Over the last two years, I have taken a close look on our new players during the winter break. This year, I want to continue this little tradition to evaluate how the newbies advanced in the championship team. Before this season, Ilkay Gündogan, Chris Löwe, Ivan Perisic and Moritz Leitner came to make the Deutscher Meister even better. Additionally, injured Julian Koch came back to Borussia after being on loan in Duisburg, Mustafa Amini announced his transfer to Dortmund (even though he will arrive not until this summer) and Marvin Bakalorz made the step from the reserve to the first team but never played in Bundesliga. This is why I will leave these three names out of my analysis. Let's have a look on the four newbies who really made some appearances on the grounds of Germany.
Ilkay Gündogan: Ilkay Gündogan had big footsteps to fill. Even though the officials often pointed out that he will not be a direct replacement for Dortmund's lost son Nuri Sahin, in the mind of several fans and journalists, he was. That's why every appearance of Gündogan was austerely analysed. The young gun came from Nuremberg at a transfer fee of around four million euros and played 13 times during Bundesliga, two times in Champions League and two times in German cup competition. Especially during his first appearances, one could feel that Gündogan had to play a different role in the defensive midfield than he was used to play in Nuremberg. The soon-to-be German national player definitely needed some time to become accustomed to the new squad and got some criticism from the stands and the media. However, during the last weeks of 2011, Gündogan had some pretty good matches and scored for the first time in Freiburg. When Ilkay gets some more time to habituate in Dortmund, I am pretty sure that we will find pleasure in watching him play even though the defensive midfield is highly competitive with names like Sven Bender, skipper Sebastian Kehl or Moritz Leitner around.
Moritz Leitner: Speaking of Moritz Leitner, the 19-year-old arrived in Dortmund this summer coming from Bundesliga newbie FC Augsburg. Leitner is said to be a big German talent and even though he had less time to present himself in comparison to Gündogan, Moritz impressed me more. Seven matches in Bundesliga (including five in which he was brought in), three in Champions League (two substitutions) and one DFB cup game (as a substitute as well) result in a total playing time of 465 minutes in which Leitner showed some of his qualities. It will be interesting to see how this young gun will develop over the future but with some visits to a fitness studio (since he needs to gain some strength), he will become an option for the midfield, especially because he is able to play the defensive role as well as the offensive one. Being 19 years old, he has enough time to develop left.
Chris Löwe: The lion who wants to be a lynx came to Dortmund with little chances of directly advancing to the starting line-up because the left side of the defense is in control of Marcel Schmelzer. However, Schmelle missed the first matches of the season and Löwe was thrown into the cold water by coach Jürgen Klopp. Löwe made six matches in Bundesliga, two in the Champions League and one in the national cup. During these appearances, Löwe created a feeling that it would not be a problem if Schmelzer would miss a couple of matches because he is able to play his position as well even though he has some shortcomings compared to Schmelzer when speaking about his offensive qualities. However, Löwe's transfer was a no-brainer since he came to Dortmund from Chemnitzer FC (league 3) at the cost of 200.000 euros and since he is a very young player as well, Klopp, Zorc and Watzke underlined their strategy of signing young players for the future.
Ivan Perisic: Last but not least, Ivan Perisic was the most expensive signing of this season, making his way to Borussia from Bruges at a price of 5,5 million euros. His most memorable moment of 2011 definitely was his late equalizer against Arsenal FC at the first day of Champions League competition. Even though he scored in Bundesliga twice in Mainz and Bremen, he only rudimentarily showed his qualities during his 23 appearances in black and yellow (14 in Bundesliga, six in Champions League, three in DFB cup) and was brought in as a substitute most of the times. Being the direct challenger for the position of Kevin Großkreutz, he eventually ended up on the bench several times since the performances of the Dortmunder Jung were more stable than the ones of the Croatian. However, if Perisic manages to play out his qualities at a more frequent basis, he will find his way to the first line-up because I see more potential in him than I see in Großkreutz.
What is to come in summer?
Ironically, in the last part of this team talk column, I doubted that Robert Lewandowski will have such striker qualities like Lucas Barrios. Shame on me. However, I would like to predict future transfers but am not pretty sure who will follow the big signing of Marco Reus who will hopefully make our already incredible team even better. On the other hand, some players will leave Dortmund. Florian Kringe, Antonio da Silva, Patrick Owomoyela and even Sebastian Kehl are names are considered not to extend their contract, Lucas Barrios and Kagawa Shinji are often rumored to leave Dortmund in summer. In case of a Barrios disposal, Borussia will definitely need another striker to back up Robert Lewandowski. Some small transfers to make up the potential leavings could be expected but another big name like Reus is very unlikely to join Borussia in summer. And to be honest, one could already imagine a great team by adding Reus to our already great line-up. Let's see what is to come, Bundesliga is about to start again.