Julian Brandt is Borussia Dortmund’s unsung hero, according to Brooke Genene, and is deserving of more praise than he is currently receiving.
With Jadon Sancho on the bench because of a knock, Marco Reus and Axel Witsel sidelined with injuries, Borussia Dortmund were in need of a leader in their derby clash against Schalke.
The ‘Mother of all derbies’ was being played under unprecedented circumstances with fans not being allowed into stadiums. It was one of the first games to be played on Saturday after the Bundesliga became the first of the Top 5 European leagues to resume following the Coronavirus pandemic.
However, the main issue for BVB, at least at that moment, was the fact that whether the absence of key players will derail their title challenge.
Up steps Julian Brandt! He was deployed a bit further up the pitch than he used to with Mo Dahoud taking up the deep midfield role. Brandt made sure that the Black and Yellows come away with all three points with an eye-catching performance.
He was the main source of the first goal as he flicked to release Thorgan Hazard out wide whose cross was expertly met by the unstoppable Erling Haaland. Brandt managed to register two assists in this game one of which was to Hazard for the third goal after a classic BVB counter.
The 24-year-old German international made the move from Bayer Leverkusen to Borussia Dortmund in a deal worth €25m in May 2019. He was among the high-profile signings the club made in that window as they aimed for the league title.
Brandt did score a beauty in his Bundesliga debut against Augsburg but his start to life at Dortmund wasn’t easy. With recurrent injuries to striker Paco Alcacer early in the season, Brandt was sometimes used as a false number 9 and other times deployed out wide when Marco Reus was entrusted in leading the line.
Neither position suited him and it was when Lucien Favre decided to put Brandt alongside Axel Witsel in a midfield 2 that he started showing his true qualities.
In his new role, Brandt managed to dictate the game, progress the ball from defence to attack, and set up plenty of goal scoring chances. He has 7 goals and 7 assists in all competitions this season.
His excellence in the number 8 role was a reminder of what BVB have missed after the departure of the elegant Ilkay Guendogan.
Perhaps the best game Brandt played for Dortmund was in a 5-0 demolition of Fortuna Düsseldorf. He didn’t manage to get on the scoresheet but he was at the heart of everything BVB managed to create that day.
He had this to say to Bundesliga.com after the match: “It’s a lot of fun to play there. Being able to get into the game from the centre of the pitch can really bring it to life. In central midfield, you’re connected to every player and an important link between defence and attack. That was certainly the case against Fortuna, and it worked really well!”
Few days after that he scored a contender for goal of the season against RB Leipzig. Quick turn, one-touch, and fired into the net. It was a goal that left everyone speechless.
Julian Brandt has quickly become a fan favourite at Dortmund. His display at the weekend was further proof of his importance for the team. That has seen him named player of the matchday by the Bundesliga’s official site.
With important games against Bayern and Leipzig coming up Brandt will be an even more important asset for the team if they are going to win the Bundesliga for the first time in 8 years.
With a fully fit squad and Brandt putting on such high-quality performances BVB fans can dream again. While their excellence in attack hasn’t been questioned throughout the season it was the defence that has been the weak link in the team.
But there have been significant improvements in that regard in the weeks before the interruption of the league. Brandt and co are aiming high. Whether they will be able to achieve their target will remain to be seen.