How the absence of Marco Reus affected Borussia Dortmund last season

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Marco Reus of Borussia Dortmund against Mainz. (Photo by TF-Images/Getty Images)

Reus’s production and impact

Despite the shortened season, it was still a productive campaign for Marco Reus. He would play in 19 games, but considering the injury that saw him play under 30 minutes in games against Wolfsburg and Bayern on match day 10 and 11, Reus effectively played in 17 of Dortmund’s 34 games in the Bundesliga.

In those 17 games, he scored 11 goals and added five assists. He was especially efficient after the switch to the 3-4-3. In his seven games in the new formation, he scored five of his 11 goals, and got all of his assists in that run. Dortmund won six of the seven, scoring 29 goals in that stretch.

Its hardly a coincidence that Dortmund did not lose games with the new formation until Reus’s absence. His first missed game after the switch was match-day 17 against Hoffenheim, a game Dortmund went on to lose 2-1. The next game was match-day 21 against Leverkusen, with Dortmund losing 4-3 this time.

For the season as a whole, the 3-1 loss to Union Berlin on match-day 3 was the lone game Dortmund lost with Reus in the line up.

Dortmund scored 52 goals in the 17 games they played with Reus in the team, averaging just over three goals a game. Compare that to the other 17 games and the decline is clear. Dortmund scored 32 goals, averaging just under 1.9 goals a game. Dortmund were also better in terms of results, although it was close. With Reus in the lineup, the team picked up 36 points, while without him they got 33.

With Reus out of the lineup, Dortmund loses his quick style of play and his off ball movement. Reus’s ability to pass and shoot with his first touch is instrumental in the team’s link up in the final third, whether on counter attacks or against a team sitting deep. He rarely slows down an attack and is able to work in tight spaces, making it much easier to work through defenses.

His stellar one touch play shows in his stats. Ten of his goals came from first time finishes, and three of his assists came from a first time pass.

As for his off ball movement, his overlaps and runs in behind help the attack flow whether it is to get the ball himself or pull defenders off another attacker. His overlaps are often the cause of his link up with Jadon Sancho. The most direct showing of this was for Sancho’s first goal in Dortmund’s 5-0 win against Dusseldorf on match-day 14. Following Reus’s overlap, the two played a give-and-go before Sancho would find the bottom corner.

A less obvious example of one where Reus did not get the ball can be seen in the season opener against Augsburg. On Sancho’s assist for Paco Alcacer’s second goal, he initially had two defenders in front of him. Reus’ overlap took away the second defender, making it easier for Sancho to take on his marker on find Alcacer in the middle.

His runs in behind make him a continuous scoring threat. Goals against Borussia Monchengladbach and F.C. Cologne came from such runs, where he was able to pull away from defenders without going offside. On the providing end, similar runs can be seen in Dortmund’s opener in their 5-1 win against Augsburg and his assist to Sancho in the 3-3 draw against RB Leipzig.

His ability to carry the ball forward from midfield and work in tight spaces was also missed. As Dortmund often struggled to break down defences, especially in first halves of games. Without Reus, the team was more reliant on counter attacks to score goals.

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