Three Players Who Must Redeem Themselves for Dortmund This Season
It’s highly unlikely we’ll see another train wreck of a season from Borussia Dortmund again this season.
With the arrival of a new coach in Thomas Tuchel, comes the arrival of new energy to the club. Tuchel surprised many by pretty much keeping the same lineup from last season. While players don’t have to worry about packing their bags just yet, it adds pressure to perform and redeem their poor performance from last year.
There are three names that need to prove their spot on the squad the most. Among those three are not Marco Reus or Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. Dortmund’s dynamic duo are proven strikers and like any good attacker, can make something happen when their hungry enough.
But these are three names that need to make this season one of their best.
1. Henrikh Mkhitaryan
The Armenian midfielder showed a lot of promise when Dortmund signed him in 2013.
His first season was good, but nothing special only scoring nine goals in 31 games in the Bundesliga. Last year he only cranked out three goals and didn’t net his first one until the second half of the season. If there’s one person who epitomizes the nightmare of a season the Westphalians had last year it’s Mkhitaryan.
The good news for Dortmund fans is that the 26-year-old is in his last year of his contract and out to prove he has value. Mkhitaryan came back from the offseason looking in form. Through the first three official games of the year (two against Wolfsberger AC in Europa League play and one against third division side Chemnitzer in the DFB-Pokal), the midfielder has scored four goals.
Sure, he hasn’t played against sizable competition yet, but seeing the ball go in the back of the net this early in the year is a major confidence boost that he needs. If Mkhitaryan can be in the zone for most of the season, he can be a huge contribution to the midfield and bolster the team’s strong attack.
2. Mats Hummels
Scoring droughts happen. Every team in the world goes through them. But droughts can be managed and weathered as long as the squad has a confident, strong defense to keep the ship sailing.
Borussia Dortmund didn’t have this last season. When poor play is chronic, it affects players mentally and mistakes soon go from occasionally occurring to becoming self-fulfilling prophecies. This happened to Mats Hummels last season. When it rained, it poured for the German center back. He also recently attributed his poor play to being overweight last season.
He told German paper Kicker that after the World Cup, he didn’t return to club duties in proper form. Hummels and his team suffered for that, allowing 42 goals to go in.
The 26-year-old is another member of the team that Tuchel managed to keep around despite rumors of a departure. Hummels says he’s focused on fitness this offseason and if he’s back to the Hummels that made the World Cup squad, Dortmund can feel confident that that back third is secure even if they’re not scoring.
3. Roman Weidenfeller
A good goalkeeper between the posts can be the difference between a top four spot or settling for a place in the Europa League. Dortmund have a solid keeper in Roman Weidenfeller but manager Thomas Tuchel won’t be afraid to pull him if the German doesn’t produce results. The team sent last year’s number two Mitchell Langerak to Stuttgart and during the offseason brought in Roman Burki. Weidenfeller is the club’s top choice but Burki will certainly challenge for the spot throughout the season.
If Borussia Dortmund want a legitimate shot at the top four, they’re going to need better than Weidenfeller’s performance last year of seven clean sheets in 25 appearances.
It should be expected that the 35-year-old German keeper bail out his team in tight spots when they need him and if he does that, the rest of the team should hold up their end.
Putting it all together, it’s not hard to imagine Dortmund getting back to form and making a return to the top four, Champions League and even title contention sometime soon.