• Aubameyang could miss three games while on AFCON duty.
  • Tuchel deprived of 16-goal striker.
  • Mor, Schürrle, Reus, Ramos, Dembele and Götze all stand to benefit.

With Borussia Dortmund striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang set to be absent for up to a month on international duty at the Africa Cup of Nations, coach Thomas Tuchel's task of guiding his side into the UEFA Champions League next season has been complicated somewhat.

Yet as explains, the 43-year-old tactician has the tools to at his disposal to fill the void.

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Certainly somebody else will need to put the ball in the back of the net for BVB this month, but with 21 goals coming from other sources in the first 16 games of the season, Dortmund are not lacking in that department. With a plethora of talented attack-minded players to choose from, Tuchel may even find that a bit of enforced tinkering could bring out the best in several other star names.

Now fit again and firing, Marco Reus will hope to sprint out of the blocks in 2017. © DFL DEUTSCHE FUSSBALL LIGA / Thomas Niedermüller

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For example, Marco Reus' 2016/17 season had hardly taken off by the time the winter break came around. The Germany international returned from injury for just four Bundesliga outings, and the opportunity to get back up to peak condition over the winter could be a boon for a man who has 86 Bundesliga goals to his name.

Whether Tuchel goes with a lone striker such as Adrian Ramos or a broader attacking threat, one thing he need not worry about is the supply line, with Ousmane Dembele second in the Bundesliga only to RB Leipzig's Emil Forsberg in terms of assists, having provided eight. Without a target man, the Frenchman could also benefit from a little more freedom of choice, increasing the likelihood of more of Dortmund's goals coming from deeper positions.

Pulisic and Dembele have provided 11 assists between them this season, and now could be time for them to take up even more prominent roles. © imago

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That could also free up the likes of Emre Mor, Andre Schürrle and, last but certainly not least, Christian Pulisic. The USMNT rising star may have played only 686 minutes so far this season, yet in that time he has created four goals and scored two of his own.

Turkey international Mor opened his Bundesliga account in the 6-0 Matchday 3 win over SV Darmstadt 98, yet he has had to survive on crumbs for much of the first 16 games of the season. Freed from Aubameyang's gargantuan shadow, opportunity could be about to knock for one of Europe's most highly-rated emerging talents.

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Schürrle battled with knee problems for much of the first half of the season and he, like Reus, will have made the most of the extended break to get into optimum shape. An experienced Germany international with 48 Bundesliga goals to his name, he also has a proven eye for goal and the freedom in a potentially three-pronged attack could allow him to flourish.

Finally, there is an option Tuchel need not experiment with, one which has been tried and tested by Germany coach Joachim Löw: Mario Götze as the false nine. Since returning to Dortmund from FC Bayern München in the summer, the 24-year-old has shown glimpses of the qualities which have brought him 45 Bundesliga goals and a half-century of assists, and now could be the chance for the 2014 World Cup final-winning goalscorer to provide some more telling scrapbook strikes.

Dortmund fans have arguably yet to see the best of Götze since he returned to Westphalia in the summer.

So while Aubameyang's absence inevitably takes something away from the Dortmund team, Tuchel has the means to give something back with interest, and he proved in his 1. FSV Mainz 05 days that he is a dab hand when it comes to innovation and tinkering.

What Tuchel ultimately rustles up for his side's Matchday 17 clash with , and potentially the trip to Mainz and headline clash with Leipzig that follow, remains to be seen. Yet he has every reason to see Aubameyang's AFCON participation as an opportunity rather than an obstacle as he looks to lift his side from their current position of sixth into the top three, even without his club's and one of the Bundesliga's star attractions.

Ben Gladwell

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