A closer look at new Borussia Dortmund signing Gregor Kobel

Gregor Kobel (Photo by Christian Kaspar-Bartke/Getty Images)
Gregor Kobel (Photo by Christian Kaspar-Bartke/Getty Images) /
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Gregor Kobel delivered some impressive performances for Stuttgart this season. (Photo by Pool/Marius Becker – Pool/Getty Images)
Gregor Kobel delivered some impressive performances for Stuttgart this season. (Photo by Pool/Marius Becker – Pool/Getty Images) /

Play Style

A goalkeeper’s play style and overall goalkeeping tendencies have become far more important to the overall type of game a team plays, or is able to play these days. Because they are far more involved in buildup, their ability with the ball has become essential. The way they defend against potential chances is also something that ends up being far more crucial depending on the nature of the game their respective squad and coaches prefer to deploy. Over the course of both Favre’s and Terzic’s tenure, Dortmund have very much deployed a high defensive line, which in turn would denote that a “sweeper keeper” would be the ideal solution between the sticks for such a club.

The question then is, would we classify Gregor Kobel as such a keeper? The short answer is no, but with a caveat. In playing for a team like Stuttgart, despite all their free-flowing attacking football at times, they also have a propensity to be pinned back against teams of higher quality in the league; teams that will bring the fight to them and force the keeper to stay more focused on stopping shots in his local vicinity than worrying about smothering an onrushing counter attack. But he did show this season that he possesses the ability to come out and do a job in that area.

Taking a look at Kobel’s overall ability, it seems that the Swiss shot stopper is quite quick to get down to block a shot despite his 1,94m frame. His reflexes were something to behold in both games against RB Leipzig this past season as, despite the respective results, he was able to pull off some impressive saves to make sure the score lines weren’t egregious for his club. He is far more mobile than his frame would suggest. He has also shown that he can make some impressive saves with his feet, as he did when stopping an Emil Forsberg penalty to good effect.

Another reason for signing him is his personality, which has earned him a lot of praise from previous coaches. His mentality and drive could see him become one of the Bundesliga’s best goalkeepers for years to come. He also has a commanding presence and body language about him, which is something that Roman Bürki seemed to be missing at times. Add the fact that he is very comfortable with the ball at his feet, and you can see why the BVB bosses decided to sign him.

There are some weaknesses that I would like to point out, however. In delving into both match replays and highlights, one worrying tendency Kobel has is that he tends to not fully clear the ball after he saves it, sometimes even putting it in the path of onrushing players that opens up a secondary chance for the opposition to score. Kobel seems to have a need to work on fully smothering these dangerous opportunities, but having a higher quality back-line should also be able to help out with this, as his teammates will also hopefully be in a better position to help squander any additional threats.

Kobel’s stats also show that over the course of this season he generally stopped 7.1% of the crosses he faced in his penalty area per 90 minutes (according to fbref). This is a bit worrying because Dortmund have shown that, with their current defensive setup, they do have a hard time stopping crosses, corners, and set pieces at times. I will say though there is perhaps at least a decisiveness about Kobel’s play, something Bürki has lacked at times. And he will only get better as he gets to play with better quality defenders like Mats Hummels and Manuel Akanji in front of him.