Analyzing Dortmund’s future right-back options

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After a fantastic end to the 2020-21 season in which the Black & Yellows won the DFB-Pokal and climbed into third, Lukasz Piszczek officially retired from football. The Polish defender was a stalwart at Dortmund for over a decade, and the task to replace him was always going to be impossible. To make matters more difficult, Mateu Morey tore his ACL in the team’s run to the cup final, and Achraf Hakimi left the team for Inter Milan the season before, reducing Rose’s options all the more come the 2021-22 season. While Thomas Meunier has improved under Marco Rose’s influence, a replacement in the position is still evidently needed. So with that, we take a look at the very best options to replace Piszczek, as Dortmund attempt to put their right-back concerns to rest.

JEREMIE FRIMPONG

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The obvious choice to be Dortmund’s next right-back, Jeremie Frimpong has enjoyed a fabulous 2020-21 campaign at Bayer Leverkusen – his first season in the Bundesliga. The dynamic wing-back has contributed to 7 of Leverkusen’s goals this season, with 1 goal and 6 assists. For Dortmund’s purposes, he’s incredibly rapid, remarkably astute in transition, and understands how to position himself based on the movement of the winger ahead of him. With 8.72 progressive carries and 2.20 progressive dribbles per 90, Frimpong outperforms just about every other fullback on the planet, and would fulfill the attacking responsibility thrust upon him brilliantly. In fact, no other player has completed more progressive carries, or carried the ball a greater distance than Frimpong in the Bundesliga – showcasing his importance to Gerardo Seoane’s team.

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The greater need is however for a fullback who can perform the defensive work, win a greater degree of 1v1 duels, and recover quickly enough in transition. Frimpong has that Hakimi like speed to make the position his own, but doesn’t particularly stand out when it comes to the defensive side of the game. He’s won an impressive 58% of his tackles up against tricky dribblers, and gotten his body in the way for 2.21 blocks per 90. But his tackle and interception numbers are comparatively low, and his assets are certainly more toward the attacking side of the game. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but Dortmund desperately need a right-back who can immediately impact them positively in defensive transitions.

MATTY CASH

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If Dortmund want to go from one Pole to another, Matty Cash would make for a superb signing for the Black & Yellows. With two seasons under his belt in the top flight now, Cash has consistently been one of the Premier League’s best fullbacks, and one of Villa’s top performers across the board. One of the more complete fullbacks around, Cash excels in both attack and defense. He’s not quite as expressive as Jeremie Frimpong, but he also hasn’t been given the same license as Frimpong to go on and express himself. Almost like the inverse of Frimpong, the Polish international excels at the defensive side of the game – while offering occasional moments of brilliance in attack. The 24-year-old claims a spot in the Premier League’s top five in both tackles (71 total, or 2.9 per 90), and interceptions (64 total, or 2.61 per 90).

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At the time of our Steven Gerrard – Aston Villa – Tactical Analysis, Villa had accumulated the fewest right-sided attacks, with Cash not able to fully contribute in the ways that he is likely capable of doing so. However, the Polish player has still contributed to 4 of Villa’s goals this season, with 1 goal and 1 assist in his last 2 appearances. Holding him back, Cash’s pass completion does not hit the money, and is fairly abysmal at 69.5%. His long pass accuracy is particularly poor at 38.8%, and it’s one of the reasons why he’s yet to assist a goal from a cross this season, despite delivering 2.78 crosses per 90 (5th highest in the league). This would then present Dortmund with a dilemma. In signing Cash, they’d achieve equilibrium in the exact area they need most, and find a player that is most similar to the man they so desperately want to replace – Lukasz Piszczek. However, they’d also be signing a player that doesn’t necessarily fit their passing and possession ego, a.k.a. an essential principle of play. Regardless, Matthew Cash should definitely be on the radar of Dortmund’s recruitment team, as he continues to perform remarkably well for Steven Gerrard’s Aston Villa.

