Kloppo?s Kindergarten Pt.4 - How did the young guns do?(offence)
Last week we checked back on the defensive BVB youngsters we introduced to you a year ago. Some of them took remarkable developments in the meantime while others failed to meet the expectations. But even more young-guns run around in Borussia’s offence, so it is time to see which of these black’n’yellow toddlers have made that step forward over the past year.
Last year we stated that the influence of the young-guns in Borussia’s midfield was that big because some of the veterans of the squad were injured like skip Kehl or out of form like Tamas Hajnal. Kehl is still on his way to recovery (will it ever end?) and Hajnal is as far from a starting position as the earth is from Alpha Centauri but nobody would see that as a big factor for the young-guns. Borussia’s youngsters have completely taken over the BVB midfield and in most of the games this season, the oldest midfielder in our starting line-up was Kevin Großkreutz at 22.
The head of our team and pacemaker of the fresh attacking style BVB plays this season is of course Nuri Sahin. We hailed him a year ago as the organiser of our team and praised his early maturity, but this season Nuri even made another step forward and his progress was widely acknowledged throughout the Bundesliga. He was voted best player of the first half of the season by 286 Bundesliga players in the traditional survey of the kicker sport magazine. The editors of the magazine also put Sahin on top of their list of defensive midfielders. When Sahin announced that he was close to German world cup hero Bastian Schweinsteiger in summer, he was criticized a lot by the media and even BVB fans called this statement presumptuous. Just six months later he proved that he is not only on Schweinsteiger’s level but even surpassed him during that time. Sahin collected 10 scorer points already (4 goals, 6 assists) and is without a doubt playing his best Bundesliga season yet. His big dream to play Champions League with Borussia (he even has the Champions League hymn as ringtone for his mobile) is about to come true and the only disadvantage he has to Schweinsteiger&co., the lack of international experience will be worked upon soon. The only drops of bitterness in his otherwise almost perfect season so far have been two missed penalties and the fact that he was not able to conquer a permanent starting position in the Turkish national team. But that is largely due to the fact that skipper Emre Belözoglu is playing Sahin’s favourite position in Gus Hiddink’s team. If Nuri continues his development at BVB Hiddink will not be able to ignore him much longer.
His congenial partner in defensive midfield is still Sven Bender. Last year we named him the biggest surprise of the BVB squad, when he replaced the injured skip Kehl and almost made people in Dortmund forget about the BVB veteran. At the start of the season it was one of the most interesting questions at Borussia whether Kehl would be able to regain his position. Because of his experience and his standing as skipper Klopp opted for Kehl instead of Bender even though many followers of Borussia saw Bender stronger. But after he played only three Bundesliga matches Kehl injured himself once again during warm-up (!) for the Europa League match at Lviv and was out for the rest of the year. From that time on he was replaced once again by Sven “the offender” Bender and since the 21 year old Bavarian cooperates so superb with the dominant Sahin the doubts towards Kehl’s chances are even bigger now he is on the verge of returning to team training. The selfless ball-thief Bender makes the perfect addition to the more offensive orientated Sahin. He always has the back of the young Turk and he explained his attitude towards the game best, when he stated that he would rather risk an injury than to let a team-mate down. That these are no empty words is proven by Bender on a weekly basis. His development was recognized by the German media lately and there is even talk about Bender’s Nationalmannschaft chances even though he has competition from prominent players like Bayern Munich’s Schweinsteiger or Real Madrid’s Khedira on his position. To swap Bender for right back Rukavina has turned out a master move by Borussia sporting director Michael “Susi” Zorc.
