Mario Götze: A mixed bag of a season for the Borussia Dortmund midfielder

Mario Götze would have been the shoe-in player of the year for Borussia Dortmund if the season had ended in December. With the appointment of Peter Stöger however, Götze’s usage decreased and his performance suffered during the Rückrunde.

The Long Road Back

Mario Götze was shut down early during the 2017 Rückrunde due to a rare metabolic disorder. His football future was in fact, quite uncertain. A long road to recovery ensued. Through the spring and summer months Götze worked extremely hard to regain his fitness. He was successful in this and earned himself a match day one starting XI spot against VFL Wolfsburg.

Götze was sensational against The Wolves and Borussia Dortmund would dominate, winning 3-0. Mario accounted for two key passes as well an an assist. He looked his old self. Peter Bosz was utilizing Götze more as a “number 10” (central attacking midfielder) in his 4-3-3 setup. This was similar to the role he played while at BVB under former manager Jürgen Klopp.

Mario Gotze enjoyed a superb start to the season, and scored against Schalke 04 (Photo by TF-Images/TF-Images via Getty Images)

Götze’s performances would only continue to improve over the next several months. At one point during the Hinrunde he was the league-leader in key passes.

Though Bosz sacrificed much in defense, there is no arguing that his offensive brand of football was mostly successful. He allowed Götze to roam freely, while trusting the player’s vision and judgement.

The high mark of Mario Götze’s Hinrunde came against arch-rivals FC Schalke. He was nothing short of brilliant against Die Blauen.

Unfortunately, he would sustain an injury in this match that would keep him out until the start of the Rückerunde. In the meantime, Peter Bosz was dismissed from BVB and Peter Stöger was hired.

Lack Of Direction = Lack Of Production

The appointment of the then recently-sacked 1. FC Köln manager Peter Stöger at Borussia Dortmund was a game-changer for Götze, and not in a positive way. Stöger’s first objective was to stabilize the incredibly poor BVB defense. He would do so at the expense of establishing a clear tactical philosophy.

BVB transformed into a unit which relied heavily on individual player skill for chance creation, rather than a cohesive offensive strategy or intelligent build-up play.

Mario Götze was moved from his “number 10” role he occupied in the Bosz-led Dortmund side, to a more traditional “number 8” (more of a box to box midfielder) role with Stöger at the helm. This could not have been a poorer fit for Götze. As a result, he struggled massively. Gone was the dynamic play-maker from the Hinrunde. Instead, he looked out of sync and frustrated.

This, despite the return of his good friend, and Dortmund’s best player, Marco Reus. The “Götzeus” connection of 2012-13 was a “bro-mantic” chemistry of the highest degree. The two players were fantastic together for Klopp’s Dortmund. Upon Reus’ return from injury this season, the two had logged a mere 93 minutes together since Götze re-joined BVB in 2016.

Mario Gotze’s number of minutes on the pitch decreased as the season progressed (Photo by TF-Images/Getty Images)

Due to Götze’s poor play, (which I maintain was more of the manager’s incompetence than the player’s lack of ability) he was often benched in favor of far lesser talents. It took nearly the duration of the Rückrunde, but Mario eventually regained his form. Stöger started implementing a 4-1-4-1 lineup for Dortmund during the last month of the season.

Götze was once again featured as a more creative, attack-minded midfielder next to Reus, who was used as a secondary striker behind Maximilian Philipp. Dortmund’s finest hour under Stöger, as well as Götze’s, came in their impressive 4-0 destruction of Bayer Leverkusen at the Westfalenstadion on match day 32.

This success was short-lived however, as BVB would earn a single point from their final three matches. Götze did not log a single minute in the season finale against Hoffenheim.

Where Does He Go From Here?

For Mario Götze to be a successful contributor at Borussia Dortmund he must be used properly. That’s it, plain and simple. At 25 years of age, Götze still has many productive seasons ahead. When Götze is free to roam, join the attack, and pick apart the opposition’s back line, he is as lethal a player as there is. He is the best attacking midfielder in the Bundesliga when in-form.

The key for him to consistently operate at the highest level for BVB will come down to the tactical philosophy of the club’s next manager, and his role within that philosophy.

At the time of this writing, all fingers point towards Lucien Favre being the next person to roam the touch line for Dortmund. Favre is quite familiar with the Bundesliga, and was responsible for transforming Borussia Mönchengladbach from a relegation side to Champions League qualifier.

Whether it’s Favre or someone else entirely, the next manager must foremost place the players into roles which best showcase their strengths while limiting their weaknesses.

The bottom line: Mario Götze is still one of the best players to wear the black and yellow shirt. He is still a top player in the Bundesliga and dare I say, on his best day, the world. If people cannot see this then they are quite frankly, blind. For Mario Götze’s sake, and to a greater extent the entire squad, let us hope Dortmund’s next manager has their eyes open.