Alcacer out; Dortmund lack Plan B
Background image: Markus Unger, CC BY 2.0
Ever since Lucien Favre took over, Borussia Dortmund have earned the reputation for playing enthralling attacking football and more importantly, scoring goals. Sure, their defensive work might be sub-par, but finishing off beautifully scripted moves have never been a problem.
Well, at least not until recently. For the first time this season, BVB failed to score in successive games. A sturdy Inter Milan kept them quiet in the UEFA Champions League, before arch-rivals Schalke overwhelmed them in the Revierderby. As pressure mounts on a flustered Favre, questions about their striking options are inevitable.
Over the years, Dortmund have rarely lacked a quality striker. Robert Lewandowski marched them onto the Champions League finals before being swooped in by arch-rivals Bayern Munich. Pierre Emerick-Aubameyang scored goals for days before Arsenal roped him in. Paco Alcacer’s signing proved to be Barcelona’s loss.
Yet, the problem the Spaniard has is keeping fit. He’s prone to injuries, disabling him from maintaining consistency in his performance-level. That's probably why the Catalonian giants decided to let him leave.
Rather than signing another potent goal-scorer as competition for Alcacer to tap into his utmost potential, instead BVB opted to persist with just the one natural centre-forward. Mario Gotze, Marco Reus and even Julian Brandt have since been used as make-shift options upfront.
Now, thanks to their grounded, quick-linking style, their attacking midfielders are capable enough in finishing off their slick moves. Dortmund’s exciting attacking style, along with multi-talented personnel available, also makes creating chances that much easier.
But against stringent defenders, it isn’t easy for midfielders to do a striker’s job. The edge Paco possesses over his team-mates is he has that natural striker’s traits to cleverly moving into free areas, poking in from close range and anticipating chances when he sees one.
Gotze is too short or lacking in physical capability to dominate defenders inside the area. Granted, his hard-working tendencies and clever movement make him a nuisance, yet he’ just isn’t built to operate as a striker.
Brandt is naturally a winger or playmaker, also lacking the knowledge on when to make penetrative forward runs or outwit defenders in the final third. Their shortcomings have amplified the pressure upon captain Marco Reus as well as star winger Jadon Sancho.
The Dortmund captain is tired of people doubting his side’s mentality but is himself being worn out with his team's issues. Of course, Reus’ sublime striking ability and creativity grants him an edge over opposition defenders, but even he can’t do everything by himself all the time.
Sancho’s also seen a slight dip in form in Alcacer’s absence - lacking that cutting-edge despite being full of tricks. Of course, unloading responsibilities onto a 19-year-old and expecting him to play multiple roles is just being naïve.
Thankfully, The Spaniard is closing in on a return. But after watching him catch the injury bug every now and then, relying upon Alcacer would be stupidity. In January, their priority must be to snap up a striker. For a fanbase which deems scoring goals more important than stopping them from going in, a quality forward must be prioritised ahead of a defender.
Erling Braut Haaland has himself scored more goals in the Champions League than Dortmund have. Yet his demand means they’ll be priced out of a potential move. FC Porto’s Moussa Marega is another cunning option, but the Portuguese’s side fight for the Liga NOS title means they won’t sell easily.
Perhaps looking back at Spain for another option could work a treat. La Liga top-scorer Gerard Moreno is ideal for their fast-paced, flexible attacking style. He’s suited in yellow. But goading him away requires a hefty price.
Real Madrid’s wantaway striker Mariano Diaz is a sound choice. He’s unwanted by Zidane. Yet he possesses all the traits to thrive under Favre’s system. Real Betis’ striker Loren Moron is another blooming individual at the peak of his goal-scoring powers.
Be it cutting a steal or having to splash the cash, Der BVB must sign another striker to have a proper go at the Bundesliga title in the second half. Without Alcacer, they’ve only netted seven times in the last six games. Shifting midfielders into strikers will result in similarly drab results. Unless Favre and co stack up their striking options, even more dismay could be waiting...