15 April 2015

Picking apart the Dortmund carcass: Klopp, Reus, Hummels, and more...

Jürgen Klopp's decision to step down as Dortmund's manager at the end of the season has set tongues wagging, with some suggesting that the charismatic German would be an ideal replacement for Arsène. Of course, other Prem destinations have been touted, chief among them Man City, but the salivating doesn't stop there. With Klopp set to leave, the club itself looks likely to enter a period of turmoil, and the vultures are circling. Having already seen talismanic players like Mario Götze and Robert Lewandowski bolt to Bayern, and with the current squad languishing in mid-table mediocrity (six points from relegation, 37 points behind Bayern), Klopp has apparently seen the writing on the wall: the Bundesliga belongs to Bayern. His quixotic quest to win the Champions League briefly distracted attention from Dortmund's league woes. The question now is, who in this squad could Arsenal sign?

We've waxed rhapsodic and commiserated over the similarities between Arsenal and Dortmund before: the young, plucky players; the struggles to compete with better-financed rivals; losing players to those rivals; attention to aesthetically pleasing football; and so on. That solidarity has hotted up in recent years as we've been pitted against each other in the Champions League group-stage three times in the last four campaigns, and so a part of me delves into this autopsy with a bit of regret. However, I've learned that life is one crushing defeat after another until you just wish Flanders was dead. C'mon. Don't tell me you've never noticed the connections. The glasses. The brushed-back hair. The relentless optimism. The yellow.

More seriously, though, let's set aside the Arsène-Jürgen issue. While Klopp claims that he's not had contact with another club, the more-salient issue is that he's managed a club that, like Everton, has gone to pieces while Arsène seems to have finally gotten his groove back, at least enough to forestall the chatter around replacing him in the immediate future. More to the point, then, is what Klopp's resignation might mean for the rest of the squad when the club itself seems likely to blow this squad up and start over. Who among them could we go after?

  • Marco Reus
    Advantages: idolizes Tomáš Rosický. Crafty. Technically skilled. Fits Arsène's fetish for versatile, attacking midfielders.
    Drawbacks: likely to command a transfer-fee upwards of £50m. Heavily linked with a move to Real Madrid or Manchester City. Injury-prone (14 matches missed due to ankle-injuries).
    Likelihood: 10%. Too much competition.
  • Mats Hummels
    Advantages: plays centre-back and defensive midfield, finally laying to rest the question, "Could [insert centre-back name here] also play DM?" Tall. Astute passer and dribbler.
    Drawbacks:already heavily linked with Man U. Already overpriced for a defender, £30-40m.
    Likelihood: 30%. Man U's needs and financial fecklessness might trump us.
  • Ilkay Gündogan
    Advantages: Plays DM and CAM. Potentially undervalued at £18m. Could pair well as the more offensively-minded DM alongside Coquelin.
    Drawbacks: We already have an umlaut, thank you.
    Likelihood: 50%. Rivals might focus on Hummels, allowing us to swoop for Gündogan.
  • Sven Bender
    Advantages: another dogged DM, similar to Coquelin but perhaps better. A bargain-buy at £15m or so. Can also play CB.
    Drawbacks: Perhaps too similar to Coquelin without being a significant upgrade.
    Likelihood: 60%. Never underestimate Arsène's obsession with discounts. 
There are others, of course, but I don't rate any of them as good enough to justify the transition-time needed to get from the Bundesliga to the Prem or to compete with those we already have in those positions. Aubameyang, for example, seems like a fine player but hardly one poised to make a dramatic leap in his progression. He's capable of occasional moments of aplomb, but he's hardly an upgrade on Giroud. 

That said, Dortmund is replete with attractive, young players, and there's going to be a mad dash involving many clubs who hope to sign them. While it's possible that some of those players might be interested in following their manager to his next club, we've seen enough in recent years from Moyes and Pochettino to understand that players don't follow managers unless there's good reason. Southampton might offer a useful comparison. For all of the players who left that upstart club, how many of them followed Pochettino to Tottenham? Dortmund's players strike me as being as likely to follow Klopp to his next destination as Southamptons's were to follow Pochettino. That said, maybe we could get Reus even if Klopp goes to Man City. 

With all of the "Dortmund are the Bundesliga's Arsenal" comparisons, it might make for symbolic if not strategic sense for us to target one or more of these players. Almost all of them fit Arsène's preferences. What do you think? Who among Dortmund's squad should we target?