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Whose Man Without Ousmane: It’s Time For The Remaining Young Dortmund Playmakers To Step Up

Will the Dortmund Wonderkids be wonderful?

Following his incredible first season at Borussia Dortmund, fans were excited to see what the future would hold for Ousmane Dembélé in Yellow and Black. However, following the insane transfer saga surrounding Neymar’s move to PSG, it became more and more likely each day (to the point of inevitability) that the French wonderkid would be Neymar’s replacement on the wing opposite Messi at the Nou Camp.


When Barcelona’s pursuit of the young winger started heating up, Dembélé began distancing himself from Dortmund. He wasn’t showing up to training and ended up getting suspended by new manager Peter Bosz. While some expected Dortmund to hold out until the end of the transfer window, Barcelona finally got to a price they couldn’t refuse (total value of about 145 million euros). 

At only 19 years old, Dembélé was one of the best players in the Bundesliga last season. He demonstrated an incredible ability to shoot and pass with both feet and had the pace and dribbling skills of a world-class winger. Dembélé finished the season with 10 goals and 21 assists in all competitions. He was also Dortmund’s leader in key passes and chances created.

Dembélé’s transfer leaves a huge void in the playmaking department for Dortmund. While it’s unlikely that one player will be able to fill his boots this upcoming season, Dortmund have a multitude of young playmakers who will have increased roles. These youngsters will be asked to generate much of the attack and create quality chances for their star striker, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (who was also involved in plenty of transfer rumors this summer), who’s looking to defend his Bundesliga scoring title.


At Ajax, Peter Bosz was known for giving his young players, like Kasper Dolberg and Davinson Sanchez, plenty of opportunities to shine. This will be the case again this upcoming season at Dortmund. Will these attacking wonderkids be wonderful and justify their manager’s trust in them?

Christian Pulisic

The obvious candidate for the Dortmund youngster to step up following Dembélé’s sale is the young American star. With the injury to Marco Reus, Pulisic was already expected to see more playing time and have an increased role in the Dortmund attack. He was a semi-regular first choice attacking midfielder and winger last season under Thomas Tuchel, showing tremendous potential whenever he got on the pitch (as a starter or off the bench). He finished last season with five goals and 13 assists in all competitions.

Like many other young wing players, Pulisic’s strongest attribute is his quickness and ability to move with the ball at his feet. However, last season, he sometimes displayed inconsistency in the final third. So far this season, the quality of his passes and shots seems to have improved tremendously and he’s playing with a lot more confidence.

Pulisic scored the first goal for Dortmund against Bayern in their Supercup Final matchup and scored Dortmund’s first goal of the Bundesliga season against Wolfsburg. He’s also created a couple of quality chances for teammates in the first couple games of the season, one resulting in a tap-in goal for Aubameyang.

If Pulisic continues to improve, it will take some of the sting out of Dembélé’s departure for Dortmund fans and they’ll be as excited about him as U.S. Soccer fans are.

Maximilian Philipp

There probably isn’t a player on Dortmund’s roster that has benefited more from Dembélé’s transfer than Maximilian Philipp. The 23-year-old German attacker was brought in by Dortmund this summer from Freiberg and appears to have slotted into Dembélé’s position in the starting lineup. While his natural position is striker, he’s started the first two games of the Bundesliga season on the left for Dortmund and is considered by many to be a potential future replacement for Marco Reus.

As a natural striker, Philipp likes to play more direct and score goals but in this new role, he’ll be expected to do more playmaking. He scored nine goals and only had three assists last season in Bundesliga play for Freiberg. He has both the talent and the trust of his manager, but we’ll see how he does throughout the season. He’s already created a fair number of chances in Dortmund’s first two league games.

Mahmoud Dahoud

Dahoud is one of the most promising young midfielders in the world. Dortmund bought the 21-year-old German from Borussia Monchengladbach this summer and he’s likely to get plenty of time across the central midfield roles for Bosz’s side this season. His most common role is playing as a box to box midfielder and he’ll look to remind Dortmund fans of İlkay Gündoğan

Dahoud started against Bayern in their Supercup matchup and has made appearances in each of Dortmund’s first two Bundesliga games. While he hasn’t made an immense impact so far in a Dortmund shirt, the potential he showed for both Gladbach and the German U-21 National Team means it’s just a matter of time before he’s making plays out of the Dortmund midfield. As he gains more trust from the manager, expect him to see more regular playing time over veterans like Mario Götze and Gonzalo Castro. 

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2016/17 Bundesliga Stats via Squawka

Jadon Sancho

Here’s a name that has fans around Europe buzzing. At the tail end of the window, Dortmund scooped up the young English star from Manchester City’s youth team. With the myriad of attacking talent City have, the 17-year-old was growing impatient with not being able to see time with the first team at the Etihad and elected to make the move to Germany.

Sancho scored 20 goals and had seven assists in all competitions last year for a variety of lower Man City sides. He was also named the Golden Player at last year’s U-17 UEFA European Championship. The young winger, who plays primarily on the left side, has an incredible ability to beat defenders with his combination of pace and skill. When he gets into dangerous positions on the pitch, he has shown the ability to create chances for both himself and his teammates.

While he doesn’t have the experience at the top level of European soccer that the other three players have, he may have the highest ceiling out of any player in the Dortmund squad. It isn’t a mistake that he now wears the same number seven shirt that Dembélé wore last season. If any player can come close to replicating Dembélé’s success in a Dortmund shirt over the next few years, it might be Sancho.

via: Jadon Sancho's Twitter

There’s no question that Dortmund will greatly miss Dembélé this upcoming season and going forward. Barcelona paid the second highest transfer fee (second to Neymar) of all time for him because he’s one of the best young players in the world. None of these players will be expected to individually fill the void left by Dembélé’s transfer but Bosz will give each of them an opportunity to step up and add to the collective attacking quality of the squad.

The youth movement is real at Dortmund. These wonderkids will need to show their wonder and will have every opportunity to do so. Dortmund’s ability to compete with Bayern Munich and RB Leipzig for the Bundesliga title and their continued Champions League success depend on it.

Edited by Jazmyn Brown.

What club did Dortmund buy Ousmane Dembélé from last summer?
Created 9/3/17
  1. Lyon
  2. Nice
  3. Marseille
  4. Rennes

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