How Sebastian Rode Will Fit in at Borussia Dortmund

Clark Whitney@@Mr_BundesligaFeatured ColumnistJune 7, 2016

Bayern's Sebastian Rode controls the ball during the German Bundesliga soccer match between FC Bayern Munich and SV Werder Bremen at the Allianz Arena stadium in Munich, Germany, Saturday, March 12, 2016. (AP Photo/Matthias Schrader)
Matthias Schrader/Associated Press

Borussia Dortmund confirmed the official signing of Sebastian Rode on Monday, per the club's official website, making him the fourth addition to the squad this summer following Marc Bartra, Ousmane Dembele and Mikel Merino.

The former Bayern Munich and Eintracht Frankfurt man has put pen to paper on a four-year contract following a medical exam.

The deal was almost a week in the making, with Bild (in German) having reported the scoop on June 1. With rumors of Rode's move to Dortmund having initially emerged alongside confirmation of Ilkay Gundogan's transfer from the Ruhr side to Manchester City, it's easy to see why many have assumed that the 25-year-old would be meant to replace the outgoing BVB star.

Yet a like-for-like replacement was never a possibility for Dortmund, who simply had to accept losing a player who at his best is one of the best central midfielders in the game.

Gundogan's style of play is rather unique, and his skills on the ball are incredibly refined. Far more than Rode's, at least.

If Dortmund want a true replacement for Gundogan, a player who will be able to offer a similar level of class, they will be priced out of the market for any player who could immediately fill the void. Better to aim for a rising talent, like Anderlecht's Youri Tielemans.

Bundesliga Spotlight @BundesligaSpot

BILD: Dortmund spent €13m on #FCBayern's Sebastian Rode. Player gets four-year contract with annual fee of €3.5m. #BVB

Rode may not be the man to replace Gundogan, but he can still be a useful part of the Dortmund team.

He can fit into the BVB squad as a replacement for Sven Bender, who hasn't looked to have had a place in the midfield under Tuchel. A player whose energy, stamina, aggression and overall athleticism were highlighted in Jurgen Klopp's high-octane system, Bender looked to be a player in transition over the last season.

The coach used him primarily in defense last season, and when he played in midfield, his attacking and general limitations in possession showed. It's no wonder why, as Joachim Low has groomed his Germany side to be more technical, Bender has fallen out of consideration for the national team—his last cap was in November 2013. His twin brother, the more technical Lars, has occasionally been selected since that time.

Rode is certainly a different player from Bender. Yet within Tuchel's system, the former can be considered an upgrade on the latter.

Bender's advantages over Rodehis endless stamina and excellent ball-winning qualitiesare less useful under Tuchel than they were under Klopp.

Rode's defensive qualities aren't too far behind Bender's, but critically, his advantages are more favorable within the current system. The former Germany under-21 international is much more assured on the ball, and is more comfortable dribbling and passing than the former 1860 Munich man. He always was reliable with the ball at his feet, and despite his limited playing time, training for three years under Pep Guardiola has honed his ball skills even further.

Under Klopp, Bender was capable of playing in midfield and occasionally in defense. In Tuchel's system, however, he can only play in central defense: Everywhere else, he is a liability in possession, a player who serves to kill the attack more than he can aid in defense.

Ross Dunbar @rossdunbar93

Rode is an excellent player. Better in a proactive, higher role in midfield, imo. Not sure how that will balance out with Castro though.

Rode is capable of doing for Tuchel what Bender did for Klopp in that he can be a utility defensive player.

Whether in midfield, central defense or even at right-back, Rode is capable of filling whatever role necessary.

He may be a bit shorter than Bender, but even as a youngster in 2010-11, Rode played in central defense for Frankfurt. He played several games in 2014-15 at right-back and fared just fine. And his midfield traits are best illustrated in his goal and assist stats: In three years at Bayern, Rode played a direct role in 16 goals, or one in every 263 minutes played. That's quite impressive for a sparingly used defensive all-rounder.

For comparison, over the same period of time, Bender played a direct role in just four goals. That's an average of one for every 1524 minutes played, quite low even for a holding midfielder.

At this point, it's clear that Bender's only chance of playing at Dortmund is if he asserts himself in central defense, as he really lacks any use in possession in Tuchel's possession-based system.

Whether or not he succeeds, Rode looks set to take over the role of defensive all-rounder, be it in central defense, at right-back or in midfield. He may not be Gundogan, but he's a versatile player who has proved in the past that he can play in a variety of positions.

And given that he will be at peak motivation to show he is capable of being more than the substitute he was under Guardiola, Rode could well prove to be a very useful signing.



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