Another over-achiever of last season, die hard Borussia fan and midfield-marathon-man Kevin Großkreutz has already earned his first two caps. His first nomination alongside Mats Hummels before the world cup came as a surprise to many in Dortmund, because Großkreutz is seen rather critically by many in and around Dortmund. He is believed to have an advantage because of his BVB spirit and his only main strength is seen in his undoubtedly enormous effort he puts into every game. It is easily overseen that Kevin can play some football as well. In his first season at Borussia (apart from his years in the BVB youth teams) he scored 5 goals and provided 4 assists in 32 games. This season he already scored 4 times and has 3 assists to his merit with only 17 matches played. So he obviously made some further progress after his jump-start at BVB (coming from 2nd division team Ahlen). But at the end of the year he seemed a bit overplayed and lost his starting position to Jakub Blaszczykowski. It will be interesting to see which one of them will have the upper hand next week at Leverkusen. But light-minded Kevin never lets his mood be clouded. “I will go full throttle in training to regain my starting position” he announced before the preparation camp. And if you’ve ever seen him play you know what that means. Another thing to watch will be if he can continue to prove his critics wrong and earn himself some further caps throughout 2011. The match against Italy in February is a big goal for him as it will be played in Dortmund and Kevin would love to walk onto his home pitch with an eagle on his chest. Keep living the dream of every supporter on the Südtribüne Kevin!
The youngest of the young-guns provides us with another chance to slap our back. Last year we predicted that Mario Götze, who had not played a single match in professional football back then, was the most promising of the BVB talents. One year later he is not only a regular starter at Borussia with 2 goals and 6 assists in Bundesliga plus 2 goals in the Europa League on his personal score-sheet, but is also the youngest Nationalmannschaft-debutant since Uwe Seeler in 1953. To be honest not even we could foresee that Götze’s career would go through the roof like that. Even Mario called his development over the past year “unreal” in a recent press conference. The kicker magazine rated him as Bundesliga’s best offensive wing of the season and former BVB-hero and now DFB sporting director Matthias Sammer called him “maybe the biggest talent we ever had in Germany”. While that verdict might come a little early it is clear to see that Götze’s abilities will take him a long way if he manages to avoid serious injuries. He is quick, handles the ball naturally and has an instinct to always make the right move that is hardly matched by anyone in the Bundesliga. There are rumours about interest from Real Madrid and other clubs from the same calibre but Götze’s agent made it clear that his near future will be at Borussia where he can develop further in the environment he has been used to for the past decade. Götze extended his BVB-contract until 2014 so there is hope to see this crown-jewel of German football in the most beautiful jersey there is for some years to come. It will be exciting to see what Mario can do in the future because we surely have only taken a glimpse at his capabilities so far.
A visit to Kloppo’s kindergarten would not be complete without mentioning the latest addition to the BVB playgroup. Kagawa Shinji joined the mighty Borussia from Japan for the incredible bargain price of €350.000. He was bought by BVB when he had only played in division 2 of the J-league. When he arrived at Dortmund he had played half a year in J-league 1 after the promotion of his club Cerezo Osaka and was the leading goal scorer of the season, but nobody would have expected him to adapt to Bundesliga standards as fast as he did. The 21-year old was considered to be an interesting addition to the BVB squad and mostly up for a learning year in his first season at BVB so it came as a surprise when Shinji was on the pitch for 90 minutes in the season opener against Leverkusen. It became clear in Kagawa’s first matches that Klopp knew exactly what he was doing when he trusted the Japanese youngster to take over the central offensive midfield at Borussia. Kagawa is a quick, agile player, whose ability to get around opponents in sidesteps has not been seen in Dortmund since the days of Tomas Rosicky. Like the Czech he has a good eye to create chances for his team mates, but other than Rosicky, who scored only 19 times in 143 matches at BVB, he is never afraid to try to find the net himself. Shinji has already scored 8 times in 17 matches at BVB and has become Borussia’s 2nd best goal-getter behind the panther. Shinji became an immediate hero at Dortmund when he scored the first 2 goals in the already legendary 3:1 derby win at the boycotted birdcage. After the glorious victory the supporters greeted him with the chant his fans at Osaka used to sing for him and carried him on their shoulders all the way from the bus to his car. The price tag put on Kagawa by the media exceeds €5m by now and he has already created a trend in Bundesliga to hunt for new blood in the J-league. He is without a doubt the biggest hit of BVB’s summer purchases and it is almost hard to believe that at 21 he might be getting even better in the years to come.
