Why Borussia Dortmund should play their youth for the remainder of the 2017/2018 season

MAGDEBURG, GERMANY - OCTOBER 24: Alexander Isak of Borussia Dortmund celebrates scoring the goal to the 0:2 during the DFB Cup match between 1. FC Magdeburg and Borussia Dortmund at MDCC Arena on October 24, 2017 in Magdeburg, Germany. (Photo by Alexandre Simoes/Borussia Dortmund/Getty Images)
MAGDEBURG, GERMANY - OCTOBER 24: Alexander Isak of Borussia Dortmund celebrates scoring the goal to the 0:2 during the DFB Cup match between 1. FC Magdeburg and Borussia Dortmund at MDCC Arena on October 24, 2017 in Magdeburg, Germany. (Photo by Alexandre Simoes/Borussia Dortmund/Getty Images) /

In the wake of Borussia Dortmund’s recent struggles, it might behoove the team to look to their younger players.

Borussia Dortmund has had a rough couple of months. They’ve taken two points from their last six Bundesliga games, failed to qualify for the knockout stage of the Champions League, and choked away a four goal lead at home to bitter rivals Schalke. Aspirations of competing with Bayern Munich for the 2017-18 Bundesliga title have evaporated, along with any remaining early-season optimism. Dortmund needs a way out of their funk.

Starting the teenagers might just be the answer.

Dortmund has always focused on youth development. They attract the most coveted youngsters in the world, in part because they’re not afraid to give teenagers first team minutes. If Dortmund had a shot at the Bundesliga title or at progressing far in the Champions League, they could be forgiven for relying on their more experienced players. But Dortmund’s struggles necessitate change. In addition to getting them critical experience, mixing up the dynamic of the team by playing younger players could be beneficial to the team’s short term success.

Leaving aside players like Christian Pulisic and Julian Weigl, who’ve already broken into the Dortmund’s first team, the side is packed with young talent. 18 year old Alexander Isak, for example, has only started one game for Dortmund this season. It was against Magdeburg in the DFB Pokal. Despite playing very well against the third tier German side, he’s only played 13 minutes besides that this season, per whoscored.com.

But now, with rumors that Aubameyang is looking to move on in the winter, there’s a big hole up top for Dortmund. Isak may not be ready to fill Aubameyang’s large shoes all by himself. He’s not going to be playing 90 minutes every game at center forward, but Dortmund needs to give him a chance here and there. Isak’s got the talent to be a star striker. He’s just going to need some minutes under his belt first.

Jadon Sancho is another player who should be slated for some more playing time. If Dortmund can pull out a better result against Real Madrid next week than Apoel FC manage against Tottenham (not a sure thing by any means), Dortmund could find themselves with some Europa League fixtures on the horizon. These games against lower level opposition are the perfect chance for Sancho and other youngsters to get some solid first team minutes in.

Marco Reus will be coming back from injury as the Europa League picks up early next year, which could eat into Sancho’s playing time on the left wing. But giving Sancho some games either in Europe or against lower level Bundesliga opposition would allow Dortmund to bring the injury-prone Reus up to speed more slowly and safely.

Alternatively, Dortmund could let Maximillian Phillip try to lock down a starting role on the left wing until Reus is fully fit. Phillip hasn’t played too much this season, but has impressed when he’s been on the pitch. His lack of playing time is a bit of a head-scratcher. Phillip could definitely use a few more starts for Dortmund.

Mahmoud Dahoud is another player who’s played surprisingly few games this season. Truth be told, Dahoud hasn’t played well, but he hasn’t been given an extended run of games to prove himself either. Gotze’s six week injury, while devastating to the team, opens a spot up in the midfield. Dortmund needs to give Dahoud an opportunity to take it. He might not be perfect, but who else can one put in the midfield, Gonzalo Castro? It could be a marvelous investment in the future of the team to give Dahoud some first team minutes.

Unlike Dahoud, Dan-Axel Zagadou has already played a fair amount for Dortmund this season. Unfortunately, many of his appearances have come out of position at left back. While he’s impressed in many games this season for Dortmund, there have also been some (like against Schalke) where he was absolutely dreadful. It could work wonders for Zagadou’s development to get some sustained playing time in his natural position next to a more seasoned veteran like Sokratis.

Additionally, the team has looked somewhat sluggish in their past few games. If Dortmund is going to bounce back from October and November, it needs to get rid of that passivity. Some additional competition for playing spots would help revitalize the side. Additionally, putting young players on the pitch would help get the team’s energy up.

Switching focus to developing youth also makes sense in the context of Dortmund’s current coaching situation. There’s been a great deal of discussion over whether or not Peter Bosz should resign as head coach of Dortmund. One of the main arguments against his resignation would be the lack of temporary alternatives to the Dutchman. The main coaches with whom Dortmund have been linked are more long term options. Rather then sack Bosz and install a temporary coach, Dortmund could tell Bosz to prioritize youth development and let him finish out the season, the rationale being that Bosz is quite adept at growing his young players. Perhaps he hasn’t been able to display that skill quite so well this season, having been under tremendous pressure to get results over the past few months. Firing a coach midseason is a risky move, and prioritizing youth might allow the club to find a silver lining in their current coaching situation.

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Developing young players is an investment in the future success of the team. It sends a signal to young players throughout the Dortmund system that this team prioritizes youth development. Borussia Dortmund has always been known as a youth-focused team and continuing that legacy serves to keep the young talent the club already has at Dortmund. Furthermore, it’s imperative for a club like Dortmund that depends so much on developing young players to maintain a global image as a club that gives its teenagers a chance to compete at the highest level. That’s how Dortmund can continue to attract the best young player in the world.

This isn’t to say that Dortmund should give up on the season. Rather, it’s a recognition that all has not gone well for the Black and Yellows this season. The team needs a reset. This is the moment to take risks! It’s not all going to work out, and these youngsters are going to make some mistakes. But things could do with a little shaking up. Adding some youthful exuberance to the squad could be exactly what Dortmund need to break out of their poor run of form.