Analyzing Borussia Dortmund’s summer signings

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Borussia Dortmund have been busy in the 2022 Summer Transfer Window as per usual, securing the services of four top-tier players as they build their squad toward a 2022-23 title challenge. Without any uncertainty for the future, the inevitable sale of Haaland was completed swiftly, with the club backing up their sale by bringing in one of the game’s brightest talents in Karim Adeyemi. If rumours are to be believed, another top-tier striker may even be on his way. So under the management of Edin Terzic with their summer business almost done, Dortmund fans can feel optimistic about the state of their squad heading into next season. With that, we analyze each of the club’s first-team signings, and the man that may be on his way over in the coming weeks. Here is our analysis.

karim adeyemi

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Karim Adeyemi enters the frame at Dortmund with big boots to fill, but under the recognition that just about every striker that’s walked into the club in recent years has excelled beyond belief. From Paco Alcacer to Mitchy Batshuayi, many strikers have come to the club with less natural ability than Adeyemi and succeeded, due in large part to the excellence exhibited in the final third from the players working to support the main man up top. The former Salzburg man excels on the break, where his speed and dynamism can be used to run in behind and finish off chances. But he’s also a decent striker when it comes to holding up the ball and linking up with teammates, an essential trait for any Dortmund striker to possess.

When people think of Erling Haaland, they conjure up an image of an incredible physical specimen that scores goals on a machine-like level. Karim Adeyemi is a smaller, nimbler player that can match Haaland’s rapidity, and potentially offer greater versatility in Dortmund’s front-line. He’s less likely to beat players with strength, and more likely to beat players with skill and precision. That often comes down to the German’s incredible two-footedness in not only scoring power but dynamic dribbling, and his astute intuition in identifying the right pockets of space to receive the ball in dangerous positions. An intelligent and energetic presser, the 20-year-old forward will fit in just fine at the club, capable of either leading the line on his own or bouncing off a teammate in a front two. If Dortmund secure the signature of Sebastien Haller or switch to a back-three formation, Adeyemi may do exactly that, playing a supporting role to supplement the big man up top.

SEBASTIEN HALLER

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Still yet to be completed, rumours have been floating around that former West Ham and Franfkurt forward Sébastien Haller may be on his way over to Terzic’s team. Haller excels with his back to goal, operating as an excellent ‘Target Man’ for Ajax, where he can bring others into play, and batter his way onto the end of deliveries into the penalty area. He won 63% of his aerial duels in the Eredivise last season, and when compared up against tougher opponents in the UEFA Champions League, his success still brightened better than 90% of the players in his position – at a 53% success rate (centre-forwards typically lose more than they win). This would not only offer the club something different that Adeyemi lacks, but the simultaneous flexibility to support Adeyemi’s darting runs in behind. As ‘Target Men’ often do, Haller will naturally attract attention, particularly as he moves toward the ball. In making himself a nuisance deeper on the field, he will often open pockets of space for others to run into – and that is precisely where Karim Adeyemi excels.

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In signing the Salzburg man, the Black & Yellows wonderfully replaced Haaland’s rapidity in behind, uncanny goal-scoring ability, and signed a player that will suit their energetic mentalities in and out of possession. Haller offers something completely different, a ‘Plan B’ of sorts, that can also work wonderfully as a ‘Plan A’ to get the best out of space interpreters like Marco Reus and Julian Brandt. Both creative attackers excelled last season alongside the bruising bully of the Haaland mold, and Haller’s ability to play on a one-touch and then spin defenders will suit him excellently well with Terzic’s team. The Dutchman is also more than capable of holding his own in possession, particularly on the dribble where he can use his strength to quickly maneuver the ball and evade defenders.

The 6’3 forward may be seen as a departure from Dortmund’s style of play, but proved more than capable of excelling within a possession-based brand of football at Ajax, where much of their verticality and attacking play funnelled into his path. Besides, a natural outlet to hold the ball up in transition is always a nice asset to have, particularly for a club like BVB that love to explode on the break. With 21 goals and 7 assists in 31 league appearances last season, Sebastien Haller will be an excellent addition to Dortmund’s ranks, even if some may claim it as a departure from their distinctive style.

SALIH ÖZCAN

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Perhaps the most underrated and understated piece of business that Dortmund have completed so far, Salih Özcan enters the frame as a relative unknown to many outside the Bundesliga. An excellent tempo-setting midfielder that can also time his tackles nicely, the 24-year-old should help to make up for what Axel Witsel lacked last year, particularly in holding down the gauntlet in defensive transitions. Özcan excels when it comes to visual perceptions of the pitch, and spatial awareness of the chaos erupting around him. He’s an astute, positionally aware midfielder that will aid Dortmund’s ability to anticipate and intercept the ball in midfield, whilst simultaneously possessing the necessary ability to go 1v1 against speedy attackers and time his challenges. Özcan boasted a pressure success of 42% last season in the Bundesliga, with over 8 successful pressures per game for FC Cologne. That positions his ability to hunt down opposition players and pressure them into making a mistake in the top 1% of defensive midfielders in Europe’s top five leagues – evidently a key reason why the Black & Yellows moved so quickly for the German-born midfielder.

When looking at his defensive numbers, there are few others in the world of football that can compare to the 24-year-old’s impeccable awareness and quality. Özcan would be expected to play the role of a terrier in a Cologne set-up more focused on intense pressing, counter-pressing, and holding shape out of possession. His superior tackle + interception numbers won’t come as a surprise to anyone, even if they do boast well for his defensive IQ and positional intelligence. But his superior percentage points both on tackle and pressure success point toward a long-awaited upgrade in defending central pockets of space, and reducing their troubles in transition.

