Marco Reus has been injury-free for almost two months. In the past, he would have automatically become a regular again during such a period. This time it is different. In just three of eight competitive games, Reus was in the starting line-up. In the derby against Schalke he was only substituted on in the 77th minute. Is the captain of Borussia Dortmund no longer inviolable?
The fact that Reus is currently much less involved at BVB is not only due to his complex injury history and the longer phase of getting back to top form at the age of 31. For the first time, Reus has competition in his position that is at his level.
Outstanding player of the decade
Reus was one of the defining German football players of the past decade, despite his numerous injuries. Hardly any other player in the Bundesliga showed such consistent performances as Reus. In the past decade, Reus has played 246 Bundesliga games for Borussia Mönchengladbach and Borussia Dortmund, directly involved in 195 goals.
His game is particularly convincing due to its unpredictability. The term “tens” doesn’t do him justice any more than the predicate “top scorer”. Reus is a player who falls far behind to help set up the game, but who can appear in the opposing penalty area in the next moment.
Reus can dribble with big, fast steps and many contacts. Or he concludes directly with the first contact. In the 2018/2019 season, he scored all of his 17 Bundesliga goals with the first contact – an unparalleled figure. Hardly any player in the Bundesliga has such a fine shooting technique, he can use almost every cross.
But the Reus of 2020 is no longer the player from the past decade. He’s lost one of his strengths: speed. Five years ago, he was still one of the fastest players in the league with a top speed of 34.5 kilometers per hour. Last season, at almost 32 kilometers per hour, he was not even in the top ten of BVB.
Reus has changed his game accordingly. Reus used to go deep behind the chain. This task falls to striker Erling Haaland. Reus is now more likely to come from the back, offers himself and puts himself in a shooting position with the short sprint. Usually he then closes with the first contact.
In recent years, the way Reus has integrated into the BVB game has also changed. In the 2017/2018 season he only played around 30 passes per game. In the past two seasons he has increased to 40 passes per ninety minutes. Reus is more present, often engages in the combination game.
Sancho and Reyna are seated
But if Reus is still an unpredictable, strong and goal-scoring attacker, why is he regularly on the bench? The most obvious answer: its competitors have gotten better.
Haaland is set as a goalscorer. In coach Lucien Favre’s preferred 3-4-3 system for about a year, there are two vacancies behind the striker. One usually goes to Jadon Sancho, 20. The dribbler is (still) untouchable after the strong preseason, even if the Englishman has not yet reached his best form again. With his tempo dribbles, however, Sancho can break up even the most stable defensive.
The second position in the attacking midfield was assigned to 17-year-old Giovanni Reyna at the start of the season, as Reus had not yet worked up his deficit after a short preparation. Reyna does his job so well that Favre has little chance of removing him from the starting XI. The American has already played five hits for his colleagues across all competitions. With his short, fine dribbling he got more free kicks than any other player in the Bundesliga (he has been fouled 18 times in five games so far).
Favre, however, should especially please Reyna’s defensive statistics. He runs a lot and at the same time fights a lot. Reyna has gone into 150 direct duels. This is not only by far the highest value of all Dortmunders, but the third highest in the entire league. Reyna is a template provider, dribbler, tackle and starter in pressing – and therefore currently indispensable.
Reyna and Sancho aren’t the only competitors for Reus. Julian Brandt, who is strong against Schalke, is lurking for further missions as well as the last injured Thorgan Hazard. Both are even more unpredictable in passing than their rivals.
In order to do justice to all the strong offensive players, Favre could change his formation permanently. Against Schalke, Dortmund did not play in the 3-4-3 system, but in Favre’s actual favorite system: the 4-2-3-1. There are three positions to be awarded behind Haaland. Reus could be used here in his favorite position: as a tenth next to two movable wingers.
Whether in the 3-4-3 or in the 4-2-3-1: All attackers will receive their deployment times. Because Dortmund’s schedule has no breaks. BVB has to play two games a week until the end of the year. After the Champions League duel against St. Petersburg in the evening (9:05 p.m., live ticker SPIEGEL.de), the weekend will continue against Bielefeld, then Bruges will be waiting on Tuesday and the top game against FC Bayern on November 7th.
It seems hard to imagine that Reus will not be in the starting XI in at least two of these games. Dortmund’s captain no longer likes to lead in every game, his injury history also plays a role here. But he has all the qualities to still help his team.
Above all, he has one thing ahead of his fellow players: experience. As soon as Reyna’s form curve – due to age alone – points downwards, Reus will help shape BVB’s game more regularly.
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