Manuel Veth –
Borussia Dortmund have finally filled the void up front. Spanish forward Paco Alcacer will be joining Borussia Dortmund from Barcelona on a loan deal worth €2.2 million. German paper Sport Bild also reported that Dortmund have an option to make the deal permanent for around €20 million to €25 million.
“If a player, who completely convinces us and fits our tactics, is available we are able to complete a deal”, BVB CEO Hans Joachim Watzke told the media on Friday. Dortmund had identified both Liverpool’s Divock Origi and Barcelona’s Paco Alcacer as the ideal candidates to fill the void left by Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who left the club for Arsenal in January.
Dortmund had inquired the availability of both players in recent weeks. But Dortmund head coach Lucien Favre favoured Spanish striker Alcacer over Belgium forward Origi.
Paco Alcacer beats out Divock Origi
Ultimately either striker would have been seen as a controversial signing for Dortmund this summer. Origi spent last season on loan at Wolfsburg and flopped in Germany. Alcacer, however, also has struggled since joining Barcelona – scoring just 15 goals in 50 games for Barcelona.
Furthermore, Origi was seen to similar to striker Michy Batshuayi, who despite scoring seven goals in ten games, was not seen compatible in Favre’s system. Going by his time at Hertha and Gladbach, the other two teams that he coached in Germany, Favre favours smaller playmaking strikers over physical strikers that can go with their heads through the wall.
Even at Nice Favre favoured a system with two strikers, Alassane Pléa and Mario Balotelli, who had a physical presence but were also comfortable to drop deep and act as playing strikers. Batshuayi and Origi have a physical presence, but they are the sort of players that spearhead a system that is completely set up for them and allows for very little tactical flexibility.
Origi, like Batshuayi before him, would have been difficult to fit in a system with two flexible forwards, which is a system that Favre likes to play. At 175cm Alcacer is a playing forward, who can drop deep and play similarly to former Valencia great and current New York City FC striker David Villa.
It would be easy to imagine Favre to set up Dortmund in a 4-4-2 system with Marco Reus and Christian Pulisic on either wing and Maximilian Philipp or Marius Wolf, and Alcacer plays up front. Furthermore, Alcacer would also be capable of playing on the wing with Philipp up front and as a single striker in a 4-3-3 system.
What will Alcacer bring to Borussia Dortmund?
In other words, Alcacer has the tactical flexibility that Origi lacked. “Well he’s a typical box striker in the mould of Villa perhaps,” owner of Breaking the Lines, and Barcelona expert, Zach Lowy explained to the Futbolgrad Network. “Suarez was a trainwreck at times [at Barcelona], and there were times I wanted him to play over Suarez”, Lowy explains further.
“He’s efficient; he’s good at latching onto through balls. Alcacer is neither very strong nor very weak”, Lowy further explains. Ultimately, Alcacer never managed to get past Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez in the striking pecking order, however.
Dortmund are therefore getting a box striker without a strong physical presence. In my conversation with Lowy, it becomes apparent, however, that Alcacer, despite being a box striker, is a player, who will drop deep to make room for his attacking partners.
It was perhaps one of the primary reasons why Alcacer, like David Villa before him, did not work out at Barcelona. After all, Lionel Messi’s movements suffocate strikers. The Argentine plays several roles at once, and even though he is a genius, his coverage on the field make it difficult for other strikers to succeed in Barcelona.
Even an all-out goal scorer like Luis Suarez had to adjust his game at Barcelona to allow Messi to flourish. It explains to a certain extent why Alcacer did not work out at Barcelona.
After all the striker was signed as a 22-year-old from Valencia after having scored 13 goals and seven assists for Valencia in the 2015/16 season. That season Valencia finished 12th in La Liga and was a club in crisis mode. The striker performed and was the clubs most consistent player.
Alcacer – The bottom line
What is the bottom line then? The 24-year-old forward is not the star striker many Dortmund fans had envisioned to arrive this summer.
Many fans look at Ousmane Dembélé’s transfer and the €140 million earned from the deal. For them, Dortmund should have been able to sign any forward on the planet. Dortmund, however, had to strengthen other areas and renew contracts of key players in the squad.
Furthermore, Dortmund missed out on signing talented striker Lautaro Martinez this summer. The forward had already agreed on a deal with Inter when Dortmund came in with a late offer.
Finally, Lucien Favre’s system does not fit any striker. Strikers with a strong physical presence, like Luuk de Jong, struggled in Gladbach’s tactical system. Even Balotelli and Pléa, who both bring a physical presence, are not strikers that wait for the ball like it would have been the case with Batshuayi or Origi.
With Martinez off the market, the options were limited. Alcacer, in the meantime, is a bit of a gamble but at €2.2 million Dortmund are not taking a significant risk and then hold all the cards with the buy option should the Spaniard become a success in Germany.
The bottom line, therefore, is that Alcacer is a gamble. But given that there are not many strikers available at the moment, this is a gamble well worth taking.
Manuel Veth is the owner and Editor in Chief of the Futbolgrad Network. He also works as a freelance journalist and among others works for the Bundesliga and Pro Soccer USA. He holds a Doctorate of Philosophy in History from King’s College London, and his thesis is titled: “Selling the People’s Game: Football’s transition from Communism to Capitalism in the Soviet Union and its Successor States,” which is available HERE. Originally from Munich, Manuel has lived in Amsterdam, Kyiv, Moscow, Tbilisi, London, and currently is located in Victoria BC, Canada. Follow Manuel on Twitter @ManuelVeth.
Personally, I don’t think Alcacer has the required level for being the starter forward for BVB. As you’ve mentioned above, there were not many alternatives available at the market, and Favre’s style demands some particularities. I remember when he was coaching Mochengladbach, his front line was composed by Raffael and Kruse (two second strikers, I guess) in a 4-4-2 double 6 system. In this case, and attending to what it was the first eleven on BVB’s first match at Bundesliga I think Phillip (I liked him a lot at pre-season) would be more succeeded than the spaniard, due to his characteristics. What do you think, Manuel?