NOUSSAIR MAZRAOUI

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Noussair Mazraoui has been linked with a host of clubs, since it became accepted that he would run down his contract at Ajax at the end of the season, and leave on a free transfer. Despite making such a bold choice, Mazraoui has continued to be one of Ajax’s most important players – scoring 5 goals with 2 assists in 20 Eredivisie matches. The Moroccan’s potential fit for Dortmund’s style of play is a match made in heaven – given his exceptional quality in all the right areas, particularly his on-the-ball presence and defensive awareness. Mazraoui knows how to play in a possession-based system full of positional rotation and positional play, and can play on either side of a back-four. With 7.14 progressive passes received in European competition across the last calendar year, Mazraoui’s role has always been an attacking one, and he excels in finding space to exploit the opposition high up the pitch. But he also has the speed and defensive awareness to hold his own in transition, which again, is essential for Dortmund in their fullback forage.

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The Ajax man has made 3.68 tackles and 2.38 interceptions per 90 in European competitions this past year, while also being part of the team that thumped Dortmund in the UEFA Champions League group stages this season. Conveniently, FBRef lists his closest comparisons as Alphonso Davies, Reece James and Joao Cancelo, which gives you an idea of the kind of positions he adopts on a football pitch, and just how influential he can be to his team’s attack when deployed right. Given that he’ll be available on a free transfer, Dortmund should not waste any time in attempting to secure the Moroccan’s signature.

KYLE WALKER-PETERS

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Had I written this article a year ago, Kyle Walker-Peters would have been toward the top of the list. The Southampton man had a slow start to the 2021-22 season, losing his starting birth to Valentino Livramento, and shifting over to the left-side in response. But in recent weeks, he’s been un-droppable for Ralph Hasenuttl’s team, showcasing some of his very best form for the Saints. Walker-Peters has an abundance of speed, excels in possession, and is the opposite of a shot-shy fullback. But where he truly stands out is in positional understanding. The 24-year-old recognizes moments where he needs to hold his position in Southampton’s back-three rest-defense, and also recognizes moments where he can overlap his winger and go on the hunt for a goal. Like Frimpong, his attacking strengths are in progressively carrying the ball forward, breaking lines on a dribble, and using his speed to advance his team up the field and pull the opposition out of position. He even outperforms Frimpong in a few defensive areas, with a decent tackle + interception number, and a relatively successful press percentage of 32.7%.

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With all this taken into account, Walker-Peters has the ability to be the total package for the Black & Yellows, to understand Marco Rose’s pressing ideals, and fit into the team’s style of play. Questions could be asked of just how high his ceiling could go, having been let go by Tottenham Hotspur before he found his footing and best form. But Kyle Walker-Peters certainly would improve Dortmund’s defense, and provide them a useful option to use on either side. He’d likely be cheaper than Frimpong and Cash, and also less likely to completely nail down the place, which could be good for integrating Mateu Morey back into the team slowly but surely. Despite being a pick out of left field (or right field), all the signs for a potential Kyle Walker-Peters move point to yes.

JOAO MARIO

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The final candidate on our list, Joao Mario has enjoyed an impressive season at FC Porto, after breaking into the starting eleven this year. Not to be confused with the Benfica midfielder and former Portuguese National Team member, the 22-year-old fullback is one of the rising talents coming out of Liga NOS this season. He’s assisted 4 goals between Champions League and league matches this season, and has performed well in making himself a threat down Porto’s right-hand-side. The Portuguese defender excels in delivering passes into the penalty area and creating chances for his teammates high up the pitch. His crossing percentage of 47.6% is absolutely outrageous, showcasing his ability to pick out the right passes at the right time and find his teammates inside the box. If still at Dortmund next year, he’d be an absolute dream teammate for Erling Haaland, supporting the Norwegian’s uncanny ability to find space in the box.

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Given that he’d be coming from a Champions League level team, it’s not even as though the leap to Dortmund would be that big of a step. In fact, he’d be coming from one possession-based team to another, where he can refine his technical and tactical skills in the process. Given his rise, the Porto fullback is likely to make a move soon, and Dortmund should put their name first on the waiting list.

PLAYER COMPARISONS

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After narrowing down our search to five right-backs of the highest quality, we take a look at how each player performs in a variety of important categories, with a particular emphasis on Dortmund’s style of play. Here is how they compare to one another in league play, as we prepare for our final verdict.

