The past few weeks have been rather difficult for Borussia Dortmund as they have seen their title challenge dented somewhat by their defeat in the Klassiker and elimination from the DFB Pokal. One bright spot however has been the form of forward Donyell Malen, who is finally hitting the heights expected of him. Could the Dutchman be a deciding factor in this season’s title race?
It wasn’t long ago that reports were linking Malen with a return to PSV Eindhoven, from whom Dortmund bought him for €30 million back in the summer of 2021. The Dutchman has long been a frustrating figure at the club- showing glimpses of quality, but never delivering on the huge promise.
However, after a largely disappointing Hinrunde, Malen has hit a purple patch of form just when BVB need it most scoring four goals and providing two assists in the last six Bundesliga matches. His first thirteen appearances this season produced just two assists and no goals.
The player was originally signed to replace the departing Jadon Sancho, but has struggled to be a like-for-like replacement. At PSV he was used to playing as part of a front two and scored 19 Eredivisie goals in his final season. At the Signal Iduna Park he has been moved about and deployed mainly on the wing. The transition has taken a while, but could Malen finally be about to find the consistency that has been missing and frustrated so many Schwarzgelben fans?
The 24-year-old scored in the 4-1 win over Hertha Berlin on matchday 21 and added a goal and two assists in the 6-1 demolition of Köln. He scored a consolation against Bayern in the Klassiker before opening the scoring last week in the important 2-1 win over Union Berlin.
“I’m just trying to do the things better that didn’t work so well in the first half of the season” he explained following the Union win. “I have more self-belief and I feel better in my actions.
The stats show that there has been a clear upturn in the players efforts. Compared to the Hinrunde, Malen is shooting more often (every 27 minutes rather than every 35) and is covering more distance (10,2 km per 90 compared to 9,2 previously). He’s getting involved in more duels and dribbling more.
BVB fans will be wary about getting too carried away as Malen has showed patches of this form in the past only to fade away again. If he can successfully continue this form and produce it on a consistent level then his future at Dortmund should be safe and he will compete with the likes of Jamie Bynoe-Gittens, Karim Adeyemi, and new arrival Julien Duranville for game time. A return to the frustrations of the Hinrunde could see a departure from BVB on the cards alongside Thorgan Hazard, whose loan to PSV is seen as a stepping- stone to a permanent move.