Much has been made in recent weeks about the form of both Donyell Malen and Karim Adeyemi for Borussia Dortmund as they help fire the Schwarzgelben towards a potential title with their goals. After a poor Hinrunde, the pair have both really come good in the second half of the season. But Sebastien Haller can also lay claim to being Dortmund’s key man in their impressive Rückrunde as a deeper look into BVB’s play shows.
Haller’s double strike (and double assist) against Borussia Mönchengladbach this weekend saw him grabbing the limelight for a change, but for those in the know at the club he has been a key man throughout the second half of the campaign after making his comeback from testicular cancer even if the goals haven’t been flowing with great regularity.
The striker is still not at 100% and not at the level he was when leading Eintracht Frankfurt’s Büffelherde triumvirate alongside Luka Jovic and Ante Rebic, but he is becoming much more influential for Dortmund as the key time of the season.
Speaking to Archie Rhind-Tutt on ESPN after the weekend’s win, coach Edin Terzic spoke of Haller’s growing importance to the team. “You need always players to win you meters and he’s a player, who wins us seconds. So he’s the one to let the others shine in moments where he shields the ball, where he takes one or two players off of your position out of position, and then our other players around, then they can sprint, then they can go in behind, then they get the second or the third ball.
“But if you see the way he is also now inside the box, entering the front post scoring from this position last week, this week. This is what we need from our striker and we’ve been missing him for a very very long time, and now you can feel that he’s getting not only the confidence back, he’s getting also his physical abilities back and this is where we want to continue as a team to support him to get better and we need him to get better as well.”
The raw stats back this up. In the first half of the season prior to Haller’s comeback, Dortmund were scoring an average of 1.66 goals per game, but that has skyrocketed in the second half with 53 goals scored in 17 matches raising the average to 3.12 per game- the highest of any team in Europe’s top-5 leagues. It also cannot be just coincidence that Adeyemi and Malen were both without a single Bundesliga goal in the Hinrunde, but have both exploded in the Rückrunde with Haller leading the attack. Adeyemi now has six goals, Malen has nine.
Haller’s positional awareness and deep runs into the opposition back line helps to create space in which Malen and Adeyemi in particular can profit from. It’s expected that as he returns to absolute full fitness and sharpness, that the goals from him will flow and Dortmund will have their 20-goals per season striker. Haller is not a ‘secret weapon’, rather he is an ‘open-secret weapon’, but even though opponents know what to expect, stopping him is quite the other thing.