While Jadon Sancho and Erling Haaland continue to steal the headlines at Borussia Dortmund, Raphael Guerreiro remains one of the club's unsung heroes in 2020.
Four wins from a possible five in the Rückrunde has rekindled Borussia Dortmund’s title tilt in the 2019/20 campaign. Such is the star-studded nature of BVB’s squad and performances though, that Guerreiro’s form has largely flown under the radar.
Three of the 26-year-old’s five goals in the current campaign have come in his last four outings with Cologne, Bayer Leverkusen and, most recently, Eintracht Frankfurt the victims of a new-found eye for goal.
To reduce Guerreiro’s recent performances to goalscoring exploits alone, however, would be an unfair reflection of the influence he’s had in Dortmund’s opening five games of the year.
Watch: Guerreiro's first goal of 2020 in the Matchday 19 thrashing of Cologne (skip to 0:20 seconds)
In those fixtures, he’s had 12 shots on goal and set up a further eight goalscoring chances - and were it not for the frame of Frankfurt’s goal on Friday he may have taken his season’s goal tally to six. Already just one goal short of matching his most prolific Bundesliga campaign, there’s an argument to be made that Guerreiro is currently thriving like never before at Dortmund.
Patience has been needed to reach this point from both sides. Dortmund fans have had to wait for him to recreate the form seen in his debut season under Thomas Tuchel when he produced six goals and five assists in the 2016/17 Bundesliga campaign.
By the same token Guerreiro has had to bide his time. Tuchel’s departure at the end of that season proved a setback as he dropped down the pecking order, playing second or third fiddle under both Peter Bosz and Peter Stöger. It was Lucien Favre who began breathing new life into his Dortmund career, but even then there was a conundrum.
At left-back struggled with inconsistency at times. As a left winger he lacked the dynamism to pose as great a threat as his more explosive contemporaries could, and suffered from the natural comparisons that were drawn against Sancho and Co.
All-rounder qualities that were previously to his detriment in specialist positions are now the reason the Portuguese pocket-rocket is enjoying the best of both worlds as part of a new-look BVB side lining up in a 3-4-3 formation. His discipline is no longer as determining a factor on the defensive end, while his ability to pull the strings in the shadows is bolstered by the focus stolen by Dortmund’s formidable frontline.
“I think it’s super, I love playing so much and really enjoy when I get to push forward and join in the attacks,” Guerreiro told Ruhrnachrichten when asked about his new role during the winter break.
“That plays more to my strengths and gives me the security of having another defender behind me. The approach we have adopted gives us the opportunity to be even more dynamic in reacting to our opponents.”
The defensive cover provided is complemented by Guerreiro’s tenacity when covering ground and tracking down opponents. Winning an average of 61 per cent of his challenges through the first five games of 2020 speaks to the balance the 39-time Portugal international has struck on Dortmund’s left flank.
While Guerreiro’s level of consistency is beginning to draw a greater share of plaudits, BVB as a collective are still trying to establish a greater sense of stability in Favre’s latest tactical revolution. The shutout of Frankfurt was as impressive as the loss to Bayer Leverkusen was disappointing.
Dortmund will be intent on producing a performance to match the former in the first leg of an UEFA Champions League double-header against Paris Saint Germain. For Guerreiro it represents a reunion with the man who opened the door on his BVB career, but on Tuesday he’ll have a chance to underline that it’s Favre getting the best out of it.