I was told that summertime was going to be a barren wasteland in terms of soccer at the end of the last European season, my first while following the sport. It was a lie. The summer was packed with MLS, Copa America, U20 European Championships, the Women's World Cup, the U20 and U17 World Cups, Scandanavian domestic leagues, South American domestic leagues and a myriad of friendlies. The soccer season never really ends. The focus is now turning back to Europe, as the biggest leagues in the world restart their season. Friday marks the kickoff of the German Bundesliga as defending champions, Borussia Dortmund, face off against Hamburg SV.
Borussia Dortmund are an interesting team, to say the least. After a surprising domination of the league last year, many are questioning whether or not they have the ability to defend their title. Most commentators are saying that BVB are capable enough to finish in the top 4, but would struggle to defend the title that nearly everyone is handing over to Bayern Munich. I think people are generally underestimating this Dortmund team, much like last year, and--don't take this the wrong way--are overstating the impact of Nuri Şahin's loss.
The main reason that people see Dortmund falling down the table is the loss of the amazing Turkish midfielder to Real Madrid. Şahin is an absolutely fantastic player. He sprayed the ball around expertly to his forward midfielders and was a goal threat on late runs. It appears that Dortmund will not be able to replace him. And, I believe that appearance is true. But, Dortmund doesn't need to replace Şahin to be just as good or even to get better. Dortmund simply needs to adapt to their new players and work with who they have. Ilkay Gundogan doesn't need to play exactly like Şahin, he needs to play like Gundogan. The production that Şahin brought does not need to be replaced one-for-one, but rather needs to found throughout the squad. If Dortmund have anything, they have the ability to improve on last season, because they are such a youthful squad.
Read the rest of the article on The Pursuit of Victory here.