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So in the midst of making up for the most devastating holes in Axel Witsel’s game, he also dovetails as a similar player to Mahmoud Dahoud. The Turkish midfielder is an excellent passer of the ball, using those astute visual perceptions to his advantage in finding teammates in advantageous positions. Dahoud is a player that always seems to know exactly how to cut a crisp pass across the grass to find a teammate in space, and Salih Özcan offers very similar qualities in his ability to spray long passes and facilitate build-up. Only Axel Witsel completed more of his long passes than the 24-year-old’s 72.8%, when scrutinizing over Dortmund’s midfield ranks last season. Beyond passing quality, the Turk is even quite quick on the dribble, and wisely selects moments to burst up the field with the ball at his feet.

He even occasionally took set-pieces for FC Köln, helping to boost his chance creation numbers to 0.7 key passes per game – a nice asset for a defensively-minded player to possess. On that note, Özcan can be expected to fulfill more of a defensive role for the Black & Yellows. But his ability in possession, particularly in keeping the game ticking through short, simple passes, means that he won’t slow down Dortmund’s circulation and ability to progress through the thirds.

NIKLAS le

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When Bayern Munich first moved for Niklas Süle, we wrote an article predicting a transfer to Dortmund after a few years. It took longer than expected, but the German-born defender has finally fulfilled our prophecy in joining Edin Terzic’s team, leaving Bayern Munich on a free transfer. Süle never quite set the world on fire at Bayern Munich, but adds a significant degree of pedigree, experience and brute strength to Dortmund’s defense, having won 14 trophies in his five-year-spell with the Bavarians. Having come from Nagelsmann’s Bayern, Süle’s transition to Terzic’s team will be a smooth one. He excels in all of the facets that would be expected to shine through at Dortmund, such as his ability to both progressively and patiently play out from the back. But the greatest of concerns last season (not to sound like a broken record), was Dortmund’s poor ability to defend in transition. Even despite a myriad of injuries at Bayern, Niklas Süle hasn’t lost much of his pace, and can handle his own on more than just sheer strength and power. He tackled 65% of the dribblers that attempted to wiggle their way past him last season, an awesome trait to possess in a team that will so often be defending counter-attacks. A beast in the air, the German defender will be fully capable of matching Mats Hummels’ aerial strength as he makes his way out of the team, whilst adding the necessary dynamism to defend in transition.

With a warrior mentality to match, Niklas Süle is the type of defender that wants to throw his body in the way of everything, and will improve upon the aggressive intensity of Dortmund’s weak frame at the back.

But evidently more than just a defender, Süle compares quite well to the very best ‘Ball-Playing Centre-Halves’ in the world. His long passing success last season topped off at 82.9%, despite needing to make over 10 passes per game under pressure – within the top 1% of centre-backs in the world. At 6.23 progressive passes and 5.10 progressive carries per 90 in league play, Süle even surpassed both the exceptionalities of Akanji and Hummels last season, which will serve him well in helping Dortmund play under pressure and progress through the thirds. It’s not unlike Dortmund to pick up the leftovers from their arch-rivals, but Süle is a smart piece of business that will immediately add quality should he stay fit.

NICO SCHLOTTERBECK

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Everything that we said about Niklas Süle can also apply to Nico Schlotterbeck. He’s a remarkably complete footballer, capable of holding down the brunt of his defensive responsibilities, whilst supporting build-up and progressively advancing up the field. Dortmund play a possession-based style of football, that requires not only patience, but the ability to correctly perceive moments to carry forward or spray longer passes. Schlotterbeck’s numbers will naturally increase within Dortmund’s 60% possession mantra, even despite already boasting impressive stats.

But Schlotterbeck also offers the advantage of being a left-footed-centre-back, which will add a different edge to Dortmund’s ability to progress through the thirds, play out from the back, and support the movement in-field of Marco Reus. A physical centre-back that never takes no for an answer, Schlotterbeck adds a fear factor to Dortmund’s defense that had been lacking for years. We wrote in-depth on ‘What Nico Schlotterbeck will bring to Borussia Dortmund‘, which is well worth a read for the expanded analysis of what makes the German such a talented footballer.

But for now, know that Schlotterbeck would be an excellent partner for either Manuel Akanji or Niklas Süle, perhaps even both at the same time as the Black & Yellows switch to a back-three. He even provides a threat in the final third, having scored 4 goals, with 1.2 shots and 1.68 shot-creating-actions per 90 last season. Out of all the signings, Schlotterbeck is perhaps the most exciting and inviting, as one of the most sought after defenders in the world.

CONCLUSION

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Borussia Dortmund’s summer transfer business has been enthralling and exciting, covering many of the holes they most desperately needed. As a Haaland replacement, they’ve astutely signed the dynamic Karim Adeyemi; and may even secure a second striker in the form of Sebastien Haller, who offers the Norwegian’s strength, hold-up-play, and poacher-like instincts in the box. As an Axel Witsel replacement and simultaneous defensive transition booster, they’ve gone in for Salih Özcan, who possesses more than enough quality to aid Dortmund’s possession endeavours.

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Then in improving their defensive structures and preparing for life without Mats Hummels, the Black & Yellows have secured the services of the progressive yet robust physicality of both Niklas Süle and Nico Schlotterbeck. In the background, they’ve even added youth products to their ranks in the other most desperate positions of need for the future. Many regard Dortmund’s transfer business as being one of the best across Europe so far this summer, and fans of the Black & Yellows will be hoping that this could be their year to challenge for a title.


So there it is! An analysis of Dortmund’s astute summer transfer business so far in 2022-23. Be sure to check out more of our Tactical Analyses, Transfer Market Analyses, and follow on social media @mastermindsite. Thanks for reading and see you soon!

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