The World Cup is over; back to your regularly scheduled programming, BVB fans.
Dortmund will soon pick up in Marbella for the winter training camp, with Edin Terzić welcoming home one of the fullest and fittest squads the coach could have hoped for in preparation for the resumption of football. Per Transfermarkt, Marius Wolf, Tom Rothe, and Anthony Modeste may still need more time to recover, but even Sébastien Haller has been earmarked to join the team for preparatory action in Spain, or at least back in Germany.
Great news! Sébastien Haller’s second surgery to treat his testicular cancer appears to have been successful, and he should return to training sometime in the next month. https://t.co/EH6CP1JGzK— Fear the Wall (@FearTheWall) December 21, 2022
So everyone is home for the holidays, how nice. What would be even nicer is if Terzić, having the gang back together, could figure out how BVB is going to start attacking with some purpose in the next 19 matchdays.
In front of the halfway line, Terzić has some serious figuring out to do before BVB take the field against Augsburg on the 23rd. Here are the major pinch points Terzić must tackle.
Will BVB have wingers, and how will they become effective?
It’s no secret that BVB have been goal-shy this season, owing primarily to a lack of production in the wide areas. The acquisition of Karim Adeyemi and the continued integration of Donyell Malen were intended to provide some firepower to the BVB attack, but very valid questions have now arisen as to the suitability of these players to Terzić’s intended style. Malen and Adeyemi have been unsuccessful in wide areas, failing to generate quality attacking chances on their own or provide them for other players on the field. I do not need to read off their goal and assist numbers, I know you’re all well familiar by now. I have also covered my opinion on the argument that they’re being played out of position before, and going into it again will only make me angry and rambly. So let’s not. It suffices to say I think these players can succeed in wide areas if deputized correctly, but they certainly CANNOT cross.
Regardless, they’re not succeeding. Potentially more responsibility needs to be placed on the midfield to carry the ball forward, allowing Malen and Adeyemi to play as purer wingers as opposed to outside midfielders. The distinction between these two positions is small but significant, and many managers have mistakenly believed that a left-sided player can play anywhere on the left; this is not always the case.
Otherwise, Adeyemi and Malen need to be shifted into the center, and allowed to thrive on the final ball rather than being tasked with delivering it. If this change is made, significant personnel shuffling will ensue. That leads to my next point...
Who is leading the line, and how will they be supported?
One of the unexpected storylines of the holiday season has revolved around Youssoufa Moukoko, who has decked the halls with transfer rumors. The young striker has (apparently) expressed dissatisfaction with Dortmund’s contract extension offers. Still, I say apparently because he has also used his Instagram to call bogus on much of this speculation.
Moukoko became the undisputed starting striker due to the poor form of stand-in Anthony Modeste, and following the break, one would expect him to resume that role. Dortmund have so far struggled to tie the academy product to a long-term extension, and with Sébastien Haller officially on the road to recovery, Dortmund’s long-term number nine is hard to pick. One challenge Terzić will face in the Rückrunde is managing Moukoko’s minutes; if he chooses not to extend, Terzić cannot tool the entire system to Moukoko’s final five months. If Moukoko stays, he will expect significant minutes.
Service to the striker must also be refined, and that will depend heavily on who is tasked with putting the ball in the net. Looking at Moukoko’s exploits in the Hinrunde, you will see a lot of “do it yourself” efforts. Moukoko received precious little support in front of goal, and the type of one-touch service a player like Erling Haaland receives in Manchester was nowhere to be found.
Youssoufa Moukoko, one to watch in 2023 ⭐️— 433 (@433) December 29, 2022
Be it Modeste, Moukoko, or Haller, any striker in the Dortmund system will suffer if they are not regularly put in a position to score. Terzić can and should look into retooling the front line to increase the presence of Adeyemi and Malen in and around the box, or pair one of them up with the striker and scrap wingers altogether. This passes the onus for buildup into the midfield, which leads to my final point...
Who is the creator in the team, and how will they pull the strings?
In the Hinrunde, Dortmund’s midfield was admittedly thin, with Reus, Dahoud, and Reyna all absent for significant stints. Jude Bellingham and Salih Özcan played an incredible amount of minutes, and their form occasionally suffered for it. Terzić will have his entire midfield back to fitness at the winter camp and needs to use that time to determine who is the creator in this BVB side.
Adeyemi and Malen are not getting or giving enough service, and as long as that continues, creativity will need to come from deeper. Julian Brandt was resurgent before the World Cup, taking up the creative mantle in the absence of Marco Reus and Mahmoud Dahoud. “Good Brandt” as we coined him was able to dictate play and create chances, and the form of the team often followed that of the German. Bellingham had a similar impact, using his physicality and grace on the ball to bully Dortmund (or just himself) into attacking positions. Still, these two players often felt like they were operating in isolation. Terzić needs to develop the cohesion of his team, and that starts with a creative lynchpin.
At this point, it is probably safe to say that Marco Reus cannot be relied on to be that guy game-in-game-out. While the captain is and will remain an influential part of the squad, it is important that he not be relied on the carry the creative burden alone. Jude Bellingham seems to be a foot out the door already, so that leaves Brandt, Reyna, and Dahoud. During Terzić’s previous spell, Dahoud thrived as a line-breaker, opening gaps to allow a player like Brandt to find space, where he then worked magic in more advanced positions. Choosing to entrust Brandt with the attacking responsibility is risky, given his hot and cold form in the past, but giving the German the keys to the castle for the remainder of the season may be what he needs to realize his potential for BVB. With the proper supporting cast (i.e. Dahoud), Brandt could thrive given the freedom to do so.
All this talk is to say that Terzić needs to identify a system and an ethos for BVB, which is not news. Dortmund fumbled through the Hinrunde without a clearly defined system, and the goal tally suffered for it. While Terzić has steadied the ship defensively—Dortmund now concedes a relatively normal amount of goals—he still needs to get the ball moving forward with more efficiency. If Terzić can answer the three questions above, he can reaffirm his selection as manager and set forward a path for Dortmund’s style of football before major personnel changes are made.