A painfully familiar sinking feeling filled the hearts of Borussia Dortmund supporters as the final whistle blew on November 11. A second consecutive loss extended the distance between them and Bayern Munich. The World Cup break couldn’t begin quickly enough as justifiable criticism was heaped upon the shoulders of Edin Terzic. The benefit of hindsight, however, reveals that a seemingly irrelevant first half goal from Julian Brandt would mark the beginning of the best run of performances of his career and serve as a springboard for the club’s dramatic change of form.
Fast-forward to Saturday’s win over Werder Bremen and you’ll have seen Brandt’s third goal in his last six games to provide the exclamation point on a 2-0 win for a surging Dortmund. The goal now sees him tied for first at the top of the club’s Bundesliga goal scoring rankings in the campaign. It can hardly be argued that no player has been more important to this year’s squad than Brandt. Whilst Jude Bellingham surely remains the most prized asset among his peers, it’s the new found consistency from Dortmund’s #19 that has changed the course of this season.
Those who have followed the German international’s club career will concede that he has always possessed the talent, but has rarely demonstrated the ability to polish off a brilliant dribbling advance out of the midfield with either the right pass or a convincing shot attempt. In the absence of the injured Marco Reus, it has been Brandt that’s been called upon to take up the reigns of the creative control deck. To say he’s met expectations would be an understatement.
The 26-year-old now appears to have evaded the mental fog which built a wall between raw talent and its ruthless utilization. A scary reality for aspiring title contenders in Bavaria and east Germany. A celebrated one for those in black and yellow. Those with serious domestic and European ambitions know that squad rotation is very much the name of the game. The fixture list is unforgiving and fatigue is an inescapable enemy of any depth chart. Yet, so good have Brandt’s performances been, that it’s seemingly unimaginable for him to be rested in any of the upcoming matches.
Dortmund is now set to play the role of mid-week hosts of European football’s poster child of inconsistency – Chelsea. But against a team full of both glamorous new additions, and seasoned champions, the club knows it faces a formidable opponent that will look to impose its own style of play at the Signal Iduna Park. Despite the return of the aforementioned Reus, it’s impossible to conceive of a scenario in which he actually takes Brandt’s place in the starting eleven. Though both featured in Terzic’s squad at Werder Bremen on Saturday, one would assume that a more defensive set up, and likely one less attacking midfielder, will take the pitch against Graham Potters men.
The numbers speak for themselves. Brandt closes out match day 20 averaging more successful dribbles per game than Christopher Nkunku, Moussa Diaby, and Jesper Lindstrom (1.3). Supplement this with more key passes per game and a higher XA (Expected Assists) than Jamal Musiala and you’re looking at a player that’s been flying under the radar of international media. It’s time for credit to be given where it’s due. Come Wednesday, the spotlight can’t hide any longer as Brandt looks to continue his red-hot run of form on the biggest stage that club football has to offer.
GGFN | Reece Edwards