The news regarding Dortmund’s Bayern-bound wonderkid’s Champions League final lay-off has been overplayed in the pre-match media hype. With Marco Reus, Dortmund have the ideal man to fill the gap both tomorrow night and in the seasons to come argues Scott Jenkins…
As news broke of Mario Götze’s injury and likely absence from the all-Bundesliga UEFA Champions League final between Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich, the sporting media broke out into a typical frenzy. Such a reaction is only natural you may think, after all this match is the highest profile game of the domestic football calendar with the player in question the current golden boy of German football. The subject of a controversial pending €37m summer switch between these two teams, and already hailed as the “German Messi” by Franz Beckenbauer, to casual eyes it seemed as though Dortmund’s most vital player had been snatched away from them even sooner than they had anticipated.
There can be no doubting that losing a player of Götze’s calibre is a loss for Dortmund, but what has been missed are the advantages his accelerated removal from the starting lineup could bring to BVB.
Step forward, Marco Reus.
The high flying, bleach-blond attacking midfielder was brought back to the club by Jürgen Klopp in July 2012 following a pre-contract agreement made during the previous winter break. Originally a product of the Dortmund youth set up, he left for German third division side Rot Weiss Ahlen in search of first team football. The risky move paid off with one of Reus’ goals for the club leading to promotion to the second tier of the Bundesliga on the final day of the season. At the end of the following campaign Borussia Mönchengladbach came calling and Reus’s first goal for them was a highlight reel 50 metre solo run against Mainz 05. Ninety seven games and thirty six goals later, including a run of seven strikes in twelve matches at the start of the 2011/12 season, Dortmund beckoned once more after meeting the €18m fee required to buy-out his contract.
Reus has taken to Klopp’s high pressing and rapid transition approach to football seamlessly with goals regularly interspersed throughout the season. The speed and ease through which he has assimilated himself into the gegenpressing style, becoming an important first team player at Dortmund, was helped by his time playing within last season’s eye-catching and dynamic Gladbach team who now miss his presence greatly.
After claiming a regular starting spot he has grown into the role and boasts a goals-to-game ratio just short of one in every other game that he has started in the Bundesliga alone. To add further context to this, domestically he has outscored Wayne Rooney this season while playing a similar amount of games. This form has been replicated internationally too where Reus has netted five goals for Germany during the 2014 FIFA World Cup Qualification campaign too, including two braces.
Across all matches this season, Reus offers a goal return of 0.52 per game. An incredible statistic considering the pressure upon him when returning back to the club he left as a youth, that he is playing at a higher level than ever before including six Champions League group ties against three domestic champions from around Europe coupled with Hollywood level drama in the knockout fixtures and the progression with the German national team too. Nor are the statistics weighted by strikes against lesser teams or with Dortmund already holding a significant lead, much like Dimitar Berbatov at Man Utd. Instead Reus’ goals have come against Man City, Real Madrid, Ajax and Malaga in the Champions League, Bundesliga teams such as former champions Wolfsburg, Leverkusen and Werder Bremen. For Germany Reus has scored in EURO 2012 against Greece and in key World Cup qualifying ties against Austria, Ireland and Kazakhstan.
Goals are not the only string to his bow however. This season Reus has been adept at providing assists with 14 across the board too leaving a ratio here of 0.27 per game. As before, these assists are happening in crucial games including one in the Champions League semi final crushing of Real Madrid with Robert Lewandowski finishing and two in the brilliant 4-4 draw recently between Germany and Sweden in World Cup qualification.
Götze’s injury now forces Klopp’s hand tactically. In order to defeat Bayern in the final, they must do so without his intelligent creativity from the centre. Dortmund must become even more direct when in possession and quite simply Marco Reus has become the best player to attempt this strategy with. While Robert Lewandowski will lead the line and offer offensive support, the high defensive pressing and counter attacking drive must come from Reus. It’s also worth remembering that in last year’s German cup final, a Götze-less Dortmund (again denied from a final by injury) triumphed against their Munich rivals 5-2 thanks to the agile and decisive Shinji Kagawa. Fans of Die Schwarzgelben will be homing their returning attacking midfielder can have a similar impact from the hole tomorrow night.
There are also other possible advantages to be unearthed when contemplating who might be Götze’s replacement. While the transfer release fee triggered by Bayern to secure the midfielder for the summer may have been well below the asking price Dortmund would have otherwise set, the club are still set to recoup and are likely to bring in replacements, with Ajax’s Christian Eriksen and Atlético Mineiro’s Bernard widely rumoured to be on the verge of moving to the Bundesliga.
Within the current squad however there are various options available to Klopp with a like for like swap with Kevin Großkreutz possible or the prospect of pushing İlkay Gündoğan forward with Sebastian Kehl partnering Sven Bender in central midfield. The prospect of Nuri Sahin making his loan move into a permanent return to the club that made him is also a real possibility, reinforcing Dortmund’s sense of homegrown identity and providing extra creativity and intelligence from deep.
Ultimately, whoever Klopp chooses will likely be much more disciplined tactically than Götze, who has often been handed license to roam free thanks to his talent and skill. In turn, a more rigid base structure may well allow greater freedom for the likes of Reus to take the initiative on the flanks and in the hole to attack with greater direction.
In a fascinating interview with The Guardian’s Donald McRae at the start of April, Reus revealed “I’ve never played in London before. That would not be a bad way to start a game in London – with a Champions League final. I hope … I hope that happens.” He stands now just 24 hours from that hope coming true and starting in the biggest game of his life. Marco Reus has already shown that he is ready for this test and on Saturday, he will show that while Götze may be the golden boy, Reus is the real star of German football.