Erling Haaland’s sensational arrival has masked Borussia Dortmund’s defensive issues. In German international Emre Can, BVB are hoping for more stability at the back.
All the talk in Dortmund these days revolves around one man. With five goals in his first 56 minutes in a Borussia Dortmund shirt, Erling Haaland has fired his new club to back-to-back Bundesliga wins and reignited the belief that the Black and Yellows can have a serious say in the title race.
But Haaland's heroics in high-scoring wins over Augsburg (5-3) and Cologne (5-1) have also distracted from a rather large elephant in the room. With 28 goals conceded, Dortmund have the leakiest defense in the top six. Indeed, only Hoffenheim and Frankfurt have shipped more goals in the entire top half.
Now, Dortmund have finalized a loan deal with Juventus for German international Emre Can — a move that will be made permanent if certain conditions are met — in an effort to sure up a fragile back line.
The holding midfielder was out of favor in Turin, only making seven Serie A appearances this season. Head coach Maurizio Sarri even left him out of the Italian champions' Champions League squad and he missed Sunday's defeat away at Napoli, officially with a bout of flu.
The 26-year-old has his eye on this summer's European Championships and reportedly accepted a pay cut for a move to Dortmund, where Bundesliga and Champions League football could help bring him to Joachim Löw's attention.
Akanji drop off
Dortmund had Can on their radar since the start of the January transfer window — but as a solution for the defense rather than midfield, where Axel Witsel has impressed.
None of Dortmund's defenders have covered themselves in glory this season. Particularly in Augsburg, before Haaland's entry in the second half, Lucien Favre's side were all too easily carved open by their opponents. Even Cologne, with the third bluntest attack in the division, were able to fashion chances.
The chief culprit: Swiss central defender Manuel Akanji. The 24-year-old was described by sporting director Michael Zorc as "pretty complete” when he first arrived from Basel in January 2018 but his performances have dropped off alarmingly.
It was Akanji's error away at Werder Bremen last season which led to the equalizer as BVB threw away both a 2-0 lead and their title hopes. This season, his concentration and positioning have seen him cut an uncertain figure in Cologne, Berlin, Frankfurt and Freiburg, where his late own-goal cost Dortmund two points.
During Dortmund's winter training camp in Marbella, Akanji himself told reporters that he is "very, very self-critical” and admitted that he has "not always performed as [he] would have liked." He even withdrew voluntarily from the team's "players' council." As kicker magazine put it, "it's been a season to forget so far."
The experience of Can, with 25 appearances for Germany to his name, could be a welcome boost if the financial details can be ironed out.
Dortmund's financial hand was perhaps strengthened by the departure of Paco Alcacer, who moved to Spanish side Villarreal on Thursday for a reported €23 million.
The Spanish striker made a similar impact to Haaland when he first arrived at the Westfalenstadion from Barcelona in September 2018. But his Dortmund days are numbered after injuries and attitude problems put a halt to his impressive goal-scoring form.
The 28-year-old was left out of the squad for BVB's trip to Augsburg and spent 90 minutes on the bench against Cologne, as Haaland stole the headlines.