When BVB signed Salih Özcan this summer, the entire fanbase got very excited. There was a transfer announcement, and the fee was an absolute bargain. Then we all took our summer vacations, had a barbeque, and everyone seemingly forgot about it. Maybe it was the meager transfer fee of €5 million or the closeness of the transfer to the end of last season when we were all well-and-truly burnt out. But the transfer of Salih Özcan to Dortmund should not fly under our radars; the Turkish midfielder could be exactly what BVB has been missing for not one, not two, but possibly almost TEN years.
Özcan was the fourth signing of the Sebastian Kehl revolution, following Niklas Süle, Nico Schlotterbeck, and Karim Adeyemi. The first three players to put pen to paper for BVB were, by comparison, extremely high-profile arrivals. All household names among Bundesliga/Germany fans, they commanded hefty fees and brought immediate quality to this season’s starting lineup. Maybe this is why €5 million for Salih Özcan, a player whose transfer to BVB materialized quickly (compared to the season-long Adeyemi saga), felt a bit pedestrian. BVB fans had not had a chance to watch the obligatory Youtube highlight reels before the Turkish midfield enforcer was in the door. So what does Özcan bring to BVB?
In short, a lot.
Let’s start by doing the fun thing; cherry-picking stats that make him look like the regeneration of Claude Makelele in his prime.
Nothing but greens in that hand-selected salad folks. But in all seriousness, let’s investigate what some of these stats mean.
Standing at 5’10 (178 cm), Özcan is not the most imposing figure at the base of the midfield. His main competition at DM, Emre Can, is 6’1. Despite this, Özcan is winning more than half of his aerial challenges, putting him in the 79th percentile against other players in the Bundesliga. Can’s numbers are admittedly better, but Salih posts a respectable return. 99th percentile in successful pressures, however, is something Can cannot match. Özcan was winning the ball 42% of the time he went after it last season, making him one of the best in the league. He also sits in the 95th percentile for interceptions and 96th for ball recoveries.
What does all of this say? Well, it primarily shows that Salih Özcan is a different type of defensive midfielder to the players in the Dortmund squad. He is a gritty ball-winner who looks to snuff out attacks and put attackers under serious pressure. Players like Mahmoud Dahoud and Emre Can are more focused on collecting the ball deep and moving it out of the defensive area before beginning an attack. This has often been to the detriment of Borussia Dortmund’s defense. Bundesliga opposition is aware BVB will try to play out of traffic and are susceptible to mistakes if the right counter-press is applied. To put it bluntly, Özcan ain’t gonna be so pretty ‘bout it. And that’s a good thing.
Admittedly, Özcan’s pass completion rate is still excellent, but having a player like Özcan at the base of the midfield will allow players like Bellingham the creative freedom to get the ball forward knowing someone has their back. Özcan’s ability to shield the defense will give new signings Niklas Süle and Nico Schlotterbeck the time they need to position themselves for opposition attacks and take up the proper space, not just chase the ball.
Salih Özcan also has a beard, folks. And that's something BVB desperately needs. At 24 years of age, the Turkey international manages an extremely successful crop of facial hair. At BVB we have seen some scraggly attempts at facial hair, but nothing that has really captured the fans' attention. See below.
Love the soul patch, but is it really convincing enough? He is only 19, anyway.
There is something about a strong beard at the heart of the midfield that makes this writer feel like everything is going to be taken care of. And Özcan has got that taken care of.
Lastly, Özcan is the first holding midfielder to be signed by Sebastian Kehl, who was also a holding midfielder. Kehl has had years of training for the sporting director’s position under the careful tutelage of Michael Zorc, learning to identify talent and build a cohesive team. Still, you must feel that a former player will have a special eye for someone plying their trade in his old stomping grounds. Kehl has watched in the decade since the end of his playing career as Dortmund has failed to solidify the midfield, with players like İlkay Gündoğan moving to Manchester and Julian Weigl being undone by an unsuitable system. Now Kehl has had the chance to pick his replacement, and this writer is keen to believe that he will have done a careful job of it.
Comment your thoughts down below on the following:
- Will Salih Özcan make his long-awaited debut on Saturday?
- What impact will Özcan have over the course of the season?
- How impactful is facial hair on the success of a midfielder?