Borussia Dortmund: Evaluating Every Position for August
Borussia Dortmund may not have kicked off the new Bundesliga season in quite the fashion that they would have hoped for, but few could fault their flawless execution in this summer's transfer window.
Bringing in no less than six first-team challengers over the past few months, Jurgen Klopp and his backroom staff have clearly learned their lessons from last season by ensuring that the squad now has adequate strength in depth.
But have all the holes been plugged? All the gaps replaced? There's a grueling domestic and European campaign ahead for this Dortmund side, and it will be tested in every possible manner by the end of it. Now it's time to see if Klopp has prepared each position for the season ahead.
When it comes to goalkeepers, Dortmund have always been able to rest easy in the knowledge that Roman Weidenfeller is a safe, consistent mainstay of the first-team squad.
Yet fans will be able to rejoice in the knowledge that the club have been able to start nurturing young talent between the posts in Hendrik Bonmann and the delightfully named Zlatan Alomerovic—two young players who are both desperately to prove their worth in the first team.
For now, Klopp will be perfectly happy with Weidenfeller as his undisputed first choice and Australian international Mitchell Langerak as his deputy.
Dortmund will continue to use Lukasz Piszczek as their first-choice right-back this season, considering the form and overall quality of the Polish international at the Westfalenstadion in recent years.
Piszczek has undoubtedly proven himself as one of the best on the continent in the position, yet Klopp doesn't actually have a committed replacement if he were to get injured.
Kevin Grosskreutz would seem like the logical replacement, considering his role in such a position last season, yet there are also others available if need be.
Central defender Sokratis Papastathopoulos is also partial to such a role if Klopp is desperate, while left-back Erik Durm is also available, considering the fact that he is right-footed.
As reported this week by the club's official website, previously mentioned left-back Erik Durm has just signed a contract extension that should see him stay at the club until 2019.
Fans will be excited at the prospect of the future Germany left-back committing himself to the club following a great season last year, which saw him called up to the national team World Cup-winning squad over the summer.
Klopp will be more than happy with the competition this now offers between the young defender and first-team regular Marcel Schmelzer—the only left-footed defender in the squad.
Both will have plenty of game time this season, while also offering excellent cover for one of the most notorious positions in a football squad.
Perhaps one of the most impressive things that Klopp has managed to do in the last 12 months at Dortmund is fortifying the middle of his defence.
Fans will remember just a few seasons ago when first-choice pairing Mats Hummels and Neven Subotic had nobody but an ill-experienced Felipe Santana in reserve, as the club went parading around Germany and Europe in pursuit of multiple trophies.
This season looks like a different story altogether, with Sokratis pushing for a very legitimate and hard-earned spot in the first team while new signing Matthias Ginter slowly grows into the role over the course of the campaign.
Klopp now has at least four players worthy of these two positions for arguably the first time since he joined the club.
In a similar sense to the slide before this, Dortmund go into the Bundesliga season with a huge number of options for just two spots in their midfield.
Across Klopp's favoured 4-2-3-1, the coach now has at least five players who could play as the central-midfield pairing in any given game.
The most impressive of these is Ilkay Gundogan, who despite being injured at the minute, should feature in this campaign before too long, with Nuri Sahin and Sven Bender taking up the positions in his absence.
Klopp also has former captain Sebastian Kehl in reserve if things get a little desperate, as well as squad regular Oliver Kirch, who was looking very impressive in pre-season before a minor injury took him out of contention. When fit, expect both to feature prominently this season.
Before some last-minute drama in the final hours of the transfer window, we would have perhaps said this position was the most unsupported spot in Klopp's first-team squad.
Dortmund have an outstanding player in Henrikh Mkhitaryan, who plays the role as well as anyone across Europe at this moment in time, but aside from the Armenian, there were no options beyond the inexperienced Milos Jojic.
Alas, as we all now know, the club has re-signed Shinji Kagawa from Manchester United.
In a move that would do well to perfectly characterise what the club are trying to achieve at the moment, Kagawa comes into this squad as the kind of player who can seamlessly replace key attacking midfielders in the team. He will be Mkhitaryan's competition for the season, and in both of them, Klopp has two outstanding playmakers.
Dortmund have always had a fantastic starting XI, but they now look even stronger with the likes of this Japanese international in reserve.
Despite being a forward in his own right with a very impressive goalscoring record in France, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has found himself almost exclusively feature on the right side of Klopp's attacking three.
This has worked wonders for Dortmund on occasion, with the pacey forward rattling through defences as if they were never there, as well as offering a great solution to the club's inherent necessity to clear every opposing attack with a simple punt up the pitch.
When this doesn't work, Klopp should be able to call upon Polish international Jakub Blaszczykowski—a player who was once as prolific in attack as former stars Mario Gotze and Kagawa, before injuries took their toll.
If kept fit, we should see "Kuba" feature heavily whenever possible, giving Klopp two excellent right wingers to work with throughout the season.
As the undisputed first name on Klopp's team sheet each and every week, Marco Reus takes up the role of left winger within this Dortmund squad without any question.
Yet, like Piszczek at right-back, the Germany international's quality has led to Klopp deciding not to sign a genuine back-up and instead prefer to shuffle his team around whenever the star player isn't available.
When Reus is out of the squad we should expect to see either Grosskreutz or Kagawa slot in, depending on the opposition. But in truth, nobody within this squad will be able to adequately replace what Reus brings to the team.
With Robert Lewandowski leaving Dortmund to join rivals Bayern Munich this summer, Klopp has been smart in his decision to sign two contrasting strikers rather than fork out on another player of similar quality.
In truth, we're likely to see Ramos feature more predominantly this season due to this more direct style of play and his proven record in the Bundesliga. With Immobile featuring whenever possible and embedding himself into the new league at his own pace.
Dortmund have also welcomed back South Korean international Ji Dong-Won from his loan at Augsburg, and he should prove to be an excellent third striker in the squad this season.