Losing the top goal-scorer in the league from the previous season typically means an immediate drop in form for most clubs. The exact opposite is the case for Borussia Dortmund. I think it is safe to say BVB are better off in the long-term having sold the self-proclaimed “crazy boy” Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to Arsenal this winter. Good chemistry is everything in team sports. With Aubameyang gone, Dortmund have taken a step in the right direction to achieving this.
The negative cloud of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang hovered over Borussia Dortmund for well over a year. Will he stay of will he go? That was the massive question last summer. Despite his Bundesliga-leading 31 goals during the 2016-17 season, there was always something missing with this player. Leadership and maturity were always weaknesses that kept him from being the complete package.
Is it any coincidence that Auba’s closest friend in the squad last season was the divisive Ousmane Dembélé? At no point in Borussia Dortmund’s illustrious history has one player caused so much headache in such a short amount of time as Dembélé did only a few months ago. We need not relive the Barcelona-Dortmund transfer debacle which unfolded. What must be mentioned is Dembélé’s childish behaviour and utter lack of professionalism which ultimately led to his exit from BVB.
What Ousmane Dembélé did, albeit unknowingly, was create a blueprint for all future Dortmund players who think they are above playing for the club. Those who believe they deserve better and who see BVB as “too small” for their talents. Instead of conducting business as a professional and having respectful dialogue with management, Ousmane chose to act like a five year old child who was denied it’s favorite toy.
Dembèlè blatantly and purposefully skipped team trainings with the hope of Dortmund giving in to his demands. In his half-hearted farewell message to BVB fans, Aubameyang admitted that he too wanted to be sold last summer. He was witness to some of the most absurd behaviour in BVB history. In the end, his dear friend Ousmane Dembèlè achieved his goal and got his wish. The precedence had been set to force an immediate exit from the club and Aubameyang undoubtedly had been taking notes.
Un-Leading By Example
To say that Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is not a talented player would be a ridiculous claim. He is one of the best players to ever wear the black and yellow of Borussia Dortmund. His time there will be remembered as bittersweet though. Behind all of the goals, the playful celebrations, and the colorful hairstyles, there was a player who was always more invested himself than the club.
If Aubameyang was unmotivated he could go unnoticed for large portions of a match. He might occasionally perform a lackluster jog back to midfield to “help” in defence. His number of touches in some matches was so low you might be surprised to see he even played. The majority of matches saw him rely completely on the service he received from his teammates. Though equipped with unbelievable pace and an uncanny ability to play off of the last defender’s shoulder, he struggled greatly sometimes at creating his own shots as well as finishing an attack.
Truth be told, we never knew which Aubameyang we were going to get from week to week. During the latter half of the 2017 Bundesliga Hinrunde Aubameyang’s demeanor took a permanent turn for the worse. He took a page straight from the Dembèlè playbook by skipping a team meeting. Ironically, this meeting was to promote team spirit. Astonishingly, Aubameyang has missed more matches in his four-and-a-half years at Dortmund due to disciplinary reasons than due to injury.
To pour salt in the wound, the self-proclaimed “crazy boy” was seen casually playing five-a-side football while wearing a BVB Dembélé shirt. This was an act in direct defiance of the club. With few other options at centre-forward, manager Peter Stöger was forced to play the disgruntled player, despite his toxic actions. Aubameyang would play his final match for Die Schwarz-Gelben on January 27th, 2018 against SC Freiburg. He played the full 90 minutes managing only one shot and a meager 19 touches. With each touch he was heavily booed by the Dortmund faithful. Their dissatisfaction with the player was heard loud and clear.
Despite being the club’s third-best goal-scorer in history, he does not leave as a legend. To reach that level of recognition it requires more from a player than simply being good on the pitch. To an extent you must become somewhat of an ambassador of the club. Aubameyang was never that for Borussia Dortmund. It is hard to imagine things will be any different at his new home with Arsenal.
Purging the Poison
It has to be a relief for most BVB fans and certainly the club, as Aubameyang’s exit is now complete. The poisonous actions of the player have been removed from the dressing room, allowing The Black and Yellows to continue their pursuit of Champions League qualification and a successful Rückrunde. In the final hours of the winter transfer window, as Aubameyang was packing his bags for London, Borussia Dortmund management secured a deal with Chelsea for seldom-used forward Michy Batshuayi.
Batshuayi had made only nine Premier League appearances for The Blues in 2017-18, however, the raw talent he possesses was always clearly on display. Only days after arriving in Dortmund, Michy was immediately inserted into the lineup for the match against 1. FC Köln, despite only participating in two training sessions. This was a huge gamble by the manager. In the end, Stöger’s decision was a successful one and paid huge dividends for BVB.
The new “Batman”, (Aubameyang was often referred to as Batman) did not disappoint. Batshuayi bagged a brace and an assist in his first match for Borussia Dortmund, only inches offside from completing a hat trick. Neither club nor player could have envisioned a more successful debut. Michy was an instant breathe of fresh air. No complaining, no ludicrous celebrations (as Aubameyang would often perform to draw attention to himself), only smiles for the 24-year-old Belgian.
Such positive actions can instantly revitalize a dressing room. Michy Batshuayi appears genuinely happy to be at Borussia Dortmund, where he has been presented the opportunity to feature for one of Europe’s finest clubs. This, as opposed to being used primarily as a squad rotational player at Stamford Bridge.
The addition of Batshuayi could not have come at a more critical time for BVB as they find themselves in a brutal battle with five other sides for a top-four finish in the Bundesliga. Batshuayi’s debut provided Dortmund fans everywhere with some much-needed reassurance that not only could the team survive, but perhaps even excel in the post-Aubameyang era.
Onward to the Finish Line
It is still too early to tell whether Michy Batshuayi will have a long-term positive effect at Borussia Dortmund. After such a fantastic debut it is hard to not get your hopes up as a BVB supporter. What is certain is that Dortmund can put behind them the constant concern surrounding Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s future with the club, or whether he picks up another suspension due to further inexcusable behaviour.
Beyond goals and assists, Michy Batshuayi provides Borussia Dortmund with something that was never a guarantee with Aubameyang: dependability. There will be no ridiculous red card-earning tackles during a critical stretch of a match against hated rivals FC Schalke. Batshuayi will not be suspended prior to an important match because of childish actions, further jeopardizing his club’s chances of securing a Champions League spot for next season.
No, Batshuayi will simply do his job and play. He already brings a greater sense of unity into the BVB dressing room than Aubameyang did these past 18 months. Furthermore, this player has ambitions of playing for the Belgian national team at the World Cup this summer. With as much talent as Belgium currently has to choose from, it will require Batshuayi’s best efforts in the next few months to secure his place in the squad for Russia.
Borussia Dortmund CEO Hans-Joachim Watzke is trying to ensure his club finishes this roller-coaster season on a strong note as he delivered a stern message to his players this week. That being said, if Batshuayi does not perform, he will not play. With so much at stake for both club and country it is hard to believe the player would give any less than 100% effort each time he steps on the pitch from now until June.
At least for the short-term, Borussia Dortmund have their new “Batman”. If his debut is any indication, and with “Robin” (Marco Reus) set to return from injury in the coming weeks, the future does indeed appear to be bright for the German giants from the Ruhr. After all, who would bet against the most famous superhero duo in history?