Can Ciro Immobile replace what Dortmund lost when Robert Lewandowski left for Bundesliga rival Bayern Munich?
Jurgen Klopp's side will unfortunately be all too used to beginning a new campaign with Munich's dominant team full of familiar faces. Yet it is the charismatic coach and his committed backroom staff who have continued their good fight in the Bundesliga with astute signings over the past few years.
Whether Immobile is another one of those golden transfers has yet to be seen, of course. But that can't stop us from speculating and ultimately drawing plenty of premature conclusions.
Goalscoring is the most important aspect of any striker's game, and when it comes to these two they look as though they may be neck-and-neck. With 22 league goals, Immobile beats Lewandowski by just two, while both played the exact same amount of games for their respective clubs in the Bundesliga and Serie A last season.
One factor that certainly adds to the case that Immobile is a better goalscorer is the fact that he spent last season playing at a club that didn't tend to win as many games as Dortmund did in the Bundesliga. It may seem like a rather simplistic notion, but playing for a better team does tend to affect your goal tally.
In Serie A last season, Torino finished seventh with a points total of 58 from 38 games. During that campaign they won just 15 games, meaning that Dortmund's new striker tended to be on the winning end of a match just 39 percent of the time last season.
When we compare that to Lewandowski's season, it shows a clear contrast in fortunes. In 34 Bundesliga matches last season, Dortmund won an impressive 22, meaning the Polish striker was usually at the forefront of the dominant team in 64 percent of his league games last season.
What this means is that despite playing for a lesser side and playing against stronger teams more often than not, Dortmund's new Italian striker was still able to score more goals in Serie A than Lewandowski did in the Bundesliga. It's an encouraging stat that should help Klopp sleep at night.
According to Transfermarkt.co.uk, both Lewandowski and Immobile played 33 league games for their respective sides last season. Yet as we can see from the graph above, their goals and assists tended to vary over the course of both campaigns.
Immobile may have scored two more goals than his Polish counterpart, but it's Lewandowski's eight extra assists over the course of the Bundesliga season that will undoubtedly prick the attention of most Dortmund fans.
The new Bayern forward was heralded throughout the Continent for his goalscoring—a vital part of any striker's game—but also for his uncanny ability to hold up the ball, batter into central defenders and really rough up the opposing defence while setting up other players in his team.
In contrast, Immobile has made his name in Italy from picking up the ball from deep and running at the opposing defence with speed and skill. More akin to the modern version of the forward—a smaller player with a lower centre of gravity—this Italian goalscorer is perhaps closer in style to a Sergio Aguero or Carlos Tevez rather than the target-man style of Lewandowski.
Yet this may not bother Klopp as much as you'd think.
What Lewandowski was truly excellent at was being in the box when it mattered. Despite all his talents, it was his ability to simply finish a move from the floated cross or driven-through ball that made him invaluable to Dortmund for so many years. This is something that Immobile can also do, an area where he may be able to truly replace the departed Pole.
If we were to take a look at the Squawka graphic above which depicts Lewandowski's shots and goals throughout Dortmund's 6-1 over Stuttgart last season, we can see just how well the Polish striker capitalises on chances within the box.
Yet when we take a look at a similar performance from Immobile's back catalogue, during Torino's 3-1 win over Livorno in the Squawka graphic below, we can see that the Italian youngster can also pull off the poacher's role with relative ease.
In a squad full of midfield artists such as Marco Reus, Ilkay Gundogan and Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Klopp will be adamant that Immobile can finish off his team's chances like the best of them. Looking at these stats, he may just be capable of exactly that.
Dortmund will go into this coming Bundesliga season facing an immediate uphill struggle if they intend to challenge Bayern for the title once again. Yet as we've seen time and time again, it isn't always the most expensively assembled teams that win the trophies, and with a few sparks of luck we may see the old salad bowl go back to the Westfalenstadion.
Klopp will be hoping for exactly that as he continues his solid policy of putting absolute trust in each team he puts out every week. If Immobile can be one of those title-winning sparks and become what Lewandowski was for this team, he could prove to be the difference between second place and first.
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