Borussia Dortmund’s Julian Brandt: Creative catalyst and defensive liability

Julian Brandt. (Photo by Boris Streubel/Getty Images)
Julian Brandt. (Photo by Boris Streubel/Getty Images) /

Borussia Dortmund’s Julian Brandt has been one of the team’s most talked about players this season. The German international has shown his class on a more consistent basis this season, but still very much remains a polarizing figure amongst the Dortmund faithful.

Prior to this season, Julian Brandt was under a barrage of (warranted) criticism. The former Bayer Leverkusen player moved to Borussia Dortmund with a plethora of acclaim and excitement surrounding his name. He was a creative maestro for Leverkusen, putting up impressive numbers in midfield all season long. His final season at Leverkusen saw Brandt net 7 goals and provide 11 assists for his teammates.

These numbers made many, myself included, very excited about the prospect of having Brandt join Borussia Dortmund. Having watched him play, I assumed that he would fit seamlessly into the team’s starting XI.

His first half season with Borussia Dortmund quietly showed just how good he can be, with Brandt showing glimpses of his talent and potential. His form skyrocketed going into January as Lucien Favre played him in a deeper role. He conducted play really well, but then his form dropped off as Favre tinkered with his role.

Brandt’s second season saw him put up relatively weak numbers for his standards. He finished the Bundesliga season with 3 goals and 2 assists in 31 appearances, which eventually saw him fall out of favor with Favre. It was here that Brandt likely suffered his first bout with a growing lack of confidence. His displays were lackluster and he was a liability in possession as Favre continued to play him in a variety of positions, including as a false nine.

Julian Brandt’s resurgence at Borussia Dortmund under Marco Rose

Julian Brandt celebrates his goal against Bayern. (Photo by Joosep Martinson/Getty Images)
Julian Brandt celebrates his goal against Bayern. (Photo by Joosep Martinson/Getty Images) /

Marco Rose, to his credit, has remedied this passing ailment of Julian Brandt’s to a degree. His passes seem to be far more progressive and purposeful, as is his attacking play. Brandt currently sits on 5 goals and 4 assists in the Bundesliga, which already exceeds his yearly total for last year. Some of his performances, especially the one against Bayern Munich, have been nothing short of world class.

While he often seems like a creative force for Borussia Dortmund this season, Brandt still has to improve on not giving the ball away in crucial phases of the game. He has been culpable for giving away the ball in dangerous areas for some time now, and the last Bundesliga game of the season against Hertha Berlin is a prime example of this.

The first half saw Brandt put in a solid shift particularly up front, with a smart little dink in the 30th minute beating Alexander Schwolow for Dortmund’s opening goal. The second half saw him help undo all that hard work. Hertha’s goal for 2-1 was a combination of both Axel Witsel and Brandt failing to clear the ball out of the penalty area, which allowed continued pressure on Dortmund’s goal which eventually resulted in Marco Richter putting the ball past Marwin Hitz.

The 68th minute saw another Brandt mistake play a part in yet another Hertha goal. A lazy pass upon receiving it from Thomas Meunier saw Hertha capitalize on an opportunity on goal once again. These chances in retrospect seem very avoidable if Dortmund’s players, particularly Brandt, keep up the level of concentration necessary to see out this game. Even with the injuries and absences Dortmund have been faced with in the last weeks, a performance like this is still not warranted.

It remains to be seen just what Marco Rose can do to fully eliminate Brandt’s lapses in concentration. He has already made strides with the playmaker, who now has to make sure that these lapses do not continue to occur in a trend-like fashion. Lapses of this sort can and will cost Dortmund dearly in the competitions that they still have a chance of winning silverware in.

Aside from Brandt’s own shortcomings, it’s clear that Dortmund need more quality in depth in both midfield and defense to offset individual mistakes. It was far too easy for Hertha to cut through their midfield and defense to create these dangerous scenarios.

Brandt’s mistakes may have been the catalyst, but there was absolutely no safety net in place for these mistakes to be handled with composure. While it is duly noted that many starters have been missing this season for a variety of reasons, it’s clear that a lack of quality depth is finally catching up with the team.

Next. Sebastian Kehl not expecting big movement at Borussia Dortmund in the January transfer window. dark

The fact of the matter is that no matter who is on the field for Borussia Dortmund, Brandt and his teammates need to stop allowing themselves to have lapses in concentration. It’s clear that he has all the tools for success when it comes to raw talent and football know-how, but until Brandt and Dortmund as a whole find some sort of solution to the squad’s lackadaisical approach to certain games, these performances will continue to haunt the club and prevent them from properly challenging for silverware, domestically and abroad.