Mats Hummels' form has long been a concern, and on Friday in Hamburg, there was further evidence that he is not the defender he once was. DW's Jonathan Harding discusses.
I wrote back in April that Dortmund should have listened to offers for Mats Hummels. Now, 13 matchdays into the season, I would be surprised if the same names would even be calling Dortmund.
Successful decision making comes from an ability to transfer knowledge at the right time. Hummels' career has gone on long enough now - he's 26 years old - for experience not to be the issue. He is a World Cup and triple Bundesliga winner, and was a member of Dortmund's sparkling 2013 Champions League campaign that ended in defeat to Bayern Munich. With the issue now being Hummels' decision making, it is fair to consider whether the defender has hit a ceiling.
His fitness certainly has played a part. A knee problem plagued him throughout the World Cup and following domestic season. That being said, in Brazil he was at his best, showcasing to the world his skills as a defensive leader who also contributed in attack. Since then, there have been reoccurring concerns about Hummels' performances.
Though he helped Dortmund reach great heights in the past, Mats Hummels may have hit his ceiling as a player.
Even if his fitness concerns are as behind him as his weight worries, his care-free manner doesn't help. Even the laugh after his inexplicable own goal against Hamburg seemed misplaced. As much as seeing an unmarked Hummels stoop to head past his own goalkeeper was indeed comical in it's inexplicableness, the defender's individual form doesn't read the same way Dortmund's does. The defeat to and the performance against Hamburg was an anomaly for BVB, but it also lead to the headlines being about Dortmund's defense and not their goal-rich attack. The performance raised concerns about Hummels' form rather than it hiding behind a flurry of goals.
On Friday, Hummels' risky, gung-ho style of play backfired. His venturing out of defense (not as bad as in other games) left an already high back-line exposed and his sluggish to non-exisitng marking for Lewis Holtby's goal was verging on unacceptable for him. His long balls have him looking like the apprentice to Jerome Boateng, who is the undoubted master of the art. The only thing saving Hummels on Friday was his dominance in the air, and that only lasted until the 55th minute.
Despite the change in head coach, Hummels appears a man full of doubt. Perhaps his issue is a mental one and a change is what he needs to rediscover his form. In any case, he must return to the form that helped Dortmund win titles, roused interest from the Premier League, and even had Bayern ruing his departure.
Mediocre Mats must be replaced by magic Mats in the center of defense. If not, Dortmund must be brave enough to take out their captain, who has become a weak link in the Dortmund's defense.