Competition for places hotting up in the Borussia Dortmund midfield
Julian Weigl or Nuri Sahin? Or even both of them? According to Borussia Dortmund head coach Peter Bosz, the decision he has to make between those two players is just one of several difficult ones he will face in the coming weeks. bundesliga.com looks at the top three battles within the BVB squad.
Weigl, who turned 22 on Friday, will not be part of the Dortmund squad for Saturday’s game in Freiburg. Bosz wants to ease the deep-lying midfielder back to his previous form.
There is no question that Weigl is one of the key personnel at the club, though. Since his move from 1860 Munich in the summer of 2015, he has played 60 Bundesliga matches, and since 14 May 2016 holds the record for the most touches (214) in a game, surpassing the previous mark set down by Bayern Munich‘s retired great, Xabi Alonso.
Almost a year to the day of that record-setting performance against Cologne, Weigl – who has five caps for Germany – broke his ankle against Augsburg. He’s finally on the verge of a comeback, having gone through many stages on a long road to recovery. “The next step will be for him to get some game time,” Bosz said.
That Dortmund were top of the table after Matchday 2 is in large part down to Weigl’s replacement, Sahin, who has excelled in central midfield. After many injury setbacks of his own, the way the youngest Bundesliga player and goalscorer of all time is playing now is reminiscent of his best days – although given recent for perhaps the best is yet to come. Sahin, who turned 29 on Tuesday and has 51 caps for Turkey, shone in Die Schwarzgelben’s last game against Hertha Berlin – creating a goal and scoring one in the 2-0 win.
If Weigl and Sahin are both fit, Bosz faces a difficult decision. But the Dutchman isn’t worried. “Both can play at the same time,” he said, although what would mean for his preferred 4-1-4-1 formation with one deep-lying playmaker remains to be seen.
Andrey Yarmolenko was signed from Dynamo Kiev ostensibly to replace the Barcelona-bound Ousmane Dembele, and hopes are high that the Ukrainian can cut it in the Bundesliga and beyond, with the 27-year-old having already scored three times in five Ukrainian league matches and once in the UEFA Champions League qualifying rounds before making the move to the Signal Iduna Park.
Watch: Andrey Yarmolenko’s Dortmund pledge …
That it was Yarmolenko signed to replace Dembele should come as little surprise. “The club has already been talking about him for three years,” said Bosz. “I hope he’ll be an important player for us.”
Fellow new arrival Maximilian Philipp, signed from Freiburg, has done well in his early Dortmund outings. The Supercup aside, the versatile attacker has started every competitive game, setting up two goals. “His development is good,” said his coach.
The 23-year-old is growing in confidence both on and off the pitch and is set to see plenty of minutes this season given that he can play on the left or right-hand side, in support of the central striker or as the target man himself.
Yarmolenko, Philipp and Christian Pulisic can all play on either flank. In the next three weeks their club will play seven matches in the Bundesliga and the Champions League group stage, and Dortmund will need to lean on their strength on the wings to ensure a smooth take-off in Europe.
Gonzalo Castro has become something of an institution at Dortmund. He often puts in unflashy performances in central midfield, just as happy to dig in and defend as he is to get forward and attack. The former Bayer Leverkusen man scored three goals and made seven in his 28 Bundesliga games – exactly the same return he’s managed the previous campaign.
Under Bosz, the 30-year-old hasn’t missed a single second of action – proving himself to be a more than able leader in a young Dortmund squad.
Mahmoud Dahoud, a summer signing from Borussia Mönchengladbach, is champing at Castro’s heels, though. The Syria-born 21-year-old has started two games in the new season, also coming off the bench twice. He can occupy defensive and attacking midfield berths just as comfortably as Castro can, and he still has time on his side.
Mario Götze is another player to throw into the busy central midfield mix. In spite of a metabolic disorder that hindered his progress over much of the last year, the FIFA World Cup winner is nearing 100 percent match fitness once again. Bosz has the same selection headache in the middle of the park as he does out wide, though it’s a good problem to have…
Watch: Mario Götze is back in business…
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