Dortmund - In Mario Götze, Borussia Dortmund may have lost a player dubbed one of the ‘talents of the century’, but they certainly haven’t stood idly by as the 21-year-old embarks on the next stage of his career at FC Bayern Munich.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Henrikh Mkhitaryan have been signed to the Yellow Blacks as Götze's replacements, while the defence has been reinforced with the arrival of Sokratis Papastathopoulos.bundesliga.com assesses the changes the squad has undergone, and their possible consequences ahead of the new season.
Götze no more
Götze is undoubtedly Dortmund’s biggest loss. The midfield wizard had his best-ever Bundesliga season in 2012/13, scoring a career-best ten league goals and providing an impressive eight assists. He also created a staggering 82 chances and boasted a pass completion rate of almost 86 per cent. Indeed, his mere presence in the Borussia line-up was enough to strike fear into their opponents. In the nine league games in which he scored, Dortmund never lost, drawing three and winning six.
Coach Jürgen Klopp is also light of youngsters Moritz Leitner, who has joined VfB Stuttgart on loan, and Hannover 96-bound Leonardo Bittencourt. Leitner saw his playing time reduced by the return of Nuri Sahin last winter, starting just eight league games, while Bittencourt made just five appearances, three of them from the bench. His new club Hannover will be hoping to make more of the 19-year-old's potential.
As disappointing as Götze’s departure has been, BVB have responded admirably. Gabon international Aubameyang can play on either side of midfield, as well as up front and was one of the stars of Ligue 1 for AS Saint-Etienne last season. He scored 19 goals, assisted 14 and set up the winning goal in the League Cup final victory over Stade Rennais FC. He is without experience in the UEFA Champions League but at 24, he is at an ideal age to be exposed to the rigours of the competition.
His fellow new recruit, on the other hand, has undoubted Champions League pedigree. Mkhitaryan played every minute of FC Shakhtar Donetsk’s campaign in 2012/13, scoring twice, and announced himself with two excellent displays in the Ukrainian side’s last-16 exit to Borussia. Furthermore, he top scored domestically with 29 goals, an astounding tally for a midfielder. At first glance, then, replacing Götze doesn’t seem so impossible after all.
In five years at the Signal-Iduna-Park, Felipe Santana proved an able deputy whenever Neven Subotic or Mats Hummels were unavailable at the heart of the Dortmund defence. In 2012/13 the Brazilian repaid his coach's faith with the highest tackles-won ratio of any player in the Bundesliga - an impressive 73 per cent.
However, his use of the ball left something to be desired, as just a third of his long-range passes reached their target. Dortmund were also on the end of some costly defeats when he featured, such as the 2-1 derby loss at home to FC Schalke 04 and a 4-1 home thrashing at the hands of Hamburger SV. As a result, the club didn't stand in his way when Ruhr rivals FC Schalke 04 registered an interest.
Instead, the Yellow Blacks moved to replace the Brazilian with Werder Bremen's Sokratis. The Greek international has only been in the Bundesliga since 2011 but has developed a reputation as an uncompromising and reliable defender. Able to play centrally or at right-back, he was the leader of an admittedly leaky SV Werder Bremen backline (66 goals conceded) in 2012/13, but the former AC Milan player's personal statistics suggest he's a shrewd addition to the BVB squad.
Sokratis was a regular in his two seasons at the Weserstadion, captaining the team on one occasion against Greuther Fürth and scoring in the northern derby against Hamburg in January. He also won an impressive 64 per cent of his challenges in his 29 appearances and 68 per cent of his aerial duels. His robust style does come at a cost, however. The 25-year-old conceded one penalty and committed 61 fouls last season, more than any other Werder player. Santana, by contrast, committed just 16.
Conclusion: shaping up nicely
Sokratis may not dislodge either Subotic or Hummels, but crucially, he will provide added competition to a defence that plainly needs to make improvements on the 42 goals they conceded last season, a number more than twice that of league winners Bayern. That, as well as versatility, is what would appear to mark him out from Santana and in that sense, therefore, the defensive part of the squad looks stronger.
Without Götze's goals last season, BVB would have had five fewer points, and only Marco Reus provided more assists than the so-called 'German Messi' in 2012/13. However, Aubameyang and Mkhitaryan are young, quick and exciting players that appear tailor-made for Klopp’s system of pacey, energetic and expansive football. The Dortmund fans have every reason to be excited.