ATTACKING & POSSESSION

Taking data from league play only, Dortmund’s proposed right-back options each provide something unique to the table. Matty Cash is the only one who doesn’t stand out in an attacking sense, although he does come up with the second best goals per 90 ratio, behind only Noussair Mazraoui. It’s worth restating that Aston Villa don’t rely on Cash’s attacking quality as much as they could, and that his numbers could easily be higher given more license to get forward.

Of all the choices, Joao Mario may come out as the most well-rounded, and certainly stands out when it comes to delivering crosses – which is a crucial facet to Dortmund’s right-sided play. Jeremie Frimpong and Nazar Mazraoui however clearly stand out even more when it comes to reaching near unattainable accomplishments. The Leverkusen man wins out on assists and boasts an impressive dribbling percentage of nearly 60%, while the Ajax defender beats Frimpong for chance creation and xA (expected assists). From this data alone, Matty Cash and Kyle Walker-Peters could be ruled-out. However, we must remember the defensive need for Dortmund, and the fact that their right-back replacement should be someone that excels in that side of the game. So let’s see how each compares in round two.

DEFENSIVE QUALITY

With two players outside of Europe’s top five leagues, we were unable to access all the stats we might have wanted to study (such as pressure %), but we were still able to capture a complete picture of how our prospects have performed so far in 2021-22. It’s unsurprising to see the players in lower-possession teams (like Cash and Walker-Peters) excel in this category. Cash comes out with the money in both blocks and tackles + interceptions, with Walker-Peters also incredibly active. But interestingly enough, it’s Noussair Mazraoui who comes out on top in both percentage points studied, impressing with a 65.6% tackle success rate. At 6’0, Noussair Mazraoui compares most closely to Thomas Meunier’s tall frame, and could easily carry on the Dortmund man’s scoring form with his aerial dueling rate of 63% in the air. With the Ajax man winning out on the most categories overall, he has to be a contender here, even if other players have been able to showcase their quality more regularly against more difficult opposition.

THE VERDICT

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Deciding on Dortmund’s next right-back is a difficult decision, and one that the Black & Yellows should scrutinize over. While Cash and Walker-Peters offer defensive advantages, the quality of Frimpong and Mazraoui going forward is too big to ignore. Being just 21-years-old is certainly a notch in Frimpong’s feather, with so much more room to grow into the player that he could one day become. But by the same token, 24-year-old Mazraoui has more top quality experience, particularly in performing to the highest level for a Champions League team. The Ajax man also wouldn’t cost an arm and a leg, given his contract situation. But Frimpong has already proven himself to be a useful player in the Bundesliga, and that in and of itself may be too good to pass up.

As a result, we’ve ultimately gone for Jeremie Frimpong – the high-flying speed demon from Bayer Leverkusen. The first time I saw him play I thought he had Dortmund’s style of play bursting through his veins, with his high-tempo ability in transitions and incredible on-the-ball ability. My opinion on that has never wavered, and it’s moderately difficult to compare him to a player that’s never played in the Bundesliga before, let alone a top five European league. Transfermarkt currently has the 21-year-old underestimated at 20 million euros, which will likely change come the summer. Nonetheless, Dortmund would be able to secure his signature for an absolute bargain given what he’d offer the team. In addition to his incredible attacking quality, he performs well enough in the defensive side of the game, particularly when compared to the other top options. That is what Dortmund most desperately need to improve upon, and Frimpong could provide that, while still offering tremendous quality going forward.

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Regardless of who they sign, Dortmund need to begin their quest to find a new right-back as soon as possible. They’ve needed one ever since the departure of Achraf Hakimi, with the retirement of Lukasz Piszczek and injury to Mateu Morey only exacerbating the concern. With these five candidates as potential options, Dortmund will instantly improve their defensive woes by making a move. Jeremie Frimpong should be the top target, but all of the options listed here should be considered as Dortmund start their quest to replace irreplaceable players.


So there it is! An in-depth analysis of Dortmund’s future right-back options. Be sure to check out more Recruitment & Scouting articles, Player Analyses, and Data Analyses, as you browse the 800 articles on TheMastermindSite.com. Also be sure to follow on social media via the links below and check out more on Borussia Dortmund this season. Thanks for reading and see you soon!

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