Jakub Błaszczykowski’s absence robbing Dortmund of wide threat

Despite excellent form in the Champions League this term, Borussia Dortmund have had a disastrous start to their domestic campaign.

After 11 games of the new Bundesliga season Jürgen Klopp’s men find themselves in the lower reaches of the standings with only three wins to date; they are already 17 points adrift of leaders Bayern Munich.

Injuries have rightly been touted as a key reason for a slow start, with the Signal Iduna Park side not fielding the same team consecutively yet in 2014-15.

It has predominantly been in defence where absenteeism has been felt, but having only scored 12 goals in 11 games so far question marks must be asked of their potency in the final third.

Losing Robert Lewandowski to Bayern in the summer was always going to be a hammer blow, but it appears that it is not only the Pole’s killer instinct in front of goal but his link-up play that is being sorely missed.

In Dortmund’s scrappy 1-0 win over Borussia Mönchengladbach at the weekend it took an outrageous own goal from Christoph Kramer to give the hosts victory.

Had it not been for this calamitous mistake, there is every chance that Klopp’s men would not have broken the deadlock.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was deployed in the lone striker’s role and it must be said that he offered a threat in behind the opposition rearguard and was tidy on the ball.

However, the supporting cast of Marco Reus, Shinji Kagawa and Henrikh Mkhitaryan did not create many chances for the Gabon international, with the attacking trident looking strangely unbalanced.

Kagawa is still get back to grips with regular football after an underwhelming two-year stint in England and looked nothing like the man that played a key role in the club’s Bundesliga triumph in 2011-12.

The Japan international was utilised in the number ten role behind Aubameyang but played a peripheral role in Dortmund’s attacking efforts.

Renowned for his technique, Kagawa’s first touch was slightly off and it is clear that he is suffering from a real dip in confidence.

Henrikh MkhitaryanMkhitaryan mainly operated from the right of the three but his natural instinct is to look for space in-field; as a result the Armenian and Kagawa often found themselves in the same areas.

The former Shakhtar Donetsk man actually showed some excellent turns of pace and is obviously a real threat in broken play, but end product is lacking.

Mkhitaryan is yet to score in the league this season and has been guilty of missing clearcut chances in Europe; this was also the case when a glorious opportunity came knocking in the first half.

On the other flank Reus is an imperious footballer with such talent, but there appears to be an over-reliance on the Germany international from his team.

Although happy to get the ball in to feet in wide areas, Reus also popped up centrally against his former club, congesting things even more.

As such most of Dortmund’s attacking emphasis was based around tight passing in built-up central areas, with little to no width on offer in the opposition half.

Full-backs Łukasz Piszczek and Erik Durm offered little on the front foot and as such Mönchengladbach were able to frustrate the hosts.

Despite the Dortmund fans counting down the days until Mats Hummels is fully fit and able to slot back into the team’s defence, the return of right winger Jakub Błaszczykowski should be even more telling for the struggling side.

The Pole is happy to hug the touchline and has immaculate delivery; his presence on the right of Dortmund’s attacking three would surely balance the team and make them more dangerous going forward.

Add to this his understanding with countryman Piszczek and Klopp’s side will have more threat in wide areas.

With the 28-year-old still on the sidelines for the time being until recovery from a cruciate ligament injury is complete, there is a real case to move Mkhitaryan into his natural number ten role and use someone like Kevin Großkreutz to provide more width on the right.

A challenge for the Bundesliga title is already out of the question after only 11 games, but the Signal Iduna Park faithful will hope that their side’s hard-fought win over Mönchengladbach will be the catalyst for a march back to the higher echelons of the league table.

By
I am a freelance football journalist from Northern Ireland living in Broome in Western Australia. I have worked for top media outlets such as FourFourTwo, goal.com, Soccerlens, Football Fancast and Here is the City. I am a lifelong and long-suffering Tottenham fan. Follow me on Twitter at @90MinsOnline
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