Team analysis: A good basis for Christmas
At the end of the year loads of fancy TV series review the year's greatest highlights and issues. In terms of football, this can only be done partially, as a season is considered as a year - rather than just the whole of, say, 2008. In respect to that difference we will review the season so far - with an emphasis on the performance shown the matches so far. Let's have a brief look at some major points that need to be outlined.
The defence: Borussia's new virtue
One may call it quite risky to count on two 19 years old youngsters as central defenders. However, Mats Hummels and Neven Subotic did a surprisingly good job: With only 19 goals against they constitute the league's second best defence. This massively contrasts last year's performances, which culminated in the worst of all defences in Bundesliga. In last years Christmas break; Borussia already had 30 (!) goals against. Hence, there is a thorough improvement so far.
Also, both central defenders contribute to some fine gameplay. Hummels is often involved in setting up combinations from the defence. And Subotic is Dortmund's best scorer (!) so far, which is highly atypical for a central defender. But this is especially due to his strengths when it comes to headers.
Generally, both Subotic and Hummels are highly talented - perhaps the most talented defenders we had for a decade. This can often be observed when having a close look at how they play one-on-one against strikers: The tacklings are well-thought and the position play is sophisticated. Note that this was never the case with defensive pairs in past seasons.
We shall not forget that Owomoyela, Lee and Schmelzer contributed to the sound performances of our defence. Especially Leeeeeee showed some of our beloved Dedé's characteristics, that is, being solid in the defence but pushing along the line to support the defence. Therefore, getting Lee was a good deal. However, it is quite probable that Antonio Rukavina is to leave the club in some time. Why isn't he even considered by Coach Klopp? He has probably some weaknesses when it comes to one-on-one duels - this is rather a strength of Owomoyela and Lee.
Concluding all this, it is evident that our defence indicated a very promising start. At this stage, it was a very reasonable and perfectly right decision to invest quite an amount of money into Neven Subotic. And note that Leonardo Dedé is still to return after his injury!
Hopefully, Mats Hummels will stay in Dortmund which requires Manager Zorc to sort something out with Munich.
The midfield: Some mixed feelings
On the one hand, there is indeed quite a positive development in our midfield: Sebastian Kehl almost reached the peak of his performance level and Tamas Hajnal is the playmaker sought after for quite some time. Both their performances were absolutely necessary for gaining control over matches as many of them are decided within the midfield.
On the other hand, there are some mixed feelings about the positions on the wings. Neither Kringe, nor Tinga could fully fulfil expectations. Florian Kringe has not achieved his top-level performance so far and Tinga's error quota has rather increased. Also, both Kringe and Tinga revealed deficiencies in their paces - we could probably do better with increased speed on the wings. There is still some hope that both of them get back on track to their former strong performances.
However, there is another scenario that might boost our midfield quite strongly: Kuba, who plays a magnificent season so far, could get back into the midfield, more specifically on the right wing. At the same time, a fast player (an equivalent to Kuba) must be found for the left wing. Sounds like a proposal to Manager Zorc, but this is probably something that can only be discussed as for next season. At the moment Kringe and Tinga are both established on their respective positions on the wings.
The Attack: Some light but more shadow?
The Petric-Zidan-Deal was immediately condemned by Dortmunders. After 17 matches played so far, we can have a brief try on valuating this deal. There is Petric having scored 8 times already for HSV and massively enhancing their offence. Also, there is our overall attack not having scored too many goals so far. Hence, did we make a bad deal? Well, this is thesis is doubtable. Zidan scored 4 times already; with all of the goals being very important (and note that he was injured for 4 weeks). And secondly, it is quite unlikely that Petric would have scored so massively in Dortmund as he currently does at HSV. Mladen is a pure striker who does not move eagerly and is quite weak in duels - but it is exactly these qualities that Coach Klopp expects from strikers. Thus, it is quite unclear whether Petric would be too successful here. Mohamad Zidan seems to enhance Borussia's gameplay: Being fast and running quite a distance during matches, he is quite valuable and variable. But still he could improve as his dribbling sometimes looks really dull.
But then, there is Kuba, who played an interesting position as a chain between midfield and (right wing) attack. And there is no doubt: The Polish international plays an extremely strong season so far: His goals, passes and dribblings are not only nice to have a look at, but also very effective. Also, he is very variable as he can be employed both in the attack and on the wings in the midfield.
And finally we are coming to a difficult one: Alex Frei. Having been injured for quite a long time, he has been back in the squad - but not always on the pitch. Coach Klopp relied on Zidan, Kuba and also Nelson Valdez rather than counting all the way on Frei. And Frei, being very ambitious, frankly affirms that this situation is not acceptable to him. But why is it that Klopp does not grant a blank cheque to the Borussia's most successful strikers of the past years? Apparently, Frei's gameplay does not fully fit Klopp's system as Alex is a real striker, rather passive and always lurking for chances. Klopp rather looks for a different type of attackers, many say (see above). But is Alex a "real striker"? He delivers corner kicks, free kicks, often scores from quite a distance and can give wonderful crosses. This does not sound like the profile of a "standard striker". It even alludes to what Klopp's is looking for: An active striker, moving a lot and being a chain between midfield and attack. So we can argue that it is not an incompatibility with Klopp's system. Maybe it is his current fitness or lack of games played so far which did not make him reach his top-level s far. That is why everyone - also Alex himself - should grant him some more time. It is nothing but sure that he will massively enhance our offence if he is fit.
The coach: Concept matters
Last but not least, we should have a brief look at how coach Klopp influenced the current state of the team. There are two main points in which Klopp differs from his predecessors. Firstly, he can do it with the public. Both the press and fans are quite delighted when Klopp delivers a charming speech or holds a funny press conference which is all the way down-to-earth. In comparison, think of van Marwijk or Thomas Doll, who were either moody (van Marwijk) or not capable of formulating their thoughts (Doll). This is quite important as Klopp absorbs public pressure, which would otherwise be put on the team.
Secondly, Jürgen Klopp has a clear concept. He wants the team to play a very intensive football with pressing. And apart from just stating this, he also changes the starting eleven accordingly (Frei (in his current state) and Rukavina out) and tries to get players to Dortmund who fit this system (Zidan and Owomoyela). Hence, it is good to see that we have a coach who has a clear concept for the team.
All this looks very promising at the moment. Rank 6, less goals against and a team that has still the capability to improve as there are some points to work on for the Christmas break. However, there are some important issues to be clarified by the management. First of all, in the short run, Weidenfeller and Hummels must be made to stay in Dortmund. This is crucial to keep the good path on which the defence currently is. Then, as for the summer, plannings must be started in order to acquire a fast player for the left wing midfield. This is necessary as the gameplay could still be more variable. Also, in case Alex Frei's situation does not change, a new striker may be needed. This is anyway to consider as Klimowicz will probably leave the club in summer 2009.
But thinking it through, everything looks really fine so far: A strong defence, a good concept and a bunch of talented player look really promising. Christmas can come...