Munich - Jakub Blaszczykowski’s season-ending injury has come as another hefty blow to Borussia Dortmund’s wavering campaign.
Option A: attack
After the Pole tore ligaments in his right knee during Saturday’s 2-2 draw at home to FC Augsburg, attentions have now turned to whom BVB head coach Jürgen Klopp might choose to fill the Kuba-shaped void in the months ahead.
Perhaps the leading contender for a starting berth on the right-hand side of midfield is Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, tellingly Blaszcykowski’s sixth-minute replacement on Matchday 18. Although the 24-year-old had little joy against the steely Bavarians, his previous performances in this his maiden Bundesliga campaign will come as a great source of comfort to the Dortmund faithful.
The Gabon international has already scored nine times in 17 league outings, whilst averaging a shot on goal every 27 minutes. Kuba, on the other hand, has scored just twice, chancing his arm every 56 minutes. The Pole, however, is far more inclined to help out defensively, whereas Aubameyang, famed for his blistering pace, earns his keep in far more advanced positions.
Option B: defend
A safer bet from a defensive perspective, then, would arguably be local boy Kevin Großkreutz. The 25-year-old has excelled in the absence of first-choice right-back Lukasz Piszczek this season and, as a left-sided midfielder by trade, is unlikely to experience too many teething problems further up the park on the opposing flank. He has, it should be noted, played there before.
A curious but not implausible variation, meanwhile, could see Klopp leave Großkreutz at right-back, instead shifting Piszczek, once fully fit, up into midfield. The Poland international is widely regarded as one of the best in the business in his favoured position, but like so many full-backs these days, started life as a striker. A viable option, it is also a move that would surely see to any misgivings in the balance department.
Klopp’s only other potential route would be to blood 21-year-old midfielder Jonas Hofmann, who made his first-team debut in the Matchday 1 win over Augsburg just five months ago. Having featured 14 times in the league without once completing the full 90 minutes since, however, the opportunity afforded by Kuba’s absence is likely to have come a shade too soon for the talented winger.
So that leaves Klopp with three potential solutions to one Kuba-sized problem. Aubameyang, Großkreutz and Piszczek all have their merits, but just who gets the green light could well come down to the size and stature of the task in hand. Though not a luxury in the truest sense of the word, BVB at least have options in their bid to secure UEFA Champions League football for the fourth season running.