Borussia Dortmund head coach Lucien Favre may have to make a decision on Lukasz Piszczek this season, who is nearing the end of his career.
Borussia Dortmund have enjoyed an eventful summer transfer window, making a host of essential acquisitions like Julian Brandt and Mats Hummels. They also signed Nico Schulz, which could solve their problems in the left-back department.
But most importantly, it signalled the fact that Dortmund have finally moved on from Marcel Schmelzer, who is among the oldest players in the current squad. Unlike Schmelzer, however, Lukasz Piszczek has somehow managed to retain his role at right-back even at the age of 34.
Piszczek initially joined Dortmund in 2010, in a free transfer from Hertha Berlin. Since then, he has become a first-team regular at the Ruhrpott, making 330 competitive matches for the club. He was often regarded as one of the best right-backs in the Bundesliga, though he has been overshadowed by Bayern Munich icon Philipp Lahm for the most part of his career.
That being said, as Favre looks to usher in a new era at Dortmund, it’s important the Swiss mastermind looks ahead to the future. Piszczek’s first-team status, in that regard, hinders the progress of Achraf Hakimi as well as new signing Mateu Morey.
The Polish international made only 20 league appearances last season. But, his overall game-time was minimised mainly due to a heel injury that kept him out for a chunk of the Ruckrunde. This season, the defender has started all three of Dortmund’s league games.
Is Piszczek becoming a liability for Dortmund?
Piszczek is quite athletic for his age, and his vast experience at the highest level of football is always a bonus for Borussia Dortmund. But, his influence in the backline has clearly waned over the past couple of seasons. And if his performances in this season were anything to go by, it’s about time for the Black and Yellows to move on from the Polish international.
Indeed, Piszczek has become a weak link in Dortmund’s build-up from the back in recent times. His lack of mobility restricts him from creating space for himself, especially when someone is closing him down. That means Dortmund are prone to losing possession, should the opposition keeps tabs on his passing options while putting pressure on him as well.
This could force Piszczek to pass back to the central defenders or even the goalkeeper. Alternatively, the 34-year-old would just tend to whip the ball upfront, without any sense of direction, thus losing possession of the ball.
Furthermore, the ex-Hertha defender is not exactly a pacy defender, meaning he won’t be able to cover ground quickly. So, essentially, Dortmund could get exposed if he loses possession in the final third, especially if the opposition has pacy wingers.
Such weaknesses could create huge problems when coming up against a top tier opponent in the likes of FC Barcelona or Bayern Munich.
Assessing Dortmund’s other options
Hakimi is the obvious replacement for Piszczek, should Die Schwarzgelben look to move on. The Moroccan international was mostly utilised as a left-back by Favre simply in order to accomodate Piszczek into the starting lineup. That could change, especially now with Dortmund having Schulz as a reliable option at left-back.
Hakimi’s style of play is more suited to Favre’s tactical setup at BVB. The 20-year-old is blessed with the sheer pace that not only allows him to recover from an attacking position but also helps him initiate counter-attacks.
Besides, he is much more agile that will enable him to move inside into a central area and connect with teammates in and around the penalty area. Alternatively, the right-back can also move to the byline and provide dangerous crosses into the box – something Piszczek has lacked in his armoury over the past couple of seasons.
However, Hakimi’s temporary contract with Borussia Dortmund expires at the end of this season, after which he will return to his parent club Real Madrid. The Bundesliga giants, should, therefore, find a replacement on the market unless they manage to secure his services permanently.
Their only other option is Morey, who arrived from Barcelona U-19 this summer. The Spaniard has shown glimpses of his talent in the pre-season, and it won’t be a bad idea to give him a couple of opportunities to impress in the first-team this season.
As mentioned earlier, Piszczek has, more or less, become a liability for Borussia Dortmund given his weaknesses in build-up and counter-attacks. Therefore, it would perhaps be wiser for Favre to promote Hakimi as the first-team regular, while also experimenting with Morey.
Piszczek, meanwhile, should be a good option in domestic cup matches. But ideally, the Polish international should just retire at the end of this season as Dortmund look to undergo a major transitional phase.