In the advent of the winter transfer window, Borussia Dortmund’s transfer activity has shaken up the starting 11, and in many ways for the better. Jadon Sancho has come back to provide much needed creativity and attacking impetus on the wing, while Ian Maatsen has been very good at left back since coming on loan from Chelsea.
In the case of Maatsen in particular, his good form threatens to dislodge an already underwhelming Ramy Bensebaini from his position long term. Bensebaini, who has been away with Algeria for AFCON, has seen his absence largely go unnoticed with Maatsen’s arrival.
Prior to the winter break, Borussia Dortmund’s bosses were noted in saying that they expected more from Bensebaini upon his arrival to Dortmund. The player was seen a strong defensive reinforcement last summer by Sebastian Kehl and co, and has put in a few solid defensive displays, but has failed to contribute much to Dortmund going forward.
Signing Bensebaini was always going to be a double edged sword for Dortmund after the departure of Raphael Guerreiro, who was often criticized for the lackadaisical nature of his defending, but was brilliant going forward. The issue for Bensebaini now, is the fact that Ian Maatsen has so far been able to show that he is capable of doing both.
Mastsen’s ability to contribute going forward the way he did for Donyell Malen’s second goal against Köln, coupled with his conviction to run back and help in defense make him, for the moment, a much more well rounded player for Dortmund to play in this position. Bensebaini’s game has been far more defensively oriented, as his stats show. Bensebaini boasts high numbers in terms of interceptions (1.57), blocks (2.07), clearances (3.04) and aerial duels won (1.93) per 90.
Bensebaini's offensive stats are as follows: His non-penalty goals sit at 0 (22nd percentile). In terms of assists he sits at 0.04 per 90 (21st percentile). His progressive passing numbers aren't very impressive either, sitting at 4.68 per 90 (74th percentile) and his progressive passes recieved sit at 4.18 per 90 (52nd percentile). These numbers do a great job to highlight the conservative nature of his play.
The question then is, does Maaten’s arrival threaten Bensebaini’s place in the squad long term? The answer to that is that well, it depends. Dortmund currently have first refusal on a 30-35 million pound release clause in Maatsen’s contract, so it will really depend on whether or not the club choose to trigger this come the end of the season. If they do, Bensebaini may certainly see his playtime cut significantly.
Maatsen isn’t the only threat to Bensebaini’s place in the team however. Tom Rothe, who is currently out on loan with Holstein Kiel, will return in the summer after impressing in the 2. Bundesliga, a fact that can’t be discounted. It wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest to see Bensebaini fall to third in the pecking order upon Rothe’s return as Rothe is indeed a far more complete player in terms of his play style than Bensebaini is. His defensive numbers rival Bensebaini's, particuarly in terms of clearances (3.08) and aerial duels won (1.63) while still excelling when going forward (two goals, five assists).
Bensebaini does still have some utility for Dortmund as he is able to play both at left back and center back, a fact that could still see him garner minutes this season due to Dortmund’s egregious lack of depth, but long term his future may be something the club considers cutting short. The player himself has stated that he dreams of Manchester United and the Premier League, so perhaps the club could help him expedite those dreams this summer if their plans change regarding his status at the club.