Two other young-guns from the midfield section who did not make it into the Bundesliga squad moved on to try their luck elsewhere. Polish international and veteran of the BVB reserve Sebastian Tyrala left Borussia in the summer and moved to 2nd Bundesliga team VfL Osnabrück where he is a regular starter and scored one goal each in cup and league. In winter Dortmund-born Yasin Öztekin, disappointed that he did not get a chance under Jürgen Klopp, moved to Turkish club Genclerbirgli Ankara. Öztekin had a mixed season for the BVB reserve so far scoring 3 goals and providing 3 assists. In summer he had some test training sessions at Leeds United but was not signed there. At BVB II he often gave the impression that he was lacking motivation in League 4. He complained in interviews about his situation and so his last months in Dortmund were surrounded by some controversy. Hopefully he can live up to the talent he has shown in previous years and find his luck in Turkey.
Not much has changed for the young strikers at BVB. Borussia still plays a system with only one real striker and this position is permanently occupied by panther Lucas Barrios. Even if he is not in the best shape or misses chances Klopp relies on his power to keep balls and make room for the goal-hungry midfielders behind him. That is the main problem for a new young-gun in Dortmund, the 22 year young Polish international Robert Lewandowski. At €4.5m he was BVB’s biggest signing of the summer but since he could not get past Barrios or Kagawa behind him Lewandowski has not yet found his spot in the starting line-up. Nonetheless he has taken the few opportunities he got to show his abilities. He is not as heavily built as Barrios but rather a striker that likes to run a lot. But unlike his predecessor Nelson Valdez he has a proper technique and knows how to find the net. Even though he played only one Bundesliga match from the start he has already scored 5 times and among those goals was the Derby-decider at Gelsenkirchen. Hopefully Lewandowski will remain patient, because as things are going so well without him as starter his situation is unlikely to improve anytime soon.
The other young strikers we have introduced to you the last time around, have not been able to gain a permanent spot in the line-up of the BVB professionals. In case of Damien Le Tallec that is mainly due to injuries. After he hurt his shoulder in the cup match at Osnabrück (that I would rather forget about) he missed the rest of season 09/10. This season he started on matchday 7 of the reserve, where he showed that he is better than most in the 4th division and scored 5 goals in 9 matches so far (plus 2 assists). His advantage is that he can play on many positions in the offence so he got a few chances at the pros as well. But a total of 55 minutes in 2 Europa League matches and 1 cup match is not much time to make an impression. Lately there were some rumours to be heard that Damien would leave the BVB on loan for the rest of the season (2nd Bundesliga side Fortuna Düsseldorf seems to be interested in him) but the young Frenchman said that he would refuse to leave Borussia. Good choice Damien! You never know how many chances you will get to win a German championship in your career.
The same rumours were written in the media about Daniel Ginczek (Fortuna Düsseldorf) and other than Le Tallec the top scorer of the BVB reserve seems to be interested to make some experiences elsewhere. That would be a tough blow for the promotion hopes of the BVB amateurs because after a weaker season in the 3rd league (6 goals in 28 matches) Daniel has returned to the shape he had two years ago. He scored 10 times in 14 matches so far and is a cornerstone of Theo Schneider’s team. Daniel Ginczek is part of the German U21 team.
Marco Stiepermann has already had the experience to play and even score at the mighty Westfalenstadion. Last season he scored the all important equalizer against Wolfsburg when he was only 5 minutes on the pitch. All in all he was included in three matches by Jürgen Klopp. This season has not been as good as the last for Stiepermann so far. Playing his first year in senior football he had some problems to adjust. So far he has only scored once in 14 matches for the BVB reserve (2 assists). He was thrown back a bit by a muscle injury but he should overall step it up a notch to meet expectations in the back end of the season.
Christopher Kullmann, the last striker we mentioned in our previous report has not found his form anymore and is only a substitute of the reserve team. He only scored once in the meantime and that was an own goal so it is very likely that we will see him part at the end of this season.
Looking back on these reports I have to admit that it makes little sense to focus especially on the young players at BVB because by now there are hardly any old players around. To save me some time maybe I’ll check on Kloppo’s home for the elderly instead next time to see which of the veterans could survive amongst the toddlers. But then again it is way too much fun to watch these young-guns grow and beat up the Bundesliga. So maybe next time we’ll present you the champions edition of Kloppo’s kindergarten and even if not, these youngsters gave us one of the best seasons in Borussia’s history so it is well worth keeping an eye or two on their development. With these youngsters there is no limit in sight so next season they’ll be greeting from the Champions League for sure.