49 1.46 0.69 4.71 0.5
Sebastien Haller 0.58 2.34 0.63 0.6 1.96 0.7

As you can see, even during Paco’s struggles, the Spaniard has still managed to create chances at a rate comparable to Haller. When you include the first half, when Paco Alcacer was simply on fire, his goalscoring rate is at an entirely different level than Haller’s.

Now, there are some caveats to this. you could make the argument that Haller brings some things tactically that Paco doesn’t. Haller would be a much more dangerous aerial threat, which has proven to be a key weakness to Paco’s game. Having a more traditional center forward like the 6’3” Haller would be very advantageous against teams that park the bus, and would add some variance to Dortmund’s fairly one-dimensional offense.

Of course, another factor in Sébastien Haller’s success this season is his assists, of which he has 9, compared to Paco Alcacer’s 0. While it would be nice if Paco Alcacer to find more assists, his underlying numbers indicate that he’s still contributing to BVB’s buildup in more ways than just finding the back of the net. Paco Alcacer’s xGChain/90 of 1.07, which measures the xG of all possessions that a player is involved in, is substantially higher than Haller’s xGChain/90 of 0.80. This indicates that even when including Haller’s assists, Paco seems to be just as involved in creating offensive chances.

BVB Need to Spend Elsewhere

Even if you think Paco Alcacer is a serviceable striker at best (and his numbers show that he’s more than serviceable), the truth is that Dortmund desperately need reinforcements elsewhere. While BVB are fortunate that Lukasz Piszczek is still an elite fullback, he will retire in the summer of 2020, and it’s clear that BVB have no good option to replace him if he’s injured. This means that Dortmund will probably need a new right back in the near future. If BVB want to buy Hakimi, he will cost quite a hefty sum. If Ilkay Gündogan really is available and willing to return to the Westfalenstadion, he will be too good to pass up. Dortmund also need to desperately find a second elite winger like Thorgan Hazard, who will also cost a lot.

The point of all this is that all Borussia Dortmund have quite a laundry list of positions that they need to fill. While players like Haller may very well be an improvement over Paco Alcacer, in my opinion, BVB simply can’t afford to dish out millions of euros on a striker when there are so many other positions that they need to fill.