Axel Witsel The Engine For Blazing Borussia Dortmund
Background Photo by: Allie Caulfield, CC By 2.0
Borussia Dortmund’s early domination has been accredited to many individuals. Some are praising the terrific work from front-three comprising super-sub Francisco Alcacer, young upstart Jadon Sancho and Mr Reliable Marco Reus. Others are hailing the astute work from Lucien Favre. Yet, under all this praise, Axel Witsel’s brilliant work has been slightly downplayed.
Signed for a mere €20 million from Chinese Super League side Tianjin Quanjian, Witsel was initially touted as a cunning buy. However, with the rise of Die Borussen’s incredible trio and sleek football, his stellar work is being overlooked. He does his job discreetly and despite not being flashy like certain teammates, the Belgian’s had a huge influence in overhauling Der BVB’s game.
Operating mainly as an anchor, the midfielder’s style is much broader than just halting attacks. He’s been a complete midfielder for Der BVB, influencing both their attacking prowess as well as defensive solidity. The afro-haired Belgian’s much beyond just an intimidating physique, also possessing a very cunning footballing brain. Something every manager craves for.
But at the heart of Dortmund’s attacking style since coming aboard, initiating chances with his impressive distribution. Not only does Witsel boast a sensational 93% passing accuracy from 1000+ passes, but he’s also started almost all 16 games for Die Borussen, barring one. He’s not defencethe bullying midfielder like national compatriot Marouane Fellaini, using a more collective approach to games.
A move from a developing football country like China to a more competitive environment like the Bundesliga’s done him much good. Not only has the Belgian had to up the ante himself, but he also looks much happier being much closer to his home. He called joining Borussia the “Best decision of his career”, proving how eager he was to get involved in high-octane European Football after a prolific World Cup campaign with Belgium.
The Former Zenit midfielder has also taken to Dortmund’s new-found system under coach Favre in sublime stride. Despite having the knack to show off every now and then, he’s maintained a very disciplined approach to games. Not only is the Belgian a vital link from defence to attack for his side, he’s also key for Der BVB maintaining a clever defensive line.
He always operates in the shadows, the reason for him not getting the spotlight much often. Witsel’s movement and intelligence are exquisite if one's tracks him thoroughly. He preserves his energy to work hard in covering the space left by partner Thomas Delaney, who made things easier for him with his own compelling work.
He can often be seen covering the free areas left by Manuel Akanji and Abdou Diallo whenever they’re forced out of positions by the opposition strikers. He’s clever in drifting into spaces opponents look the penetrate through, putting in crucial challenges and interceptions to win back possession. He takes the Sergio Busquets route in cleverly reading the game, resulting in him making only 24 interceptions and 23 clearances. However, he's maintained a decent 71% tackle success.
While the Belgian hasn’t managed to score or assist much, he’s put in almost 10 key passes which led to goal-scoring chances. He’s not the average midfielder looking to pass sideways, with his creativity allowing him to instigate counter-attacks by finding the runs of his attacking compatriots.
Whenever he’s contributed, he’s done it in sublime fashion. Witsel introduced himself to the Signal Iduna Park in style by scoring a spectacular scissors-kick in his official debut, helping them thump RB Leipzig 4-1 to start their title-charge in election fashion.
2 key passes
1 big chance created
96.3% pass accuracy
2/2 long balls
3/3 successful dribbles
4/5 duels won
People asked why Dortmund signed him in the summer, today he showed why. https://t.co/jU1ECfd3Me
He also provided a pitch-perfect assist for Paco Alcacer to thump in the winner against Bayern Munich in the Der Klassiker, enabling Der BVB to set a resounding lead at the top. He’s become the missing link in midfield for the German giants, providing steel as well as swagger to Favre’s style.
Witsel’s been the fuel to help the Borussia Dortmund’s race-car zoom ahead of everyone else. Nicknamed “Chaloupe”, meaning a slow and steady boat, he’s brought a relaxed demeanour with him, stabilising Dortmund’s midfield and enabling his side to dominate oppositions with ease.